“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John Calvin Maxwell
The recent developmental changes in the field of Internet of things (A network of physical objects that use sensors and APIs to connect and exchange data over the internet) has created a need for industries to adapt to these changes. To gain a competitive advantage over its rivals, industries need to integrate these technologies into their existing systems or else failure will be inevitable.
Warehouses, being a key link in the Supply Chain need to embrace the technology i.e. Internet of Things to reduce equipment damage and create an overall error free process. Thus, today’s warehouse is far more than just a facility in which to store inventory. Leveraging the latest supply chain technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), a “smart warehouse” can now serve as a hub to boost efficiency and speed throughout the entire supply chain. The most important us of IoT in Warehouse Management is to make fast decisions and to ultimately get the right product to the right customer as fast as possible.
Potential uses of IoT in Warehousing:
1. Inventory and Asset visibility: IoT will enable us to know the exact location of the items whether in the warehouse or items in transit for delivery. This is one of the main concerns of supply chain and warehouse managers. Also, apart from inventory tracking, asset tracking is also crucial. Assets can be anything such as the workers in the warehouse or the equipment’s i.e. forklifts and pallets. Thus knowing the location and condition of the inventory and these assets will enable us to make faster decisions. Different ways in which this can be achieved is by using RFID (radio frequency identification) tags or wireless battery operated tags on pallets.
2. Performance improvement of human operators: Due to fluctuations in workforce capacity during peak seasons and normal conditions in warehouses, it is imperative that the technology should be easy to use and accurate. Wearable devices or augmented reality can be a few option that can be explored. For e.g., workers can be provided with wearable video cameras that can record and transmit information to the warehouse management system and in-turn analyse the data and provide feedback to the workers using smart glasses. This can provide the worker with additional information and help him reduce errors thus improving efficiency.
Also, the information that is gathered using these smart devices can be used to improve employee safety and wellbeing. The sensors placed on the wearables can continuously monitor an employee’s physical condition and also the environmental factors surrounding the worker. This in-turn will reduce losses due to injured employees and increase overall productivity.
Challenges in execution:
The major challenge involved in the IoT-enabled warehouse execution is to ensure that the organisation can break out of their traditional working processes. For effective implementation of IoT, all the systems within the organisation must be able to integrate together for information sharing. Also, to reap the full benefits of IoT, warehouses will need to have a proper, robust & a flexible infrastructure to support the large bandwidth of functions that IoT can provide. It is greatly important to educate the people about IoT and its benefits so that the market understands its importance and there is conjoint effort to implement IoT in warehouses.
But IoT applications don’t have to be expensive or entirely revolutionize warehouse operations. IoT can also be used for simpler things such as monitoring devices so that their energy consumption can be reduced. These simple steps towards IoT can greatly improve operational and systems efficiency, the IoT can have a ripple effect throughout the entire logistics industry by reducing costs and speeding up the movement of goods from warehouses to stores and consumers.
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