Technology has affected almost all the spheres of our lives, including how we communicate, learn, and think. Today, technology plays an important role. Not only has technology impacted our daily lives, but also it has affected the workplace. Things that seemed impossible a few decades ago have become a reality now. We are in the era of ever-evolving technology. Today, from transportation to warehouses, everything has been revolutionized. Here in this post, we will talk about the revolution in warehouses and its impact on the whole.
What are warehouses?
A warehouse is a place or a building where goods are stored. These buildings or places are used by manufacturers, exporters, wholesalers, importers, transport houses, businesses, customs, etc. Usually, warehouses are large plain buildings in industrial parks or on the outskirts of the cities, towns, or villages. The warehousing industry is the most critical part of the supply chain. However, unlike olden days, warehouses these days are more modern. Whether large or small, warehouses these days are progressively turning to automation. The whole idea behind the automation of warehouses is to reduce the workforce, maintain social distancing, and increase efficiency.
More often than not, manual warehouses lead to slow processes, inefficient workflows, and are prone to human errors. All this creates a need for scalable solutions for the companies. The new age warehouses work well with the existing warehouses’ layout, and also they are much more compatible with the existing infrastructure.
Automated warehouses are fast, flexible, efficient, and more reliable. With automated warehousing systems, processes like the storage, retrieval, and relocation of goods proceed automatically. Automated warehouses eliminate any need of operators undertaking strenuous and monotonous tasks. Also, these warehousing systems reduce errors to a minimum and are way too faster than the traditional warehousing systems.
Ocado’s New Age Warehouse – The Future Of Retail
Ocado’s new warehouse is one of the best examples of the revolution in the warehousing industry. Ocado’s warehouse is in Andover, UK. It has thousands of battery-operated robots whizzing around a grid system to pack groceries. The thousands of robots at Ocado’s warehouse can process over 60,000 orders every week. They communicate on a 4G network so as to avoid bumping into each other. The air traffic control system controls them. These robots act as a giant goods-to-person system. They bring crates of products to pick stations and then assemble the orders. The whole system is a lot more simplified and faster than ever. Moreover, robots are easier to program.
Besides Ocado, Amazon and Walmart are at the cutting edge of warehouse automation. In 2014, Amazon began automating its supply chain in order to improve efficiency and leverage automated packing technology. At the same time, Walmart started automating its warehouse operations in 2017 by introducing automated unloading technology, a robotic broom that cleans warehouse floors and robots for inventory tracking.
The companies that incorporated automated technology into their warehouse operations very well in advance could run their operation efficiently even during the pandemic. In fact, COVID-19 has increased the use of autonomous forklift trucks. Besides, the use of Drone has also increased in warehouse facilities since COVID-19 uproar. However, drones were already uprising as part of the push to automate warehouse operations before the pandemic; their use has rapidly increased in the past three months to manage inventory, transport items in more extensive facilities, and inspecting and surveilling warehouses. It is because of the need to maintain rigid hygiene standards, and only fewer personnel were allowed on warehouse premises. Automated warehousing reduces the demand for human intervention, which is essential during COVID – 19 Pandemic.
Technology Used in Warehouse Automation
The technology that is used for warehouse automation is – The Internet of Things (IoT). It encourages better communication and collaboration between supply chain partners and greater accountability across the board. IoT adoption is expected to grow in the future as the cost of technology is now within reach for many warehouses and logistics operations. Apart from this, there are many other benefits of IoT, which are as follows:
- The Internet of Things can quickly identify risks in the supply chain
- It can provide real-time data on weather conditions and other situations causing shipment delays
- It can help companies meet chain-of-custody regulations for sensitive cargo
- It not only reduces damaged and lost goods, but also reduces equipment damage
- It reduces the time taken to locate specific inventory
- It helps companies have improved inventory management and forecasting accuracy
Advantages of Automated Warehouses
Here are some of the best benefits of automating warehouses:
1. Reduced human error
Time and again, we hear “to err is human,” which is natural. But not every error is endurable, especially when we are in the supply chain industry. Of course, you will never want to offer your clients apologies now and then. In the warehouse industry, human errors are common. Having an automated warehousing system will eliminate the chances of human errors to a minimum. You will be able to have higher accuracy and increased efficiency.
