Technologies have long been actively implemented in many sectors of nowadays economy, and warehousing is no exception.

To keep up with the rapidly-growing eCommerce sector, brands recognize the importance, if not the urge, for warehouses to be automated - equipped with technologies that maximize performances and efficiency while minimizing cost and human error.

While warehouse management systems (WMS) have become increasingly prevalent, the idea of smart warehousing has emerged as a solution to enhance flexibility, productivity, functionality and effectiveness.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) are two types of technologies commonly found in smart warehouses, carrying out tasks like automation, information processing and analysis.



From statistics to impacts - the statistics below reveal how automation has huge impacts on warehousing and order fulfillment.


1. 79% of organizations with superior supply chain capabilities (‘supply chain leaders’) achieve revenue growth that is significantly above average, comparing to 8% of the organisations with lower-performing supply chains (‘supply chain followers’) have above-average revenue growth.

(Source: Deloitte)

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What does this imply?

A positive correlation between technological integration, supply chain management and revenue growth can be observed, as to how innovative and forward-thinking an organisation is to be an early adopter of technologies to enhance the overall performances, or even create a competitive edge.


2. 93% of respondents reported increased use of warehouse management systems, automation and other software in support of eCommerce fulfillment to cope with eCommerce growth and order fulfillment complexity.

(Source: Logistics Management)


What does this imply?

More businesses see smart warehouses as the future of warehousing as evidenced by the prevalence of automation in warehouses for effective warehouse and order fulfilment management.


3. Warehouses are handling more stock-keeping units (SKU) - with a year-on-year increase in respondents seeing automation as a solution.

(Source: Logistics Management)


What does this imply?

Only with the use of advanced technology can businesses enjoy great flexibility and scalability in warehousing.

More SKUs = A higher requirement for the accuracy and efficiency of inventory management.




As we step into the era of smart warehousing, we will introduce some of the most prominent technological integrations throughout order fulfillment, which mainly covers the first three stages in the Store-Pick-Pack-Ship process.


Streamlining the Storing Process


  • Internet of Things (IoT)

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Storing is all about inventory control. Goods come in and out - it can be troublesome if you enter all the data entries one by one manually. This is why many brands have introduced IoT in warehouses. With IoT comes the interconnectivity of all the assets in a warehouse. As such, data can be synchronised in real-time and visualised to ace inventory management.


  • Automated Inventory Control System

For even better effectiveness, IoT can be paired up with an automated inventory control system, synergizing the connectivity of IoT and automation for the smooth handling of stocks.


Optimizing the Picking & Packing Process


  • Warehouse Robots

Time is money! Without a well-designed topology, the travel time required to pick and pack the goods increases, leading to a costly operation. One common practice to reduce travel time and cost comprises implementing robots to boost warehouse efficiency.


  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)

AGV also plays an important role in picking and packing goods. From putaway, stocktaking, loading to packaging - AGVs follow pre-set routes to navigate within a warehouse. Hence, the integration of AGVs enhances operational safety, accuracy and productivity with little to no human input.


Elevating Effective Warehousing as a Whole


  • Warehouse Management System (WMS)

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After all, a warehouse without a WMS is more like a big storage space. For a warehouse to be smart, brands should utilize a well-designed WMS to streamline all automation and software on one platform - as a control panel for performance control and monitoring, enabling responsive data reporting, real-time data visualisation and analysis.




It’s beyond dispute that supply chain management is becoming more complex than ever - making it particularly challenging for small eCommerce businesses.

Are you a supply chain leader or a follower? Is your warehouse smart enough to outperform? Does it worth investing in your own smart warehouse? Should you leverage a 3PL?

Let’s have a thought - talk soon!



References:

Deloitte - Analysis on Supply Chain Leadership (https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/operations/articles/supply-chain-leadership.html)

Logistics Management - Findings from ’2018 Warehouse and Distribution Center (DC) Operations Survey’ (https://www.logisticsmgmt.com/article/2018_warehouse_distribution_center_survey_labor_crunch_driving_automation)