How IoT is changing the future of warehouse optimization.
The Internet of Things. What exactly does that mean? And what are these “things” to which the term is referring? In the case of a smart warehouse, it can mean various devices, switches and controls built upon cloud infrastructure that enables all to work seamlessly together on the same network. The result can be that the smart warehouse operates more intuitively, and in turn, becomes more productive and safer. Implementing IoT in a warehouse can mean the difference between running efficiently or falling behind. As such, the more systems go online, the more important it is for warehouses to keep up. And make no mistake, there’s no going back. AI, or artificial intelligence, and ML, or machine learning, have been around for some time now. But in the industrial space, IIoT, or Industrial Internet of Things, is just now hitting its stride. Which is why now is the time for you to familiarize yourself with what industrial IoT offers so that you can leverage it and optimize your operation. For example, what would it mean for you to be able to secure your facility through smart cameras that have ML capabilities built in? And what about inventory management? How could you benefit from a higher degree of automation when it comes to monitoring your warehouse shelves? In addition to the enhancements industrial IoT can deliver within the walls of your facility, it also has a transformative effect on the industries that are connected to your smart warehouse. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the top ways industrial IoT can revolutionize your warehouse optimization and the industries beyond it.
1. Smart Cameras: Secure everything. Including peace of mind.
One of the best ways to make your smart warehouse safe and secure is with an end-to-end physical security solution that includes smart cameras. More than just playback, today’s IoT-driven cameras allow you to go beyond just capturing footage. Leveraging built-in AI and ML, these cameras record footage, store them in the cloud and make it easy for you to retrieve recordings that offer object detection. Based on cloud connectivity, these devices offer reliable remote video access through a single dashboard or mobile app enabling you to quickly investigate events. With smart cameras, you can gain real-time visibility into your environment and optimize your space to encourage safe working practices, promote policy adherence, and ensure proper equipment operation, preventing property damage and productivity loss.
2. Smarter Inventory: Store smarter. Operate better.
For a company responsible for thousands of products in its warehouse that may be hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of square feet in size, storage matters. With a round-the-clock operation, intelligent delivery assignment, scheduling and packing is critical for success. A single calculation, off by even the smallest degree, could affect every stage in the supply-chain. And once it’s behind, it is incredibly difficult to catch up. Thankfully, today’s AI-driven computers and applications can determine the optimum routes for workers – whether they are driving a forklift or loading a delivery truck. This smart software can also leverage machine learning to continually receive data to output the optimum positions for storage as inventory changes by the minute. Some other ways an AI-centered inventory management system can empower your facility is to optimize delivery schedules, maximize warehouse vehicle fuel efficiency, and monitor its own effectiveness – all in real-time.
3. Intelligent Fleet Management: More Predicting. Less Guessing.
The pandemic created an opportunity for businesses and companies to expand their digital and ecommerce reach almost exponentially. And while online shopping has increased, so have AI requirements to help monitor inventory and stock levels. For proof of this, consider the fact that in 2011, AI was incorporated in around 3% of the total retail market. This year, that number is expected to reach 20%. These estimates put both smart warehouses and delivery companies at the heart of ecommerce growth. Managing inventory levels and controlling incoming and outgoing stock items can become a logistical and administrative nightmare. For fleet managers, having access to data as well as the applications to translate it into insight, makes having more control over available items, and shipping schedules, easier. Being able to connect data points through algorithms means fleet managers can monitor stock levels and analyze consumer trends in real-time. Furthermore, AI can analyze data a lot quicker, eliminating human error, and alert logistics teams on inventory levels to enable better and faster decision-making. Being able to predict inventory needs through data models, helps smart warehouse managers track inventory and adjust quickly to changing patterns in the consumer market – all of which protects every part of the supply chain. If properly executed, the aforementioned points can work in unison to help improve fleet safety and performance. A safer fleet does not only help minimize operations costs, but it does help keep drivers and those around them safer. In addition, it ensures that fleets receive necessary routine service. The more a team incorporates software tools such as AI and IoT connectivity, the better their fleet will perform during times of high demand.
4. Automated Fleet Maintenance: Smarter decisions. Safer Drivers.
Automated fleet maintenance tools using the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G technology make it easier for team leaders to have precise data and information related to their fleets' overall wellbeing. Fleet maintenance encompasses a variety of categories, but for the most part refers to licensing and administration, repairs, and of course fleet service. For large delivery companies and couriers with dozens of delivery vehicles, keeping track of when a certain vehicle is due for a service or repair, or when to renew its license can be a challenging and burdensome task. To help avoid mundane tasks, and any costly surprises, companies are now looking to integrate IoT connectivity and 5G tools that can help them track and analyze the overall health of their fleet. Starting from when a truck requires routine maintenance, to the number of miles a truck has left on its current set of tires. While it's possible to help minimize workload and administration, it also increases the safety and road worthiness of trucks and ensures that drivers are kept up to date about their vehicles, creating a safer, more modern work environment for fleet drivers.
Speaking of drivers, for the longest time fleet managers could only access driver behavior and performance through their past driving and work experience. Today, technology has evolved exponentially, allowing for warehouse optimization and offering fleet managers complete visibility into the driver experience and behavior. Driver behavior-centered tools can help track how drivers perform when under a lot of stress, during long-haul deliveries, or how they handle emergencies. The better a driver performs, the easier it is for a business to operate larger teams and deliver quantities – enabling the enterprise to scale.
Warehouse Optimization is only the beginning
As the world faces immense supply chain disruption, the innovative warehouse is playing a central role in improving the industry beyond its four walls. As a key component in a supply chain, the innovation and sustainability practices of smart warehouses will soon make its mark on the rest of the components connected to it. For instance, because storage means time, and time means money, new tracking capabilities will ensure more efficient shipping of inventory through warehouse optimization. By adapting the warehouse, life gets better for everyone – all the way to the end user. Modernizing warehouses and equipping them with IoT connectivity will create change in other industries, such as trucking. Over the next few years, we will begin to see warehouse optimization that enables facilities to recharge the electric trucks that stop to load and unload inventory, further reducing carbon emissions. Industrial IoT connectivity will also bring scalable services and solutions that are built around utilization data and include things like mitigating building or operational disruption, be it a leakage, a malfunction, performance, energy efficiency and more.
In a larger, global effort to achieve ESG standards, an automated building will be able to utilize data and insights to adapt to real-time conditions and optimize its own performance, making decisions independently and allowing facility managers to focus on the core of their business. The true measure of scalable smart buildings in the near future will be warehouse development with regard to sustainability, wellbeing, circular and carbon neutral construction that will prove to increase productivity inside the warehouse and offer more protection for the rest of the planet outside of it.
In summary, whether it's big data, AI, or ML, tomorrow’s industrial IoT connectivity technology is playing a significant role in the overall well-being of any business today. For warehouse and fleet management teams, that means a newfound ability to predict conditions and control dozens of trucks all at once, increase performance, elevate productivity, and create employee safety – all from the touch of a button. Now, who of us could have predicted that?