2. Improved throughput capacities
Your clients feel great when they receive their items sooner than expected. The best way to accrue customer loyalty is – give them what they want and get it to them quicker than they expected. Having an automated warehouse can help you have improved throughput capacities. You can streamline all your systems with automated warehousing.
3. Minimized injury
Robots and drones are usually used in automated warehouses; this eliminates any chance of injury. While with humans, there is always a risk of injury, especially in warehouses. Having an automated warehouse avoids any chance of injury in the workplace. Of course, having an employee gets injured in the workplace is one of the worst feelings. Warehouse automation prevents it to a large extent.
4. Maximizes space
Space is a finite resource, which is why it becomes crucial to use it mindfully. Warehouse automation ensures the best use of the available space. This means you can make the most out of the area that is available with you. For instance, Amazon and Alibaba use robots for product retrieval and storage, which increasingly eliminates the need for wide aisles for people and vehicles to move through. This saves them a lot of space that they can use as additional storage. According to research, automated warehouses use up about 40% less floor space compared to traditional warehouses.
5. Increased efficiency and accuracy
Undoubtedly, humans are good at lots of things, in fact, they have only made machines, but when it comes to remembering things, like where thousands of items are located, or inventory control, or working out the optimum route from one point to another, machines can do much better and much faster.
For instance, if your products are stored randomly without any categorization, it will be difficult for a human to remember. However, having an automation warehousing makes this task very simple. With the help of barcode labels and intelligent algorithms, a product can easily be located. Robots at the automated warehouse can easily retrieve the products and bring them to pickers, just like Ocado’s. Automates system not only help you maximize space, but also it reduces picking errors, maintains flexibility, and optimize fulfillment routes.
6. Automated warehouses are environmentally friendly
Today, companies are looking for more sustainable ways of doing business. And automation of warehouses is one such way. Warehouse automation can help make warehouses more environmentally friendly by reducing their physical footprint, waste, and energy consumption.
7. Reduced costs
Lastly, reduced costs! Reduction in cost is the primary objective of any business. Of course, warehouse automation eliminates the need for manual labor, which dramatically reduces the cost. For instance, deploying robots in place of humans will help increase the work speed and save a lot of money, which you may end up giving to your labor otherwise. During peak seasons, you have to pay extra money to your labors for working extra hours, which is not case with robots. Robots can work tirelessly all day and night, which again impacts the overall performance of the warehouse.
Impact of Warehouse Automation on Warehouse Workers
Automation in any field directly impacts the workforce. Similarly, warehouse automation will also affect warehouse workers. Of course, companies will be benefited from the automation of warehouses. For those who make a living by the warehousing industry, warehouse automation is a severe threat. However, warehouses will be employing workers, but only overseeing the warehouse operations and servicing the robots. While some warehouses will train workers to perform higher-skilled tasks.
Warehouse automation has progressed swiftly in recent years. The use of robotic technology has significantly increased. The impact of warehouse automation can be felt across industries. However, it is still to be seen whether the warehouse of the future will be fully automated or partially. But there is no doubt that robots will play a significant role in this sector, restricting humans to supporting roles.
However, most workers have begun to realize that more and more automation will eventually impact total employment. That’s the reason some of them have already started planning to switch the industry. And the ones who don’t have any idea where to go can give learning digital skillsets a thought. Learning digital skillsets is a great way to earn livelong. Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic has already changed the dynamics of the world. The world has begun moving towards digitalization. And the future belongs to the people with the digital skillset, as they will be needed to perform the task. So, if you are working in a warehouse and if you are worried about your future, then consider learning digital skillsets. It can help you earn your living easier, or you can take this as an additional earning source!