How the Internet of Things (IoT) will transform warehouse management

‚ÄčRead time - 02:25
Warehousing is very simple. All you have to do is receive and identify stock, count it accurately, store it and remember where it is, pick the right amount and deliver to the right place. But with today's consumers, who expect immediate gratification when shopping, this can complicate the process as they want to click and receive orders in a few days and sometimes in a few hours.

This is becoming a problem as traditional supply chain is not designed to handle this; high volumes, and small consumer orders for immediate delivery. That is where IoT in warehousing comes in, to offer better solutions to warehouse management.

IoT in warehousing will increase the speed of processing goods, reduce the use of manual labour, identify potential risks, provide real time traceability and enable notifications when deliveries will be late due to bad weather or human error.

It will revolutionise the traditional warehouse as we know it. Imagine a warehouse that can detect unauthorised personnel and initiates a lockdown or a warehouse that change its temperature to accommodate temperature sensitive goods? That is where IoT will take warehousing in the future.

A research and markets report predicts that the value of global IoT in warehouse management market is anticipated to reach $19.06 billion by 2025 and 70% of retailers worldwide said they are willing and ready to adopt this technology to enhance their warehouse management, 65% plan to invest in automation technologies for inventory management and planogram compliance by 2021.

How IoT will revolutionise warehousing
Let's make use of the classic example of a company called Lids. They sell fashion athletic headwear. In the old days, order takers - known as pickers - would get a list of items and walk around the warehouse, looking for the right ones and loading them up in a tote. Lids started using an Internet of Everything (IoE)- based robotic system.

Now a list of items is automatically sent to cart-like robots, which retrieve the products, place them in bins, and deliver them to a worker. The worker then loads the material onto a truck in the correct order.

Sensors detect everything from a robot's location to whether pallets are en route to the shipping dock and then wirelessly transmit that information to a remote monitoring team. This system will also track and know of everything that is moving in the warehouse.

The effects on developing countries
The application and adoption of this technology poses no risk in a developed country but the same cannot be said when it comes to developing countries like South Africa. The discussion around IoT in warehousing will be different. Factors like the exchange rate, looming junk status and declining commodity prices will come to play. The discussion will be geared towards its effects on jobs as oppose to the opportunities it brings.  

CEO of DHL South Africa (Supply Chain), Paul Stone thinks the adopting and application of this technology should be welcomed in South Africa or the country will not be able to compete in a global community. He reckons IoT in warehousing will bring efficiency and flexibility, employees will do less hard labour and work in safer spaces whilst companies are reaching new frontiers in production.

It will be interesting to see how the adoption of this technology unfolds in third world countries, as low-skilled workers will be at high risk of losing their jobs.

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