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Warehouse management is increasingly becoming complex with time. Meeting ever-shifting customer demands is a never-ending challenge for organizations. The surge in e-commerce globally – a trend accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a proliferation of stock-keeping units (SKUs) and challenged organizations to ensure efficient and faster delivery of products.
Organizations are losing money every day as they struggle to address warehouse pain points such as lack of real-time visibility, inefficient order picking, inventory inaccuracy, sending out wrong shipments, equipment breakdown, redundant processes, etc. All these operational inefficiencies are putting huge pressure on the margins and service levels of organizations. This has reinforced the need for organizations to turn to warehouse management solutions. According to a report released by DHL, warehouse activities such as packing, storage, and putaway represent around 20% of all logistics costs.
New-Age Technologies Enabling Warehouse Optimization
These warehouse inefficiencies can be addressed by offering cutting-edge warehouse management solutions leveraging new-age technologies such as IoT, Big Data Analytics, Augmented Reality, etc. Organizations need to resort to warehouse optimization since it has massive potential to improve efficiency and productivity besides saving millions of hours in wasted time. E-commerce giants such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Flipkart have started walking down the warehouse optimization road in their pursuit of delivering operational excellence. However, small and medium businesses are yet to adopt these disruptive warehouse management solutions in a big way. But given the highly competitive market landscape, these organizations cannot for long overlook the opportunity of enabling smarter, intelligent warehouse operations.
Warehouse Management Benefits
Let us take a deep dive into how these disruptive warehouse management solutions can plug inefficiencies and help future-proof your operations.
Real-time Product Tracking
Organizations can leverage the power of IoT and Big Data Analytics to obtain real-time data on product locations, transportation, condition, packaging, and routing. Such warehouse optimization solutions can provide organizations with instant updates and continuous tracking, helping warehouse managers track goods that enter and leave the warehouse in real-time. These systems help managers ensure no inventory is lost during transportation. IoT-enabled warehouse optimization solutions can also help track the real-time location of the staff and help warehouse managers manage their deliverables responsibly.
Improved Order Picking Efficiency
The efficiency of an order picking process is critical to optimizing warehouse operations. The onus is on store managers to continuously improve their order picking processes. Such order picking inefficiencies can be addressed by embracing Augmented Reality (AR) smart glass devices that enable warehouse workers to get a view of the picking lists at all times, showing them the most efficient route through the warehouse. Since AR smart glasses can be controlled through head movements or voice commands, workers can adopt a hands-free approach while performing their tasks and don’t have to keep looking down at information sheets or instruction manuals. These AR devices streamline the warehouse management process, helping enhance order picking speed, minimize errors, and improve labor productivity.
Augmented Reality is also the enabler for remote troubleshooting wherein original equipment manufacturers, consultants, repair experts, offsite managers, etc offer remote assistance to a worker. AR can make the warehouse management process more efficient by reducing unnecessary travel costs as well as downtime-related expenses, while a worker waits for an expert to arrive onsite.
Inventory Optimization & Improved Forecast Accuracy
IoT and Big Data Analytics can help organizations drive more efficiency in warehouse management. These systems provide quick, accurate feedback that enables organizations to significantly improve their warehouse management processes and help respond faster to their customer demands. It can automatically generate alerts if the product is out-of-stock or temperature conditions are affecting the product quality. These IoT and Big Data Analytics-enabled systems enable much faster and efficient warehouse management while improving order fulfillment and reducing order cycle time.
Organizations can improve real-time forecasting with demand sensing, leveraging the might of Artificial Intelligence, IoT, and Big Data Analytics, helping drive enhanced overall efficiency in warehouse management across supply chains. These capabilities allow organizations to collect real-time data from point-of-sale systems, warehouses, and shipment locations and subsequently combine them with real-time factors such as weather, disruptions, and customer sentiments as well as apply complex mathematical algorithms to automatically recognize demand patterns. Such demand sensing capabilities help organizations address warehouse challenges such as stock-outs, overstock, etc resulting in improved customer experience and not just optimize warehouse optimization but enable enhanced efficiency across supply chains.
Warehouse Product Slotting Optimization
Among other warehouse management benefits, organizations can also turn to product slotting optimization strategies to maximize the overall efficiency of their warehouse operations. IoT-enabled warehouse management systems enable organizations to minimize the movement of people across the floor, help identify the products they pick the most and subsequently keep these products in proximity to the dispatch area. Such product slotting optimization helps organizations enable faster picking, improve storage efficiency, maximize warehouse space, and reduce not just carrying costs but also direct labor costs by up to 20%.
Equipment breakdown can be a big concern area for warehouse managers but this can be addressed by tapping into the power of IoT. According to a study conducted by ARC Advisory Group, only 18% of equipment breakdowns were owing to age and the rest happened randomly. These new-age technologies can eliminate the need for preventive maintenance and help organizations predict precisely when a piece of equipment may need repair. Sensors powered by IoT, can monitor the health of each piece of equipment and feed their health data into the warehouse management software. This can help alert supervisors and maintenance teams about when repairs need to be carried out, thus helping warehouse managers avoid equipment failure and reduce downtime.
Robotics and Automation
Warehouse operations involve repetitious tasks that can be time-consuming and error-prone, resulting in large-scale operational inefficiencies. Robotics and automation can nip such warehouse process inefficiencies in the bud by performing various repetitious tasks such as picking, receiving, and putaway that are carried out by humans. The use of robotics and automation can enable organizations to pave the way for consistent, accurate, and productive warehouse operations.
Digital Twins Driving Warehouse Optimization
Digital Twins have the potential to drive more efficient warehouse management solutions at warehouses and distribution centers by creating exact virtual layouts of warehouses and distribution centers. This technology enables organizations to rethink how new designs could enhance warehouse activity without damaging current operations. Further, with recent advancements in warehouse management technologies such as automated robots, counting systems, goods-to-person picking, and automated storage and retrieval equipment, organizations can combine data generated from these systems to improve physical warehouse layouts while increasing worker productivity.
Warehouse optimization technologies will no longer be a nice-to-have but a business necessity for organizations. The ‘always on e-commerce’ scenario will only accelerate the demand for faster responses as well as the need to manage a large number of SKUs. These would necessitate organizations to focus on smart, intelligent, and automated warehouse operations and pave the way for faster, efficient, and accurate delivery of products.