Did you watch Star Trek as a kid? Today’s warehouse and distribution center technology is starting to live up to what we watched on television. Information is now instant, and actionable data is at our fingertips.
Think about it. Computer software is tracking and delivering instant information, and the process of order picking and fulfillment has completely evolved. The future is now.
Platforms that revolutionize
There are potentially thousands of ways to store, retrieve and pick product in today’s warehouse. And the industry has also begun to weigh in environmental responsibility, cost reduction, and energy consumption into the design and operational practices.
So, though it may seem like something out of a sci-fi television series, artificial intelligence has begun to oversee and shape daily warehouse operations for many companies.
- Intelligent warehouses – with increased tracking of operator patterns, order picking, inventory monitoring and “just-in-time” deliveries
- All systems have the ability to “talk” to each other – combined information supports improved timing and routing, product location, and traffic patterns
- Telematics systems partner with other SMART systems – increased efficiencies result as they monitor and track behaviors within the warehouse environment
- Increased indoor locationing capabilities – systems will become much more “context aware,” able to locate inventory (down to the foot) and suggest optimum forklift routing to find the shortest paths or paths of less congestion.
- Tailored operational parameters – forklift parameters based on location, battery charge state, presence of other vehicles, physical conditions at current location, historical performance and predictive calculations, etc.
But, tomorrow’s advances will bring an increased focus on leveraging “green” efficiencies with cost-reduction measures. This means smarter management systems and warehouse design.
What efficiency looks like in tomorrow’s warehouse or DC
Incorporating sustainability initiatives into warehouse and distribution center design mitigates harmful effects to the environment, encourages worker safety and comfort, lowers operating costs, and leads to increased profitability.
- Tomorrow’s telematics system learn through matching patterns. Increased driver and fuel cost efficiencies result from instantly knowing the shortest path or paths of less congestion.
- Sustainability in lighting, which accounts for about 30 percent of the energy use in a distribution center, means that light fixtures with daylighting sensors facilitate operating in natural lighting whenever possible. Lights in portions of the building without activity automatically switch off.
- Smart building or energy management systems will use “submetering” to give facility managers visibility into equipment energy use and performance. Inefficiencies are quickly identified.
- Software that learns operator patterns assists in safer equipment usage and a better understanding of how and why impacts occur.
- Inventory location is known down to the square inch. This saves valuable time spent searching for lost or misplaced pallets.
Today’s telematics systems provide valuable insights and instant data for proactive — rather than reactive — decision-making. But, tomorrow’s artificial intelligence and greener facility design are poised to drastically reduce energy consumption and costs while boosting productivity.