Tech advances will play an increasingly important role in reducing supply chain costs and increasing the speed and predictability of product movement. Indeed, some 66% of warehouses plan to expand their technology investments in the very near future. To ensure future competitiveness, companies in the logistics sector should and have already began adopting innovative modern warehousing technologies.
1. Robotics And Automation
As robots become smarter, cheaper and faster, they’re set to revolutionize modern warehousing. “From picking, packing and sorting, streamlining assembly operations, loading/unloading, receiving and putting away orders to processing and more, robotic automation is helping businesses produce products with higher quality, less downtime and fewer errors,” says Kate Johnson, technology and consumer lifestyle editor at insights and innovation agency Stylus. Globally, robotic automation has experienced strong growth over the past decade, with the International Federation of Robotics reporting that around 254,000 units were sold in 2015 – a 41% increase on 2013.
2. Sensors And Automatic Identification
Automatic identification technologies – from bar-code and point-of-sale systems to imagers and beacons – are helping businesses use data to streamline and bring visibility to warehousing processes. By quickly and automatically identifying and tracking the identity and location of physical items in a supply chain, auto ID provides a major opportunity to improve tracking and tracing systems, process control and inventory management.
3. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
Among the most promising automatic technologies is RFID. Already increasingly being adopted in modern warehouses, RFID uses radio waves to feed information between tags attached to stock and readers that pick up the signal. Market research firm IDTechEx expects the global market for RFID to more than double in size by 2018, to $20bn (£16bn). The retail industry is the primary user, and is expected to account for 27% of the total global RFID market in 2024, up from 5% in 2014.
4. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
EDI tech allows for the seamless flow of information between two different computer systems, streamlining the progress of purchase and shipping orders, stock transfer receipts, shipping and inventory advice. EDI is expected to witness significant growth, with a global compound annual growth rate of 27.3% by 2025, according to Grand View Research.
5. The Internet Of Things (IoT)
The market for the connected devices network known as IoT in warehouse management is predicted to reach $19.06bn by 2025, says Grand View Research, up from $2.27bn in 2015. In EDI-dominated supply chains, innovators are increasingly turning to on-board covert tracking technology – telematics – to improve visibility once shipments are in motion.
Smart glass hardware and software are being integrated into warehousing and supply chains across many levels. “Companies are piloting smart glasses in supply chain and manufacturing operations to understand how the technology can augment the existing systems and workforce,” Joe Fitzgerald, a leader at Deloitte’s wearables innovation practice, told the 2015 MHI Annual Industry Report.