The explosion of eCommerce sales is excellent news when it comes to revenue reports for sellers. But, it presents a host of challenges for the supply chain and warehouse managers as online retailers struggle to keep up with the volume and the demands of consumers.
Just doing more with the same resources probably won’t be sufficient for most businesses. Instead, many warehouses are leveraging various technology innovations to streamline operations and achieve efficiency. One technology already in use and with the potential for more applications in the future is the Internet of Things.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a technology embedded into physical devices that connects them to the internet for sharing and collecting data. The availability of small-sized computer chips and wireless networks has made it possible to produce countless products that keep consumers and businesses connected. IoT devices can receive directions, monitor their environment, and report their status, making them incredibly useful for companies in a variety of industries.
Internet of Things at Work - Technology on the Horizon
If you manage a warehouse, you are probably interested in how IoT devices can help in warehouse management. Here are some of the top applications for IoT in warehouse management.
1. Asset Tracking
The IoT warehouse management solutions help companies with packing, shipment, transportation, and location data in real-time. Using technology like beacons and RFID tags, you can ensure you have constant tracking on all of your assets, including equipment.
RFID tags and barcodes both hold asset data. But RFID tags can be read without a line of sight, and a typical reader can scan up to 200 tags simultaneously.
2. Inventory Optimization
The detailed insights you receive from IoT solutions can help you optimize your inventory and make better business decisions. Because IoT devices are connected in real-time, they monitor all actions and process data, helping you reduce the time necessary to locate items or handle them.
3. Asset Management
Intelligent warehouse equipment such as shelf sensors and RFID tags can help you locate and manage your inventory. You can even set thresholds on your inventory for automatic reordering to avoid stockouts.
Various Automation solutions are equipped with IoT technology, helping warehouses and workers get more work done with fewer resources. For example, wireless headsets can help automate the picking process and reduce unnecessary movement in the warehouse. They integrate with your warehouse management system (WMS) and RFID tags or barcodes to streamline the process and collect data in real-time.
5. Predictive Maintenance
IoT sensors can be used to monitor machinery and other equipment in your warehouse. Combined with powerful machine learning systems, these sensors can help prevent the premature breakdown of equipment by sending notifications when metrics are outside set parameters. This enables workers to address minor issues before they become major problems.
Benefits of Deploying IoT Solutions in the Warehouse
There’s no doubt that leveraging technology solutions across the supply chain fuels efficiency, better quality, and improved bottom-line results. If you want your business to remain competitive, integrating the latest technology solutions into the workflow is a surefire way to improve outcomes. Here are some of the specific benefits warehouses can achieve by using different IoT technology solutions.
1. Reduction in Errors
Errors in warehouse management operations can be costly. One of the primary benefits of using IoT in the warehouse is that it can reduce or eliminate eros in order fulfillment, inventory management, accounting, and shipping. Data gathered at these various touchpoints is automatically entered into the warehouse management system, eliminating time-consuming and error-prone data entry requirements.
2. Streamlined Fleet Management
IoT technology allows your business to remotely manage and monitor its transportation fleet. This provides warehouse managers with real-time information about scheduled deliveries and any potential delays. At the micro-level, you may also be able to monitor things like idling time, average speed, and sudden braking instances of drivers to achieve better safety and fuel efficiency.
3. Improved Employee Productivity
IoT-enabled warehouse management systems can provide support to employees who must complete a variety of repetitive tasks, such as picking and packing. For example, wireless headsets and other wearables help workers navigate the warehouse quickly to locate the correct items, improving productivity and reducing errors.
4. Easier to Scale Operations
Warehouses often have peak seasons where operations must scale up quickly. Having technology solutions on hand like IoT can enhance productivity so that the warehouse can scale as product demand rises. Smart storage spaces and real-time tracking can help find the best ways to optimize the warehouse environment during these busy seasons.
5. Reduces Risks and Improves Safety
Warehouses can be hazardous environments. They can be even more dangerous when workers are asked to make unnecessary trips back and forth to a centralized location. IoT can improve safety and reduce these risks by streamlining operations, monitoring conditions, and using predictive maintenance to discover any machinery defects early.
6. Better Predictive Analysis & Forecasting
The that IoT devices collect can help optimize the supply chain through smart warehouse management and effective material handling. You will have instant access to information about the most moved items and products in danger of stockouts. That same data can be used to detect patterns and forecast demand to make better business decisions.
7. Timely Regulatory Compliance
IoT devices can help your business streamline inventory management and traceability, which can be vital for some industries that must comply with various state and federal regulations. You can use this real-time data to provide accurate information about stored and shipped products to remain in compliance with applicable standards.
8. More Satisfied Customers
At the end of the day, your job is to get products into the hands of customers quickly and accurately. If IoT technology improves your processes to create a better customer experience, you’ll have happier customers, more referrals, and better overall results.
Warehouses have been evolving into vital business hubs that increase speed and efficiency across all supply chain touchpoints. IoT devices used in these facilities will offer better quality management, tracking, compliance, and traceability capabilities. Using IoT in your warehouse can help automate repetitive tasks, implement better security measures, better cater to customers, and even save costs.