The Warehouse of The Future: AI, Automation, Robotics & More

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), modern robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are disrupting the supply chain to improve the efficiency and accuracy of warehouse processes. This application of data science and automated machinery to the supply chain is known as artificial intelligence warehousing technology.

What is Artificial Intelligence Warehousing Technology?

The primary goal of artificial intelligence warehousing technology is to use machines to automate the tracking, handling, and distribution of packages. These functions can be managed by a human overseer from a central database.

AI warehousing technology offers many cost-saving features, including:

  • Algorithms that predict changes in consumer demand
  • Automatic order processing based on online sales
  • Automatic adjustments to inventory based on consumer preferences
  • Large warehouse inventory capacities

The warehouse of the future will improve the efficiency of the supply chain, but there are many types of technology that must work together. Each technology has risen to solve a specific challenge of the current supply chain.

Challenges of Modern Supply Chain

Information Overload

The Internet, modern transportation, and trade agreements among major countries have created a complex global economy. Profit opportunities are abundant, but successful sellers must overcome the challenges of consumer preferences, language barriers, and the regulations of foreign markets. In short, the vast amount of information needed for supply chain management can overwhelm a small team.

Global Risk Exposure

While a global supply chain can improve efficiency through market access, your company will be vulnerable to global changes in consumer demand. A recession in China and the political situation in Brazil are some of the types of issues that can reduce demand for your products. Fortunately, these risks can be hedged by using data to predict future changes in demand.

Consumer Demand for Quick Deliveries

Companies are facing increased pressure from consumers to provide free two-day delivery for most goods. According to the consulting firm Deloitte, 54 percent of consumers expect two-day deliveries when a company states that they offer fast shipping.

Large companies like Amazon and Walmart have made these rapid delivery times the new norm. Companies hoping to compete with retail giants must find ways to boost the speed of deliveries. New warehouse technology solutions can help your business cut enough costs to afford quick deliveries.

Emerging Technologies in The Warehouse

Your company must be able to process massive troves of supply and demand data before making decisions that will maximize profits. In turn, your warehouses must immediately adapt to opportunities and shocks in global markets. Emerging technologies can handle these tasks. Here are the most important warehouse technology solutions.

Hyper-Connected Facilities

The warehouse of the future uses the Internet of Things to track and manage all operations from a single interface. A single access point allows warehouse overseers to quickly understand the status of machines and packages.

Information collected from IoT devices and sensors can be used to issue maintenance orders on machines immediately before they require repairs. Customer service experts may also use this data to give consumers clear expectations about when to expect delivery.

Tracking items within a warehouse has become a sophisticated task. Many existing warehouses use barcodes to track packages. When an item’s barcode is scanned, the location and status of the package are updated in the central database. Barcoding is effective at showing an item’s movement as it is processed through the supply chain, but there is room for improvement. Items can go missing if a warehouse worker forgets to scan an item.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags eliminate this flaw. RFID tags use a low-power signal to broadcast the exact location of an item in the warehouse. The lag of barcode scanning is no longer an issue since RFID tags show the real-time status of an item.

Packages that leave a warehouse are often tracked via GPS in ground transport vehicles. GPS and RFID tracking will be supplemented by 5G-enabled sensors as early as 2020.

These sensors can use the new 5G signal to transmit data to the warehouse’s central database wherever data services are available. This means that your company and its customers will be able to know the location and status of packages throughout the supply chain. These 5G-enabled sensors can also be used to track the status of machinery and vehicles across the supply chain.

Artificial Intelligence & Robotics

In addition to providing customers with peace of mind, the hyper-connected warehouse collects information for warehouse analytics. Data are analyzed with the tools of machine learning and AI to create algorithms that determine where and how items are stored. Using these algorithms, high demand items are placed at the top of stacks where they can be quickly retrieved and replenished.

Data from online orders, economic conditions, and past patterns are used to identify when the demand for an item will surge. Warehouses are restocked with the item before the surge occurs. This smart process of using data to optimize warehouse inventories reduces losses and processing times.

Machine learning is not limited to data analysis. AI is also being used to create speech recognition tools to control machinery. By working with their voices instead of their muscles, human workers can avoid many of the ergonomic hazards that stem from manual warehouse labor.

Voice-controlled machines are an example of collaborative robotics since the human worker is simply supported by a machine. However, AI can also eliminate the need for humans in various repetitive and predictable tasks.

In the past, robotics could not be used to fully automate warehouse processes; the environment changed often and tasks were too complex. AI allows robots to respond to changing environments without explicit instructions.

Full Automation

The technologies mentioned above will create an autonomous warehouse that can process and distribute packages based on algorithms that are updated with real-time data. To maximize efficiency, humans will be elevated to tasks that require subjective insights and critical thinking.

While automating processes is an effective way to cut costs in your company, there are no one-size-fits-all guides to create a warehouse of the future. However, you can tailor automation technology to your requirements with warehouse technology software. Chetu offers custom warehouse management software development services that will help you adopt these emerging technologies.

This is a guest post by Dave Wood, the director of global sales at Chetu.