Warehouse efficiency is still measured by three standards: maximum utilization of the storage cube, speed in throughput from receiving to storage, and shipping and inventory control. The latest technologies have always found a place in the warehouse, constantly driving efficiency and speed. Here are four new technologies that will help revolutionize the warehousing industry to become even more efficient:
Barcode and RFID Scanners
The days of workers manually receiving products and entering data into a fixed terminal are fast becoming obsolete. Even the days of workers manually scanning barcodes on packages or pallets are becoming a remnant of the past. Distribution centers can now use advanced imaging hardware and software to automatically can bar codes and enter information into the system. However, in the near future, many companies will begin using RFID for that purpose. Clerks can use scanners to receive goods at the dock that instantly categorize the items and enter then into inventory system the moment the goods arrive. RFID chips can store and share more information than barcodes, and are easier to scan both by and by machines.
Monitoring incoming deliveries and outgoing shipments is essential to running a secure and efficient warehouse. In addition to barcode scanners and RFID readers, fixed video cameras installed at shipping and loading docks give warehouse management a constant visual picture of the ongoing activities. An advanced video system can also assist workers operating overhead cranes, like those offered by American Equipment Inc., to find and lift heavy containers more quickly and more safely than even a team of two or three can manage.
Robots in the Warehouse
Robots are no longer a fantasy of science fiction. Amazon alone is using over 30,000 robots in their facilities, and they plan on adding more as they continue to expand the number of fulfillment centers across the country.
Speed is becoming essential in warehousing not only to improve efficiency but also to remain competitive with other warehouses both across the country and internationally. With Amazon setting the trend of promising two hour delivery in certain metropolitan areas, other online distributors are going to have to keep pace. Programmable robots that can scurry down warehouse aisles picking orders or delivering items to human order-fillers are leading an industry revolution that managers could only dream about a decade ago.
It is important that technology continues to revolutionize warehouses and distribution centers in order for the supply chain to keep up with demand. As online shopping continues to grow at the expense of brick-and-mortar retailers, speed of delivery will become even more critical.