Flying robots, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) have been rising within the warehousing industry. Many industry experts are questioning whether this is the beginning of a new era for warehouses. As digitalisation continues to revolutionise the warehousing industry, whether the current warehouse management software systems will adapt accordingly or stay stagnant remains to be seen. Flying robots, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are becoming more common in the warehousing industry. What if this is just the beginning of a warehouse of the future? Will warehouse management software systems evolve as digitalisation takes over, or will they remain unchanged?

Although it may seem unbelievable, future warehouses will use the latest technologies and innovations to improve efficiency and deploy automation.

Future Warehousing Technology

The demand for robots in warehouses is spurring interest, a trend expected to gather steam with technological advancements. Many companies are starting to use high-tech, flexible conveyor systems to optimise warehouse operations at multiple levels. Having an automated system in place increases throughput speeds and flow rates.

Although some companies may be hesitant, warehousing professionals are starting to invest and adopt newer technologies to shape smart operations.

AI and Digitalisation

Warehouse operations are growing more complex daily, with inventory becoming more diverse. The multiplying number of SKUs will continue to increase as the eCommerce industry expands. How do you keep pace with customers’ complex fulfilment needs, demands and last-minute expectations?

Modern businesses need to leverage AI and digitalisation to fulfil warehousing needs. Digitalisation will change warehouses’ operations and make them more intelligent, smart and efficient.

As warehousing professionals adopt AI technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), drones and wearables to digitise their operations, these tools will optimise picking efficiency, lower operating costs, and improve ongoing operations and inventory visibility. 

Similarly, digital warehousing can eliminate multiple inefficiencies and improve your warehouse management.

Automation With Robotics

The adoption of robots in warehouses has been with us for quite a while now, and they’re becoming more efficient and intelligent with time. They continue to perform multiple warehousing functions and automate processes such as moving and arranging boxes, lifting trucks, transporting goods, etc.

Modern businesses are already aligning warehouse automation with robotic systems to reduce the need for manual labour, improve performance, boost efficiency and more. With such abilities, robotic automation will likely redefine the meaning of a future warehouse. Here are a few examples of common warehouse robotics:

  • Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS): AS/RS robots transfer inventory across different storage areas. These robots can execute smooth operations by integrating warehouse execution software (WES) systems.
  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs): AGVs transport goods, supplies or inventory. They connect via IoT sensors or software that help navigate while loading and unloading packages. Most AGVs reduce overhead costs by automating manual tasks.
  • Aerial Drones: Drones navigate the warehouse using optical systems. They can scan through high, low or dangerous places to keep accurate inventory counts.
  • Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs): AMRs are similar to AGVs in technology. They use pre-programmed sensors for navigation. Unlike AGVs, AMRs do not require preset route instructions.
  • Cobots: Collaborative robots are more like assistants to human workers. These robots perform menial tasks, including picking, packaging and assembling, while ensuring the team focuses on productive tasks.

Unsurprisingly, these technologies provide warehouse management systems (WMS) integrations to enhance operations. 

On-Demand Warehousing

On-demand warehousing allows warehouse professionals and distribution centres to utilise on-demand space via a pay-per-use model. You don’t need to sign long-term contracts or pay costly setup fees.

It reduces the risk of expanding unnecessary supply chain networks by eliminating fixed costs. You also have the freedom to choose your inventory storing options through a third-party logistics provider, leasing your warehouse space or using on-demand warehousing services or platforms. They help connect different businesses to independent warehouses for storage and distribution purposes.

Smart Warehousing

Smart warehousing is the key to a futuristic warehouse. A smart warehouse streamlines order picking, sorting, packaging and shipping. You can quickly identify the correct item and pick it up using smart picking devices such as wearable scanners, picking robots, smart glasses and pick-to-light systems.

Warehouses can lower operational costs, increase inventory accuracy, optimise workflows and improve fulfilment operations. While a WMS plays a significant role in automating your warehouse, you must ensure you choose the right software.

3D Printing

Many manufacturers store large quantities of raw materials waiting for production. In a traditional scenario, spare parts and components will likely sit on the shelves for years without going through production. These components might become obsolete if the parts go out of stock.

With 3D Printing, you can significantly optimise manufacturing processes and instantly customise and print raw materials based on customers’ preferences. Not only can you reduce storage costs, but you can also provide on-time delivery. Though many manufacturers are still exploring 3D Printing, it will likely pick up steam soon.

Warehousing Evolution

The warehousing industry drastically evolved over the last few decades. These solutions are constantly improving, from the initial digitalisation of warehousing systems in the mid-1900s to the introduction of warehouse management systems in the 1970s.

Warehousing professionals need to keep up with technology trends and strategies appropriately. To stay agile, you must equip your warehouse with advanced automated systems.

Future of Warehousing

Automation plays a significant role in building the warehouse of the future. Technology and innovation will drastically affect futuristic warehouses, from flying drones to robots picking, packing and sorting items without human intervention.

By the time ten more years pass, we could see fully automated warehouses with a select group of human employees overseeing operations.

Every warehouse must turn to automation to keep up with the competition. Considering that it may take a few years to get automated systems in place, the warehousing industry will likely see a sudden spike in the next few years.

What are you doing to future-proof your warehouse? 

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