Warehouse|DC News

Four Ways to Future-Proof Your Warehouse

Four attributes warehouse technology must have to protect against obsolescence and help future proof your warehouse.

It's an interesting time for those making decisions about warehouse technology.

Automated systems have emerged that can dramatically improve productivity, efficiency and space utilization.

But, you’re likely also seeing a lot of news about how Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things will enable smarter, more adaptive warehouses in the future.

Will today’s investments be made obsolete by future developments?

The reality is there’s always something new coming and it’s necessary for each organization to weigh the risks of waiting against the risk of adopting technology too early.

In the case of warehouse automation, the technology has matured significantly in the last three years and there are solid examples of successful deployments in almost every industry. In some industries, such as e-commerce, waiting simply isn’t an option.

Customers are demanding faster delivery while the number of SKUs is making fulfillment more complex and the pressure on costs is increasing. Plus, automation providers have largely moved away from closed, proprietary systems that increase the risk of obsolescence.

Those developments have shifted the risk/reward assessment solidly in favor of reward - if you deploy technologies capable of adapting to future change.  Here are four things to look for in warehouse automation technology to ensure the systems you deploy today can continue to deliver returns well into the future.

1. Software Integration

When warehouse operators first began to adopt automation, they found their existing warehouse management systems were not well suited to support it. They had to be supplemented with warehouse control and warehouse execution systems, which provided the necessary functionality but also limited the ability to collect and use data.

Monolithic WMS software that takes a top-down approach to warehouse management lacks the flexibility to easily adapt to changing conditions. The new approach, as represented by Swisslog’s SynQ platform, takes a bottom-up approach to software design to integrate all of the functionality required to support an automated warehouse in a single, modular platform.

This decentralized architecture allows the software to easily adapt to changing equipment and requirements and will become the standard in the future.

2. Modular design

With demand rapidly shifting from traditional retail to e-commerce and omni-channel sales, few businesses can accurately forecast future warehousing requirements. This has caused inflexible, bolted-down automation systems to fall out of favor. They are being replaced by modular goods-to-person systems that can easily be scaled and even re-purposed in a new environment. 

Mobile robots, such as CarryPick, adapt quickly to changes in demand and enable a pay-as-you-grow approach in which additional robots and pick stations are added as needed.

The architecture of the SynQ platform also provides future flexibility. Through its decentralized, modular design, it enables users to deploy only the functionality they need while maintaining the ability to add functionality and business intelligence tools as needed.

3. Business intelligence

While the future is difficult to predict, one thing is fairly certain: the most efficient warehouses will be those that can effectively use data to optimize processes, enhance availability and anticipate changes in demand. The problem isn’t necessarily collecting data, it’s being able to integrate it across systems and visualize it in ways that allow it to be easily used by warehouse personnel.

A growing family of business intelligence tools is emerging that provides unparalleled visibility into equipment operation, material flow and process efficiency. The warehouse management system of the present - and the future - must allow for easy integration of business intelligence tools and consistent visualization of the insights they provide.

4. Support for virtualization

Virtualized warehouse management isn’t coming; it’s already here. The SynQ software platform, for example, combines sensor data with warehouse models and simulations to create a digital “copy” of the warehouse. Today that enables real-time condition monitoring, material flow monitoring and process modeling - all powerful tools in improving availability and productivity.

Virtualization also establishes a foundation for future developments that will shape warehouse management, including:

  • Virtual Reality. At ProMat 2017, we demonstrated the capability to combine SynQ’s virtualization capabilities with a VR headset to provide a detailed, 3D view of what automated materials handling systems will look like and how they will perform under specific order profiles.
  • Augmented Reality. The above video showing how Swisslog is combining the virtualization technologies of SynQ, with the augmented reality capabilities of the Microsoft HoloLens, to improve how we deliver services. Another interesting application for augmented reality is gamification. As products like HoloLens become industrialized, workers will be able compare their performance with others in real time to normalized task time across the workforce and optimize productivity.

No one knows exactly what the future will bring, but with systems that are integrated, modular, intelligent and enable virtualization you can future proof your warehouse to adapt to change and take advantage of new technologies as they emerge.

Related White Papers

Download the Paper

Energy Efficiency in Automated Distribution Facilities
The importance of reducing energy consumption and better management of energy utilization becomes a more critical issue as energy costs escalate and logistics operations are pressured to lower operating costs without loss of productivity. Download Now!


Download the Paper

Flexible Robotics Come of Age for Intralogistics
With less need for fixed infrastructure and the ability to work collaboratively with humans to scale up output, robotic solutions are less costly and more flexible to dynamic e-commerce fulfillment needs than the automation of the past. Download Now!


Download the Paper

Five Ways to Optimize Your Distribution Center For E-Commerce Fulfillment
The rise of e-commerce and multi-channel fulfillment has caused distribution centers to experience ever-growing numbers of stock-keeping units and more inventory turns, up to an average of nine in 2015. Download Now!


Article Topics
Trends   Warehouse|DC   Automation   Internet of Things   SKU   Warehouse Management Systems   WMS   All topics


Comments
Be the first to post a comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Login.

 
Latest Warehouse|DC News
Rethinking Your Distribution Network Optimization
Distribution network optimization is essentially a balancing act between operating expenses and working capital, as opposed to service level requirements, and if a cost-benefit analysis sounds expensive…

Lift Truck Technology Connects Pickers to Productivity
Mobile, connected and critical to the movement of goods, the modern lift truck and picker are helping unlock the next level of productivity.

