Warehousing, distribution and fulfilment operations are undergoing a modern-day makeover as they transform to meet the growing demands of the world’s instant gratification, on-demand economy.
Faced with an evolving omnichannel landscape, ever-increasing volumes, faster delivery requirements and a global shortage of workers, industry leaders must modernise to keep pace.To truly modernise a warehouse, however, decision makers must concentrate on three distinct areasand ensure they are synchronised: the warehouse management system (WMS), augmenting workers
with technology, and automation.
1) Upgrading the Warehouse Management System
The Warehouse Management System (WMS) is the foundational system of record that manages everything throughout the warehouse – goods, assets, people, workflows and transactions. In any modernisation process, starting with improvements to the foundation is a logical first step and warehousing is no exception. Over the next five years, decision makers will upgrade or add additional modules to their existing WMS or migrate altogether to full-featured, best-of-breed systems. Outfitting warehouse operations with modern day WMS solutions enhances the employee user experience, which is a significant focus for decision makers. 73% of organisations surveyed plan to begin modernisation by equipping workers with mobile devices by 2024.
Furthermore, decision makers are placing greater focus on asset visibility and utilisation, real-time guidance and data driven performance. This can only be achieved with an advanced WMS that can deliver real-time data from location-aware solutions, sensors and systems located right throughout the enterprise. Over the next five years, an average of 87% of warehouse operators aim to have their WMS communicate with both their yard and transportation management systems to ensure synchronisation across the supply chain.
2) Optimising workflows by augmenting workers and the environment with technology
The fast pace of the on-demand economy has increased pressure on supply chain and IT leaders to ensure labour is consistently performing at peak operational levels. Over the next five years, decision makers plan to invest in advanced infrastructures and automation that augment human capabilities and keep pace with WMS enhancements. When it comes to the individual worker, decision makers plan to invest in a variety of devices to help people work smarter, faster and more accurately, including rugged tablets, industrial scanners, wearable computers, smart glasses and mobile printers. 72% of decision makers indicated they will be upgrading or adding these devices over the next three or more years.
Over time, decision makers will shift their focus to creating smarter facilities, to free up workers time for tasks that require human interaction. The warehouse of the future will use a combination of sensors, RFID and indoor location solutions to continuously capture information through sensors, analyse data to provide actionable intelligence and act on those insights in real time. 35% of decision makers believe they will use these technologies within five years to begin augmenting their environment with more automated data capture and asset tracking.
3) Outfitting warehouses with expanding levels of automation
New technologies and automation will play a critical role for warehouse operators as they strive to remain competitive. Forward-thinking leaders have already made substantial investments in fixed automation solutions in order to enhance productivity and workflow efficiencies. For example, automation solutions can handle repetitive tasks, such as scanning, sorting and picking, ensuring they are performed quickly and consistently. Automation solutions also reduce travel time across a facility, freeing up workers for more important tasks. Currently, 96% of respondents report that repetitive tasks are completed with human involvement. However, by 2024, 35% of decision makers indicate they plan to deploy full automation for some repetitive tasks.
Whilst automation is generally thought of as something you can see and touch, such as cobots interacting with workers in aisles, predictive analytics and machine learning is emerging as one of the most critical aspects of warehouse automation. Within five years, warehouse leaders plan to add new levels of intelligence to their operations to aid in the decision-making process. For workers, this means the ability to use data to predict what will happen or prescribe what should happen in the warehouse.
Capturing a competitive edge in the digital age
Surviving and thriving in the new on-demand economy requires all segments of the supply chain to adapt and work together seamlessly. By rethinking how they meet rising demands and improve workflows, decision makers across warehousing and logistics organisations are modernising their warehouses in order to gain a competitive edge.
Discover how you can modernise your warehouse operations by reading Zebra’s new Warehousing Vision Study here.