The words artificial intelligence may seem like something out of some futuristic sci-fi movie, but for many organizations smart technology has already arrived.
Today’s distribution centers have evolved to improve functionality through design changes like:
- higher ceilings
- expanded storage
- LED and use of natural lighting
- highly automated materials-handling equipment managed by intelligent software
After all, the supply chain is all about using technology to create solutions. So, what are software systems capable of today, and what can we expect to see in warehouses and distribution centers within the next 5 years?
Here is a peek into the not-so-distant future:
- Deeper insight and learning
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be making its way into most facilities.
- Amazon Web Services sells the Alex (sounds like Alexa — wonder why?) learning platform for anyone to build into their applications. This is one of many pre-plumbed tools that recognizes patterns so we can react before an issue occurs and predict demand.
- More powerful data
The closer we get to executing machine intelligence in real time, the more accurate the results... and the higher the productivity at lower cost/effort.
- Learning operator patterns leads to safer equipment and better understanding of how and why impacts occur. Seven out of 10 forklift accidents are preventable if you have the right insight.
- Increased indoor locationing capabilities create more “context aware” systems, which improve locationing down to the foot to assist with optimum forklift routing.
- Increased transparency
As data gets cleaner and more available, we will be able to eliminate inefficiencies, such as excessive buffering and missed shipments.
- Knowing inventory status and location in real time is common in many facilities, making Sales and Operations, Inventory Planning (S&IOP) easier.
- Increased competition
Already dominating the omni-channel discussion, expect the competition between Amazon, UPS/FEDEX, and Wal-Mart/Jet to continue to accelerate and become more pronounced.
- The focus is on who has the best/most predictive technology and who has the right assets at the right place at the right time.
- Expect increased use of robots and the automation of many manual functions.
- Voice and finger/handheld devices become even more prevalent as we try and squeeze every ounce of productivity out of workers
- Faster, intuitive analytics
There are several levels of depth to data. The adoption of intelligent software facilitates all levels.
- Basic level is sufficient and complete data is available.
- Second level is knowing what to keep, in what form and hierarchy.
- Third level allows you to supplement the overall data set with external data.
- Final level includes fast, efficient analyzation to further grow the data set and seek complementary data.
Companies that have implemented an advanced telematics platform, like TotalTrax SX200 cloud-based solutions, are already realizing benefits from today’s artificial intelligence systems. But, increased capabilities will take warehouse efficiency and productivity to a whole new level.