Envisioning & Planning the Future Warehouse of 2030
The warehouse of the future will be shaped by trends in society, technology, and consumer behavior, this post, along with the Future Perspectives paper, Planning for the Warehouse of the Future, shows…

How Wireless Workstations Can Transform Warehouse Fulfillment
Wireless workstations increase productivity and efficiency in warehouse operations.


 

24|7 Pro Team

The 24|7 Team is your direct pipeline to solutions for your business challenges. It's your opportunity to have supply chain and logistics experts look at your specific challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information.

The 24|7 Team will simplify the task of creating a database of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your Request for Proposal list.

1
  Choose a topic for your RFP

Transportation RFP/RFI

The Transportation RFP is your direct pipeline to solutions for your transportation challenges. It's your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific transportation challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information specific to your request.

Choosing the perfect software or system can be an indomitable challenge. Using this transportation/TMS RFP will simplify the task of creating a database of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your Request for Proposal list.

Warehouse/DC Management RFP/RFI

The Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) RFP is your direct pipeline to solutions for your WMS challenges. It's your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific WMS challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information specific to your request.

Choosing the perfect WMS solution can be an indomitable challenge. Using this WMS RFP will simplify the task of creating a database of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your WMS Request for Proposal list.

Supply Chain RFP/RFI

The Supply Chain RFP is your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific challenges and needs, and receive free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information. It simplifies finding a pool of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your Request for Proposal list. The companies in the Logistics Planner have agreed to respond to your request for in-depth information and follow-up, and your request is totally confidential.

Software/Technology RFP/RFI

The Software/Technology is your direct pipeline to solutions for your logistics information technology challenges. It's your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific technology challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information specific to your request. Whether it's WMS, TMS, Mobile or Cloud, our pros can help.

The companies listed below have agreed to respond to your request for in-depth information and follow-up. Your request is totally confidential.

Executive Education RFI

The Logistics and Supply Chain Education RFI can help you identify the schools, coursework, continuing education, distance learning and certification opportunities available from leading logistics educational institutions.

Upgrade and improve your logistics and supply chain skillsets. Whatever route you choose—advanced degree, executive education, certification or distance learning—the time and money you invest in your education today can pay off in continued career success tomorrow. Contact leading universities and professional institutions for the information you need to prepare for the future.

Third Party Logistics RFP/RFI

This 3PL Request for Proposal (RFP)/Request for Information (RFI) can help you find the 3PL and 4PL providers that can meet your specific 3PL service challenges and needs. The 3PL companies below will provide free, no-obligation third-party logistics advice, solutions, and information.

Ask your 3PL questions, you'll get answers. Simply complete the information, and detail your 3PL challenges. Then, check off the third-party logistics companies that you want to review your request.

1. Choose an RFI topic.
2. Enter your contact information and challenge.
3. Select companies and optional categories.
4. Submit.


2

Your Information



Your Challenge, Problem or Request *

3

Select Transportation Companies

  • Select All

  • 3Gtms
  • BluJay Solutions
  • CSX Trans. Intermodal
  • Kuebix
  • Landstar
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • One Network
  • Pitt Ohio
  • Purolator
  • Quintiq
  • SEKO Logistics
  • SMC3


Select Relevent Categories

  • Air Freight
  • Intermodal
  • Motor Freight
  • Ocean Freight
  • Rail Freight
  • TMS

Select Warehouse/DC Management Companies

  • Select All

  • 3PL Central
  • Apex Supply Chain Tech.
  • Honeywell Intelligrated
  • Kuebix
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • Swisslog
  • Westfalia Technologies
  • Zebra Technologies


Select Relevent Categories

  • Auto ID & Data Capture
  • Automation
  • Conveyors & Sortation
  • Lift Trucks
  • Packaging & Labeling
  • Pallets & Containers
  • Shelving & Racking
  • WMS

Select Supply Chain Companies

  • Select All

  • 3Gtms
  • 3PL Central
  • Amber Road
  • Apex Supply Chain Tech.
  • APICS
  • BluJay Solutions
  • CSX Trans. Intermodal
  • Frontier Business
  • Kuebix
  • Landstar
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • Logility
  • One Network
  • Purolator
  • Quintiq
  • SMC3
  • Synchrono
  • TAKE Supply Chain
  • Westfalia Technologies
  • Zebra Technologies


Select Relevent Categories

  • Global Trade
  • Inventory Management
  • Risk Management
  • Sustainability

Select Software/Technology Companies

  • Select All

  • 3GTMS
  • 3PL Central
  • Apex Supply Chain Tech.
  • BluJay Solutions
  • Honeywell Intelligrated
  • Frontier Business
  • Kuebix
  • Logility
  • One Network
  • Quintiq
  • SMC3
  • Swisslog Logistics
  • Synchrono
  • TAKE Supply Chain
  • Zebra Technologies


Select Relevent Categories

  • ERP
  • Sales & Operations
  • Sourcing/Procurement
  • Optimization
  • Transportation Mgmt
  • Warehouse Mgmt

Select Executive Education Choices

  • Select All

  • Graduate Courses
  • Online/Distance
  • Executive Education
  • Certifications
  • Undergraduate
  • Seminars
  • Associations
  • Conferences
  • Tradeshows


Select Third Party Logistics Companies

  • Select All

  • 3PL Central
  • Landstar
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • Purolator
  • SEKO Logistics
  • Westfalia Technologies


4
 

24|7 Company Profiles