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Warehouse is a strategic decoupling point in the supply chain, which helps businesses to match demand with supply and help tackle the uncertainties. Warehouse has five basic operations to perform: Receiving, Put-away, storage, order picking and shipping.
The exact number of operations depend on the type of warehouse (Warehouse, Distribution Centre, Cross dock facility), product and type of orders that are received. Automation helps businesses help improve their business performance metrics, which are key for their business success.
The emergence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the advent of a network of connected systems are helping industries perform a multitude of tasks, such as material batching, picking, ordering, packaging, warehouse security, and inspection, as well as improve the operational efficiency by huge margins.
To begin with and preeminent, interoperability is key. Distribution center frameworks and program have to be be able to share information between them, but those frameworks are not all the same and may have distinctive information designs.
Interoperability understands this challenge by permitting applications to consistently share information, such as stock information, shipping data and buy orders. Without interoperability, information remains siloed and you can’t advantage from a comprehensive, bird’s-eye see of stockroom operations.
Application programming interfacing (APIs) are the foremost common innovation driving interoperability, not as it were within the stockroom but moreover in other industries, such as healthcare.
APIs empower applications to gather information from dissimilar stockroom data frameworks, supporting integration and killing information silos. Joining information from dissimilar sources moreover bolsters information analytics and manufactured insights arrangements.
When it comes to computerizing your distribution center frameworks, cloud computing and capacity offers a few benefits, counting diminished foundation and upkeep costs. Instead of setting up and keeping up an on-site information center, cloud computing gives a more adaptable arrangement whereas lessening the require for an in-house IT division.
Cloud computing too makes system integration conceivable, meaning you’ll coordinated numerous frameworks for ease of access.
As distribution centers produce and collect more information from different data frameworks and from the supply chain, cloud computing is more vital for the present day distribution center than ever. Cloud computing not as it were makes framework integration less demanding, but it too underpins collaboration between supply chain partners.
Warehouse automation is the application of particular equipment and storage and retrieval systems to perform the tasks previously handled by unskilled and semi-skilled labour. As the term suggests, it is the automation of repetitive processes which previously required labour.
The growth in the e-commerce industry worldwide and the growing need for efficient warehousing and inventory management drive market growth. Automation in warehousing offers extreme convenience when it comes to cutting down the overall business costs and reducing errors in product deliveries.
According to DHL, a prominent 3PL company and a significant end-user of warehouse automation solutions, despite the advantages, 80% of warehouses are “still manually operated with no supporting automation.”
Furthermore, warehouses that use conveyors, sorters, and pick and place solutions, among other equipment (not necessarily automated), account for 15% of the total warehouses. In contrast, only 5% of the current warehouses are automated.
Additionally, amidst the COVID-19 situation, the warehouse and e-commerce market has been experiencing a crippling effect on the business operations owing to the major challenges posed by disruptions in the supply chain management and lack of workers. However, leveraging the automated systems, companies are expecting to revamp their operations. This instance is expected to drive the growth of the market going forward.
The upcoming trends are mostly driven by two major changes in technology: 5G and Artificial Intelligence.
With 5G the latency has reduced drastically which has improved the productivity and performance of many of the autonomous vehicles. Technologies like Fibre, DOCSIS 3.X, LPWAN in the fixed coverage segment can also enable performance but the adoption rate of 5G is much higher.
Improvement in AI has enabled computer vision and Augmented reality which can help in improving productivity in warehouses, AI can enable vision quality which helps in online grocery and F&B industry to help optimize the quality control processes, also AI helps in reading texts and recognizing images helping in enabling worker’s performance.
Blockchain is one other technology which is still in the nascent stage as the adoption is expected at an industry level rather than at a warehouse level, but this technology can help in improving the inventory verification processes and help in optimizing inventory at a multi echelon level.
Warehouse operations contribute to a majority of resource consumption. As various companies demand new solutions to improve warehouses’ efficiency and reduce cost, the deployment of warehouse robots is set to increase.
For instance, Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, has upgraded to robotic labour in one of its warehouses. This has resulted in dramatically reducing the labour workforce by 70% by creating an opportunity for a highly-skilled workforce.
Mobile robots are witnessing high growth in small and medium warehouses with smaller pallet sizes. In contrast, the industrial applications in large warehouses dedicated to food and beverage demand articulated and palletizing robots. The growth in overall automation levels allows processing and packaging plants to introduce new products on the same assembly lines.
Moreover, one out of five packaging and processing plants already deal with more than 100 product types, with a majority expecting this number to increase in the next few years. These goals have further resulted in the warehouses equalling the developments in manufacturing segments and making logistics seamless. It results in removing or mitigating any risk that can lead to creating a bottleneck situation.
Automation plays a featured role during the pandemic that supports social distancing and avoiding contaminated arenas. The COVID-19 outbreak has a widespread impact on the supply chain network and capacity layout of many organizations.
In India, corporates like Mahindra, Shriram Pistons, Tata Steel, Tata Motors, CEAT Tyres, Maruti and VE Commercial Vehicles are seeking interest in adopting automation technology for manufacturing sites.
The impact of the pandemic on the warehouse industry will have long lasting effects on the industrial sector. From concerns of worker safety to the rush to keep up with the surge in e-commerce orders, the need for increased warehouse automation became evident.
Providing for an employee’s well-being, especially in a fast-paced, competitive distribution environment, is a critical success factor. Workers face a greater risk of injury when they are tired from working long hours, or continually doing repetitive and physically demanding tasks.
Boston Dynamics has created a machine called “Stretch,” which is capable of moving 800 boxes per hour in the warehouse and can potentially be used to unload trucks, strip cases off pallets, and transfer cartons to conveyors. This was driven by the need to manage high-speed operations as well as mitigate the increasing cost of labor.
In June-2021, DHL extended its agreement with Locus Robotics to continue expanding its automation collaboration. DHL plans to add 2000 robots by 2022, making Locus Robotics largest customer. DHL already has more than 500 assisted picking robots in use today and plans to add 500 more to more than 20 locations by the end of 2021.
In June-2021, Amazon has introduced new robots that can improve worker safety at warehouses and help reduce pressure and strain on employees. Furthermore, Amazon hopes to improve warehouse automation in order to reduce warehouse related worker incidents by half over the next 5 years.
In February-2020, ABB Limited and Covariant announced a partnership to bring AI-enabled robotics solutions to market, starting with a fully autonomous warehouse order fulfillment solution and the partnership brings together the two companies with a common vision for robotics enabled by AI, where intelligent robots work alongside humans in dynamic environments, collectively learning and improving with every task completed.
In September-2019, Honeywell had signed an agreement with retail supply chain services provider “The Apparel Logistics Group” to help the company in the expansion of the e-commerce order output at its distribution center in Dallas. Under this agreement, The Apparel Logistics Group, which engages in third-party logistics and order fulfillment services for apparel, footwear, and accessories will incorporate Honeywell ‘s automated material handling solutions.
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