In keeping with the times, most of the trends to watch in warehousing for 2019 are tech-based. Peering ahead into the next several years, most trend-watchers are seeing futuristic automation, plus the internet connections to make it all run.
Automation of the future
Giants such as Amazon make extensive use of robots and other automated processes in their warehouse, but it’s not just the big boys who might soon be benefiting from automation. Whether they fly, creep, or drive, automated machines may be coming soon to a warehouse near you!
The use of drones in a warehouse has a futuristic feel to it, but is quickly becoming an immediate reality. Without the limitations of ladders, climbing, or personal safety concerns, drones can locate and reach goods that may be out of sight and out of mind from other perspectives. Drones without any payload capacity can also be used for inventory management, and locating products for human pickers.
Robots don’t share the cool aerial capacity of drones, but the earth bound versions of autonomous machines are becoming a staple in the warehousing world. While robots that are capable of monotonous, assembly-line style tasks have been around for a long time, today’s robots are reaching for more complex tasks. In some places they move products to human pickers – in others they may even do some of the picking themselves. One of the newest frontiers is capabilities for the most complex tasks, like packing.
Along the same line as autonomous machines, aka robots, are autonomous guided vehicles. Self-driving forklifts and pallet trucks can free workers to do the tasks that still require a human touch. Moving goods and off of trucks, stacking products, and moving inventory may soon be a tasks of the past for human beings.
Internet of Things
Drones, robots, and automated vehicles may be the visible tech of the future, but all of those automated machines are going to require a new level of connectedness across the entire warehouse system. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the name given to the spreading web of connections, generally residing in the cloud, between appliances, machines, and humans. The rise of the IoT in warehouses is visible in the increasing presence of mobile devices and wearable technology.
Smartphones instead of RFID guns
Advances in smartphone technology and sturdiness, as well as add-holders making them more ergonomic for warehouse use, are leading to a rise of the use of smartphones the warehouse floor. There are multiple options available for rugged-use smartphones, as well as cases and shields to further protect the investment in this technology. Holders that imitate the shape and angle of traditional RFID readers are helping smooth the transition to new technology, and make smartphones faster and easier to use in the warehouse setting.
In a cloud-connected warehouse, wearable devices workers can convey valuable information about worker movement, location, and efficiency. Tracing the steps of a picker a typical day can help a warehouse manager determine whether stock is laid out in the most efficient way, and whether the worker is utilizing the most direct routes to access products. Wearable devices can also integrate human workers into the web of autonomous machines, relaying information about worker location and movement that allows autonomous vehicles and robots to safely share the traffic flow in the warehouse.
Are these things for you?
It’s always exciting to look into the future, and do a little dreaming about what’s next for your warehouse. But don’t let daydreaming, or the forecasts of techies, lead you to adopt technology that isn’t right for you. Experts agree that when deciding new technology, you should always start from the current needs of your warehouse. Do you need to cut costs? Reign in picking or packing time? Knowing what you want and need is the first step to finding the exciting new technology that could help boost your warehouse into the future.
For more information contact us at Overflo or call at 1-800-626-0616.