Why? What? How? A guide to the exciting new technologies soon to revolutionise the warehouse

It really is a pivotal time for the logistics industry.

Following the rise of e-commerce and continued fall in bricks and mortar retail, shopping habits have changed drastically. With more consumers deciding to spend their money online and making the most of deliveries straight to their front door, retailers have been rushing to keep up with customer expectations and rapid delivery times.

As a result, retailers are increasingly looking to partner with warehousing and distribution partners with the capabilities to meet those demands.

For many warehouses dealing with consumer products, this means two things in the future. They will need to store far more goods and have the processes in place to get them dispatched quicker than ever. And that, right there, is what’s driving the trends and technologies that are shaping the warehouse of the future.

 

Changing landscape of the logistics industry

Changing customer expectations about delivery times have created a situation where there is greater urgency to find ways to make logistical processes more efficient. With Amazon’s famous next-day delivery setting the bar for the rest of the sector, other retailers are forced to follow suit or be left behind.

This has also created a shift whereby many retailers are no longer transporting in bulk to bricks and mortar stores, but instead sending goods right to our front doors. This requires a lot of manpower, so these new, large e-commerce warehouses are absorbing a huge amount of traditional warehousing staff. Meanwhile, Brexit is reducing the UK labour pool and Covid has impacted the reliability of human labour. For many warehouses, these tight labour markets are complicating things even further.

 

Consumer demands

The last year or two have been tough for the logistics sector – with a widespread fall in investment in new technologies. However, in 2021 the market has begun to pick up substantially.

Against this backdrop of changing end-consumer expectations and labour challenges, we’ve seen that retailers are now incredibly interested in investing in new technologies that can help bolster the efficiency of their supply chain.

And it’s not just consumer expectations on delivery timeframes that’s having an impact. As more consumers look to make greener choices, we’ve also seen more retailers committed to reducing their carbon footprints as they look to become more environmentally friendly. Today’s conscious consumer doesn’t just look to the retailer, they also interrogate that retailer’s suppliers and their working practices, so this is impacting the whole supply chain. From greener fuel and lithium-ion batteries to employee satisfaction, everything is under scrutiny. The warehouse of the future will need to adopt greener technology to meet the expectations of retailers and consumers in a more environmentally conscious market.

 

Cutting-edge technologies

Automation technology is about to transform the face of many warehouses across the world. As more and more retailers have discovered, wherever you have repetitive tasks where a person doesn’t add significant value, automation can make life so much easier.

Automated guided vehicles (AGVs), make warehouse operations more streamlined by fulfilling simple transport from one point to the other at the mere press of a button, without the need for any sophisticated software. As companies demand more goods to person picking, the warehouse of the future will be filled with autonomous mobile robots (AMR’s) to a greater extend. Instead of someone going around the warehouse to pick the goods, these clever little units will travel around the warehouse where they will take it to the person to collect it at a picking station. So, the product keeps coming to the person and they don’t need to move.

Digitisation is also changing the world of intralogistics when it comes to keeping tabs on the various vehicles in the modern warehouse. Modern logistics devices continuously collect data, which is analysed and can then be used to optimise complex warehouse and transport processes. Networking and advanced sensors even enable the forklift trucks to act autonomously. This will result in fleets becoming intelligent, and in the warehouse of the future, this focus on networking and real-time data access will become extremely important.

 

Looking ahead

Whilst significant new entrants like Amazon are shaking up the logistics sector, it’s important to note that markets where there is less focus on delivering to individuals’ front doors like supermarkets or business to business, will be less affected by automation. Despite that, we expect all markets to be affected by digitisation to some extent.

For those warehouses operating within consumer retail goods, the changing face of the warehouse will see more automated trucks and connected fleet management. Effective capacity management is the foundation of a functional modern warehouse too – after all, when there are millions of consumers now demanding rapid deliveries, you want to avoid any surplus or slow-moving inventory which can take up valuable space.

Efficiency will be central to the warehouse of the future. No matter what you do, you want to be as efficient as possible. For retailers operating on a big enough level, investing in this new technology might be a key to success.

Looking ahead, the reality is that technology will never replace humans completely – so the majority of warehouses will consist of a mix between human labour and automated vehicles. Despite this, in the next three years there might be a retailer that has a warehouse run solely by automated technology. Keep your eyes peeled!

 

Linde Material Handling GmbH, a KION Group company, is a globally operating manufacturer of forklift trucks and warehouse trucks, and a solutions and service provider for intralogistics. With a sales and service network that spans more than 100 countries, the company is represented in all major regions around the world.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *