7 Innovative Warehouse Technology Trends For 2021 And Beyond

Technology has become the backbone of every sector in the modern world. And for businesses to continue thriving, adapting to technological developments is a must. The warehousing industry, in particular, has not been left behind by the advancement in technology.

This is because the need for mass production and handling of goods in bulk has long necessitated the incorporation of technology in warehousing operations.

If you’re operating an e-commerce business, you’ll understand how the complexity of warehouse management continues to increase with business growth. You can, however, choose to outsource logistics processes from the 3PL market which may include inventory management, transportation operations, freight management, warehousing, and other related activities.

Since e-commerce sites have a large number of orders to handle, it would be better to leave the task of warehousing to a 3PL (third-party logistics) company that uses top-notch warehousing technology capable of handling thousands of orders. With this in place, you can enhance your service delivery and boost your revenues.

This article explores seven technological trends that are revolutionizing the warehousing industry:

1. The Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is the driver of the current automation advancements in the warehousing industry. With the IoT, you can have your warehouse connected and coordinated as a single, seamless unit. Warehouses are making use of IoT sensors whose popularity is growing in 2021 and beyond.

With the IoT, you can connect and monitor robots, pallets, drones, beacons, and other equipment, including your inventory. You can also supervise your employees remotely with real-time data. In a gist, the Internet of Things can help your company systems and devices to collect, share, and store data more efficiently.

2. Robots And AIs

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise and it’s found its way already into the warehousing industry as robots now play significant roles. ABI research projects that in the next five years, there will be over 50,000 warehouses run by robots, with more than four million robots installed globally. Robots are efficient and can recover their acquisition cost within three to nine months. That’s the reason many small and medium businesses are investing in the use of robots in warehousing. You can use robots in your warehouse for sorting, packaging, transporting, batching, as well as in security enforcement, inspection, and fulfillment.

Giant companies like Amazon and DHL are already using robots. It’s believed that Amazon has more than 200,000 mobile robots in its warehouses while DHL has procured 1,000 robots from Locus Robotics to improve delivery and efficiency. Another notable example of massive robot deployment is Alibaba, which is believed to have reduced human labor by 70% just by using robots.

Asia is leading in the manufacture of robots with China coming first and closely followed by Japan and South Korea. The most common robots in the warehousing industry are automated mobile robots (AMR).

3. Plug-And-Play Modular Solutions

E-commerce businesses often find it hard to accurately determine possible changes in future warehousing demands. To effectively cater for underutilized or overutilized equipment, modularity comes in handy. These solutions can be repurposed to adjust to changing warehousing needs.

There are now emerging warehousing solutions used to redesign networks with plug-and-play technology. It can be assembled, relocated, deconstructed, and rearranged when warehouses need to transfer or resize. Apart from plug-and-play being used in conveyors, it can also be used in storage, sorting, and picking systems to allow fast order consolidation.

4. Automated Machines

Automation is meant to achieve efficiency, speed, and safety in warehouses. Warehouse equipment items like forklifts, drones, pallet movers, local delivery vehicles, and floor cleaners can now be automated using technologies such as big data, remote systems, and machine learning. Once these machines are automated, they can work efficiently with minimal human input.

Amazon is one of the companies that use this technology through their Kiva bots which are automated to work at the warehouse shelves, do item pickups, storage, and inventory management. They can also be used for autonomous parcel sorting. Automated loading platforms and vehicles, on the other hand, can help manage trailer loading and unloading remotely.

5. Voice Assistants

With modern warehouse technology, you can control multiple processes, interfaces, and devices using your voice. You can initiate picking by talking over a microphone, which prompts a robot to start the process. You can use voice to turn lights on and off, call for support, and interact with machines.

Voice technology can also be used with augmented reality (AR) to display virtual content to an audience.  When combined with automation, voice assist technology can be efficient in enhancing warehouse safety and speeding up operations.

6. Warehouse Management Systems

To digitize your warehouse processes, you can install a warehouse management system (WMS). A WMS is mostly used for inventory management, replenishment, order picking, labor management, and shipping.

The best advantage of WMS is that it lowers costs but raises warehouse productivity. You can also integrate it with 3PL providers, ERP systems, and order management systems. Advanced WMS can give you a bird’s eye view of your entire operation process and help optimize the way you manage your inventory and distribution.

7. Renewable Energy Sources

Warehouses consume a lot of energy especially if they’re fitted with cold storage equipment. To reduce the level of environmental impact, boost sustainability, and reduce costs, you can install modern renewable energy systems. Most warehouses have a large roof that can be used to install solar panels. Market leaders such as Walmart, Amazon, Whole Foods, Kohl’s, Target, among others, are already using either wind turbines or solar panels to power their facilities and offset power consumption costs.

Final Thoughts

Even with the advancement in technology that can be used in warehousing, the majority of warehouses today still use manual labor. This is mostly because of concerns in transition planning, acquisition costs, implementation challenges, and maintenance requirements.

Therefore, if you’re considering adopting new warehousing technology in your business, these are some of the pain points that you need to consider. Also, don’t forget the potential impact on your manpower needs and maintenance costs.

However, if your business is ready to embrace modern technology, you’re probably prepared for these challenges already. And if you are, good luck!