Many supply chains were disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers’ shopping habits also dramatically shifted, causing ecommerce to skyrocket as they started to use online shopping. This in return increased the demand for deliveries and easier returns. All these factors influenced warehouses, and we will discuss some of the trends we should be on the lookout for.
Warehouse management is something that might have been overlooked when it comes to the supply chain. However, the last year has changed that idea. It is now crucial to ensure that warehouse management becomes more efficient and is a priority for businesses. Below we offer some of the warehouse management trends to look out for.
Sustainability is something that has become a priority for the majority of industries, and it is expected that it will be leading many industry trends. Sustainability will also be essential for warehouse management practices as renewable energy sources, such as solar batteries, will be popular since warehouses tend to consume a lot of energy. The energy expenses for warehouses usually account for 15% of the warehouse’s total warehouse maintenance costs. Therefore, using sustainable energy sources is not only environmentally friendly, but can also be the key to saving costs.
Warehouses can incorporate renewable energy sources with the energy management system, hardware and robotics control systems and the WMS. Before businesses consider using renewable energy sources, they should first do a cost-benefit analysis and determine whether their building will handle the weight of solar energy or not.
Warehouse automation is not something that became popular because of the pandemic; however, it became more critical because of COVID-19. Automation assists businesses in meeting high customer expectations. Warehouse automation assists businesses meet high demands as the number of SKUs are also growing significantly. Automation is able to increase space optimization and the delivery time of orders to customers. When processes are automated in the warehouse, it assists in reducing labour costs which have been rising due to employees being absent due to illnesses or lockdown measures.
Many automation technologies, including retrieval systems and automated storage, ensure that warehouse space is optimized. Automation technologies are beneficial for warehouses that need more space; whose picking efficiency is low; and whose labour productivity is low.
3. Warehouse Management Systems
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are crucial for warehouses that are looking to digitize their warehouse operations. Many companies use WMS for the management of moving parts found inside the warehouse. WMS contains applications that decrease costs and increase warehouse productivity, including order picking, putaway, replenishment, labour management, and shipping. Warehouses can use WMS to run alone, but it can also be integrated with third-party logistics, order management systems, and ERP systems. WMS is perfect for organizations whose current systems include clipboards and Excel spreadsheets, but are ineffective.
4. Machine Learning
Machine learning has offered many rewards to labour planning systems. Labour is the most critical resource in any warehouse. It has become challenging for there to be efficient labour planning. Some of the challenges relating to labour planning include the increased number of SKUs. Machine learning assists in labour planning systems, which significantly improves productivity, reducing costs and leading to better services. Machine learning labour planning systems can be integrated with warehouse management systems and even TMS and ERP. Machine learning will be beneficial for businesses with low productivity, who are battling with predicting their labour requirements for the next day or week and who have low labour forecasting accuracy.
5. Voice-activated Technology
Many organizations have started using voice-activated technology instead of conventional scanning, leading to better warehousing workflow processes. When picking items, pickers can use voice technology as the technology will provide them with information to the WMS through a headset. Whenever there are long serial numbers, employees can also use handheld devices with barcode scanners.
Voice-activated technology can increase productivity since pickers will be able to conduct more work in less time. The voice-activated technology also increases the safety of workers as employees can perform their work hands-free. Another benefit of using voice-activated is that it increases accuracy, contributing to customer satisfaction and more significant profit margins.
Warehouses can integrate voice-activated technology with ERP systems or WMS. The companies that believe that their employees will find the technology beneficial because they can work hands-free should consider looking into a multimodal approach.
With warehouse demands having increased over the last year, warehouses must operate more efficiently to meet the needs of the current marketplace. The trends that have been identified above will ensure that warehouses are productive while also reducing their costs.
We additionally explore the Leading Guide to Warehouse Automation.