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10 Technologies of Warehouse Automation
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Shortage of labor, intensified demand from e-tailers (online retailers), and technological disruption is forcing organizations in the Logistics and Warehousing industry to embrace technology, particularly Automation.
An investment in automating the picking, packing, sorting, storing, and shipping items can yield high returns for organizations. Warehouses that will sort out the dynamics of e-commerce, select the ideal technology to implement, and eliminate uncertainties in their supplier contracts will outpace others.
Automation is facilitating the Warehousing operations predominantly by:
- Assisting the movement of goods.
- Improving the handling of goods.
In these two categories, there are 10 technologies that are fast disrupting the Supply Chain function and creating a breakthrough for warehouses. These include:
- Multi-shuttle System
- Optical Recognition
- Conveyor Connection
- Warehouse Management Systems
- Smart Storage
- 3D Printing
- Swarm AGV Robots
- Analytics & Algorithms
- Smart Glasses
- Picking Robots
Let’s discuss a few of these disruptive technologies in detail.
Multi-shuttle systems (MSS) are employed to store and retrieve goods automatically—using automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS). This system is able to transport goods 3 dimensionally (on pallets), and is instrumental in enhancing the throughput, flexibility and efficiency levels.
MSS consists of 3 modules, coordinated by a software module: a Shuttle car powered by power caps for 24-hour operations and moved by powerful motors, high-performance vertical lifts, and a special carrier to move the shuttle car to the exact location. Communication in the multilevel systems’ carrier and shuttles is managed by radio links, whereas the movement is controlled by an integrated control system.
Multilevel Shuttle Storage System is ideal for cold storage, buffer storage, dispatching warehouses, commissioning warehouses, supply and distribution centers, and factories.
MSS offers a number of benefits, e.g.:
- High item storage and retrieval velocity.
- Optimum use of building space.
- High storage density.
- Ability to be retrofitted in existing warehouses.
Optical Recognition and Sensor technology expedites processes and increases productivity. This technology is at the foundation of IoT, smart cities, automobiles and laser-guided vehicles, smartphones, wearable technologies, drones, barcode readers, and more.
Optical Recognition devices use a light source to read characters and barcodes. They then convert these characters into digital data. Optical Recognition devices scan items. At times, this scanning is done on 6 axes. The character recognition software then relates this image to the shapes of individual characters.
Optical recognition devices today use sensors to detect and respond to a specified input—light, sound, motion, pressure, temperature. Once an input is received, a sensor either produces a resulting output—in the form of a light or alarm—or forward the information received to a network for processing.
Optical recognition sensors facilitate in:
- Accelerating and improving processes, inspecting parts for error checking, and quality monitoring.
- Delivering real-time data to make better decisions.
- Handling repetitive and hazardous tasks and making workplaces safer
- Freeing up people to manage more complex endeavors.
- Slashing energy wastage and creating connected, smart factories.
Connected Conveyor Systems are useful in transporting heavy or bulky materials. These systems allow quick and efficient transport of a variety of materials (e.g. totes, cartons) in different warehouse configurations. Advanced conveyor systems and connections perform various material handling requirements including accumulation, transportation, diverting, merging, and sorting products.
Interested in learning more about the other technologies reshaping the warehousing operations? You can download an editable PowerPoint presentation on Warehouse Automation: 10 Technologies here on the Flevy documents marketplace.
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Supply Chain Management (SCM) is the design, planning, execution, control, and monitoring of Supply Chain activities. It also captures the management of the flow of goods and services.
In February of 2020, COVID-19 disrupted—and in many cases halted—global Supply Chains, revealing just how fragile they have become. By April, many countries experienced declines of over 40% in domestic and international trade.
COVID-19 has likewise changed how Supply Chain Executives approach and think about SCM. In the pre-COVID-19 era of globalization, the objective was to be Lean and Cost-effective. In the post-COVID-19 world, companies must now focus on making their Supply Chains Resilient, Agile, and Smart. Additional trends include Digitization, Sustainability, and Manufacturing Reshoring.
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About Mark BridgesMark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.
3-D Printing, Algorithms, analytics, Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS), Automation, Conveyor Connection, logistics, Multi-shuttle System, Optical Recognition, Picking Robots, Smart Glasses, Smart Storage, supply chain, supply chain management, Swarm AGV Robots, warehouse management system, warehousing
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