Improved efficiency, a better safety record and higher levels of productivity – in many warehouses these are already defined as key development goals. Warehouse automation already exists as a big trend and one that is helping many businesses to meet these important objectives. As the industry develops, the use of robotic technology is likely to transform the warehousing of the future thanks to a number of key trends.
Integration with smart data and other systems
When automation is combined with smart data and other systems it presents an opportunity to significantly improve warehouse performance. We are increasingly moving into an era of fast shipping where customer expectations are driving next day – and even same day – delivery requirements. What integrated systems will enable an automated warehouse to do is meet the need for rapid processing so that items can be shipped on time. Even a processing window as short as 30 minutes could be possible via integrated systems in warehouses of the future.
A reduction in health and safety incidents
Even the most safely and efficiently run warehouses have occasional health and safety incidents. However, technology trends in warehousing are moving towards reducing these, providing a way to improve human involvement and to automate certain tasks so that the risks involved can either be removed completely or better managed. For example, the task of inspecting a pallet that is stored at a high level during a stock take could in future be managed by a drone, rather than a human being climbing up a ladder or lift. As a result, the potential for accident or injury is significantly reduced.
Automated retrieval systems
This trend already exists as more and more warehouses experience the benefits of retrieval systems, such as a vertical carousel or compact lift. There are many ways in which automated retrieval systems have the potential to transform warehouse operations as this technology develops. For example, they can safely be used at great heights, enabling better optimisation of vertical warehouse space.
Automated retrieval systems tend to be faster than a human alternative and, especially as they become more advanced in warehouses of the future, can help to improve accuracy and productivity too.
Automated guided vehicles (AGV)
AGVs have been identified as a future trend for warehousing as they reduce the size of the human workforce and are faster and more efficient. It’s possible to convert just about any warehouse vehicle into an AGV simply by installing a robotic module. AGVs are already on the ground in many warehouses but their widespread use is a trend for the future of the industry.
Artificial intelligence and robotic workforces
A robotic workforce clearly has challenges but there are advantages too and these have the potential to make such a set up more appealing in future. For example, a robotic workforce can continue through the night without breaks or the need to sleep, enabling warehouses to cope efficiently with demand. Artificial intelligence is also increasingly being tested in a warehouse environment, from chat bots for customer service to the potential that machine learning has to transform processes.
These are just some of the trends we’re likely to see in the warehouses of the future. If you’d like to review your warehousing needs now we can help – contact us to find out more.