E-commerce has drastically increased the demand put on warehouses – many online stores rely on warehouses to store their inventory and ship out items quickly once they are purchased. Fortunately, modern technology has made it easier for warehouses to keep up with this demand. Here are several ways in which today’s warehouses are using technology to operate more efficiently.
Keeping a record of all inventory used to be an extremely time-consuming job and huge amount of paper files would have to be kept. Nowadays, all this data can be stored digitally on the cloud – not only does this allow huge amounts of data to be stored without taking up in-house space, this data can also be more secure. Modern software is also able to automatically monitor stock combined with tags on stock and sensors in and around the warehouse – there are stock keeping programmes that can automatically track when something is moved out of the warehouse. As for general stock keeping, some companies have even started using drones to fly around and scan barcodes. The fact that drones can fly makes them great for scanning items on high shelves, preventing the need for human beings to climb up there. All in all, drones can save time and even save manpower (although humans are still needed to operate them).
Warehouses need to ensure that quality is maintained in order to ensure that stock isn’t damaged or mislaid. Technology such as an industrial floor scale can come in use when weighing heavy items – loads can be weighed before putting them on a lorry to ensure that the delivery vehicle is carrying its optimum weight. Temperature control and sanitation are also important in a warehouse and these too have been improved using technology. Smart technology has made it easier to keep the perfect steady indoor temperature and even to detect bad air quality – sensors can be installed around the warehouse that react to the temperature and air quality, adjusting the heating/air conditioning accordingly.
Warehouse staff need to be able to contact clearly and efficiently to one another. Walkie talkies have traditionally been used for year – nowadays many companies still use walkies talkies, whilst some use headsets that rely on wi-fi communication. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is coming on in leaps and bounds and is making it easier for staff to communicate clearly. Machinery is also being designed that can communicate via these radio waves, cutting out the need for human communication in some situations. This can allow problems to be identified quickly and responded to promptly.
Health and safety
Health and safety is of utmost importance in a warehouse. Robots have been able to take over dangerous tasks involving heavy goods and chemical handling that once had to be done by a human. In other cases where machines are still manually controlled (i.e. lifts and forklift trucks), sensors are able to prevent accidents by automatically shutting off a machine if a problem is detected.
Warehouses are also using new technology advances to lower their carbon footprint and lower energy costs. Many machines are now being run using rechargeable lithium-ion batteries – these batteries can last up to ten years without needing to be replaced making them a more efficient option than standard batteries. Renewable power sources such as solar energy are meanwhile also becoming popular.
Warehouses often have lots of roof space, which can be used to place solar panels on and generate electricity, cutting out the need to use mains electricity. Warehouse construction is also being made more energy efficient. New materials and methods are being used to keep warehouses eco-friendly – such huge spaces can easily get cold and can require a lot of heating to keep them warm, but modern insulation techniques are able to trap heat in and reduce energy bills.