Tech

8 ways IoT is transforming warehouse management


Increasing adoption of IoT and Smart technology is revolutionizing logistics and warehouse management. Here’s how to do it.

“US smart warehousing market size is estimated to reach USD 3,481.58 million in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 9,400.10 million by 2027, at a CAGR of 15.24%” – Report Research & Markets report.

With increasing consumer demand, the load logistics and transportation only increase and give rise to many innovations in the logistics industry. Logistics companies are working to increase efficiency and provide better transparency. This has led to some serious innovation and investment in the IoT space.

With IoT becoming more and more popular, forecasters predict that by 2025, the IoT industry will reach $1 trillion to $3 trillion in revenue. This is due to the change from mere connection to IoT-enabled applicationsplatforms and services.

How does IoT complement logistics?

Location and route management

Vehicle tracking solutions typically monitor the current location of trucks transporting goods to its destination. Logistics industries track their trucks and estimate possible delivery times using GPS tracking tools. It supports smooth operation and provides a more detailed view of the cargo movement. Even companies like Maersk adopt tracking devices in their containers for efficient operation.

transparent

IoT has taken automation to the next level of detail. Sellers and consignees know exactly where their goods are without too much effort. Companies like VesselFinder specialize in providing real-time visibility into containers. In a more connected world, customers now have visibility that can be seamlessly integrated using existing data.

Predictability

Since the movement of goods is tracked in real time, a warehouse or a hub can plan ahead for the receipt and handling of goods. This allows for more efficient space management and prevents excess reserve capacity.

Efficient delivery in last mileage

Last-mile delivery covers more than 30% of all delivery costs due to its heavy reliance on traffic, driver skill and fuel costs. With the Internet of Things, delivery trucks can collect orders more efficiently, making full use of all available space.

Companies like Amazon are also experimenting Drone-based delivery for the last mile, especially in densely populated areas. While these are being tested in smaller towns and require an explanation from the aviation authority, it is only a matter of time before this becomes mainstream, as it is more economical on things as same day delivery.

Condition and damage monitoring

Tracking the condition of goods in transit is key for some industries. For example, it is very important for perishable goods or cold chain transport, such as seafood, fresh produce, biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals.

Several companies produce devices that monitor and record conditions such as humidity, temperature, shock, and even radiation. This allows the consignee and the supplier to ensure that the goods are not damaged during transit. Additionally, technologies like Trackers and smart containers are used to control damage so your product can arrive in excellent condition.

IoT in warehouse management

Warehousing is generally a process that employs a lot of people and has considerable scope for automation. Let’s explore some of the improvements that help IoT has enabled storage.

Efficient warehouse management and stock status

The overall process of warehouse operations can be broken down into receiving, storing, picking, packing and shipping.

Use technology like RFID, goods in and out of the warehouse can be recorded automatically without minimal staff effort. In addition, RFID does not require scanning or viewing the product directly, minimizing sorting and unpacking efforts.

Although RFID is an old technology, the reduction in costs has led to its widespread adoption. Additionally, many companies add RFID tags as part of their own manufacturing process. As a result, incoming goods can be scanned and logged without unpacking.

Warehouse stock status can be updated in real time as goods enter and exit the warehouse without any extra effort. At any given time, the inventory is updated.

Store and Select

Storage and picking are very intensive processes in the warehouse. IoT products can play an important role in making these processes more efficient. While management software assigns a location/rack to which goods need to be stored, storage involves the physical transportation of goods from the receiving area to the designated location.

Similarly, picking includes locating the product in the warehouse and taking it to the packing area. It is estimated that employees spend about 30% of their shifts moving inside the warehouse.

Some of the technologies that can be leveraged here are:

Vehicle with Guide

Vehicles with automatic guidance used to transport goods from one area to another in the warehouse. They often work in conjunction with employees picking goods for shipping or storage. On the other hand, the automatic mobile robot can pick up/stack the goods on the rack. For example, Alibaba has 700 guided robots designed to move packages around and deliver goods to delivery trucks in their warehouse. Companies like GreyOrange and Conveyco also have promising solutions in this area.

UAV to pick up goods

Many companies offer drones that fly autonomously in warehouses and take out existing inventory. Several companies such as Flytware and Argon & Co provide these devices and integrations to interface with management software.

Smart glasses

These wearable smart glasses guide employees to the location of the product and highlight the product to be retrieved. This eliminates training and human error in product selection. This also optimizes the pick-up route to minimize staff travel distances.
Logistiview and Realtimelogistics are some of the leading companies in this field.

Voice headset

Here, employees wear headsets with mics to understand simple voice commands and direct them to products that interest them. This is basically done to keep the worker hands free for the picking job, this means pressing buttons.

Companies like 6river systems and real-time logistics Dematic are pioneers in the field of voice headsets dedicated to warehouse management.

Finger Activation Gloves

These are essentially barcodes and RFID scanners that can be worn, helping to confirm the product is being picked up and not performing a pre-scan.

IoT and Blockchain for Digital BOL

Blockchain-based logistics is built on a shared distributed ledger, making all data (shipment state at different times, storage environment, shipping state) impossible deny. This increases transparency and allows customers to track the source and delivery.

Smart contract

The smart contract make the contract self-executing and enforceable. However, especially in cross-border shipping, there are a number of approvals and authorities involved. In such cases, these contracts provide an escrow mechanism where funds are disbursed based on IoT-enabled checkpoints.

When combined with Blockchain technology, applications of IoT in logistics will create a Digital Bill of Lading (BOL) creating a whole new transparency in the supply chain.

The TradeLens ecosystem is a solution launched in 2018 by Maersk and IBM. It helps with vehicle tracking, containers, cargo and supply chain management. Industry partners’ freight traffic data is collected into a single secure blockchain network. And all interested parties are provided with secure information access. The system also automates related documents, including invoices, bills, and fees.

Dispute Resolution Using Blockchain

Dispute resolution is a common function in the logistics sector. The company has tried to provide a smooth solution in this regard. FedEx partnered with Hyperledger and BiTa (Blockchain in Transport Alliance) and launched a pilot project to find a solution to help resolve disputes with customers. The immutable nature of Blockchain will help reduce customer disputes.

IBM Food Trust is another IBM initiative within the Food Trust ecosystem that allows tracking of the origin of products up to the time of consumption. This is necessary to product shipping tracking. IBM used the Hyperledger Fabric distribution registry to launch the IBM Food Trust ecosystem. This aims to increase transparency and traceability of the food supply chain by creating end-to-end “stories” of each product.

In other words, the network collects and integrates information about food production, transportation and storage. This is essential to ensure safety and standards, especially in the food industry. Companies like Dole and Golden State Foods have implemented traceability in their logistics systems.

Logistics and warehouse management are integral to every business, directly or indirectly. At the same time, it is not a single process but a combination of many complex processes. Connecting them together to ensure that the correct data flows seamlessly between the different components is a critical challenge.

IoT offers promising logistics and warehouse management innovation and is only on the rise.

Anjana Sadandan

Anjana Sadandan works as Senior Manager – Marketing at Trigent. She has a strong marketing communications background and has worked with several multinational organizations.

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