Smart warehouses use IoT (Internet of Things) to manage warehouse activities automatically. Amazon and Alibaba are two prominent companies where we can see the benefits of smart warehouse monitoring systems. Both tech giants successfully improved their warehouse control systems which, in turn, increased productivity. It eventually resulted in their ability to better fulfil and understand customer demands.
Meeting customer demand is undeniably important. But, numerous challenges inside the warehouse can hamper the way businesses fulfil this customer demand. Shipping, for example, can get delayed due to poor warehouse management.
A smart warehouse monitoring system easily solves the complexities of circulating goods in the warehouse. Smart warehousing offers automated solutions that reduce time spent on fixing problems caused due to human errors and also reduces the time spent on the manual version of the activities themselves.
Let’s explore smart warehousing in this article and take a look at its benefits for your business.
Applications of IoT in the warehouse monitoring system
The Internet of Things, or IoT, connects physical objects to the internet. It can also link objects or devices to one another by implementing an on/off switch.
Many industries, including warehousing, use IoT technology in their workflow to help them gather and exchange data across multiple devices. It provides them with the convenience of keeping all devices under singular, cohesive control via internet connectivity.
Warehouses are usually quite large. They store a wide range of goods and inventory and involve a huge team of personnel. Often, warehouse managers need to focus on strategising efficient warehouse management to control the different elements of a warehouse, which can be challenging to do manually
That’s why integrating this manufacturing innovation into the warehouse monitoring system is no longer optional. Warehouse solutions that expect to win the market should consider incorporating smart warehousing, the advantages of which we’ll explore right now:
IoT technology in warehouse operations allows warehouse managers to immediately monitor and report all activities. The devices in the warehouse are linked to the internet and can therefore send out their real-time statuses.
As a result, warehouse managers will no longer need to deal with paper-based documentation to verify the completion of each task. Instead, they can monitor the devices automatically, even in a large warehouse, and notify personnel if anything goes wrong.
Not only will it save time and energy, but it will also give warehouse managers a chance to think about maximising efficiency — from inbound logistics and inventory shelving to outbound logistics. Aside from that, this warehouse monitoring system can avoid human errors, which would result in losses, through workflow automation.
- Precise location tracking
We all know that a warehouse typically houses many goods, inventory, and personnel. Thus, warehouse solution providers must weigh whether the monitoring system can synchronise these factors to achieve work cooperation.
This is where the IoT technology’s ability to provide precise location tracking comes into play. Accurate location tracking can improve efficiency by granting control to the warehouse managers over the assets and workforce.
To help you better understand the precise location tracking feature, here are some examples of warehouse parts that are traceable using IoT technology:
- Asset tracking
Each asset is valuable for warehouse providers to use in their daily operations. The asset monitoring system we’ll discuss here is in the form of physical assets and directly relates to warehouse operations.
Forklifts and yard vehicles, as well as their real-time locations, are examples of material handling equipment (MHE) assets that warehouse managers must have control over. Thanks to asset monitoring, they can save time finding the assets when needed quickly and easily.
IoT-enabled asset monitoring systems can assist warehouse managers in locating MHE assets using tagged unique identification codes. When needed, warehouse managers will be able to capture valuable information, including asset usage, downtime, and availability.
The automated asset management system allows warehouse managers to easily manage the MHE movements. They can, for instance, get alerts when an idle or unauthorised MHE is entering a specific warehouse zone.
Warehouse managers can also plan MHE movements to avoid vehicle congestion, or worse, any collisions. As a result, they can increase warehouse productivity and prevent work-related accidents.
- Wearables for workforce tracking
Wearables entail IoT devices attached to the clothes/uniforms of warehouse workers to help track their movements. Warehouse managers will typically distribute wearables to their employees because the devices can:
- Automate employees’ check-ins and check-outs: Implementing automated check-ins and check-outs with IoT-enabled wearables increases transparency between employees and managers. Employees could falsify their attendance records by using paper-based check-in and check-out records.
- Detect employee movements and locations in real-time: Gaining information about the employees’ activities and locations in real-time allows managers to identify whether employees are performing their jobs according to the predetermined plans and which employees might need additional help or support.
- Automate work order completion tracked from employees’ movement data: Wearables that detect employees’ movements empower them to automatically complete their work order. They no longer need to manually report to the managers, which may take longer.
- Assign employees to the nearest MHE: A warehouse usually has several pieces of MHE spread out. Managers can save time by delegating specific MHE operation tasks to the closest employees rather than determining who will operate a specific MHE by default. This saves time and reduces the burden of making a decision.
- Prevent unauthorised entries: Inside a warehouse, there are usually multiple zones, and not everyone is allowed to enter all of them because some contain hazardous materials. Thanks to IoT-equipped wearables, managers can be alerted when employees inadvertently enter restricted areas.
- Warehouse operations optimisation
Another reason warehouses should use IoT is to improve overall operations. It is essential to do so because it will maximise the use of space and evenly distribute workloads to the labourers, both of which are paramount to increasing efficiency.
To make the best use of space and distribute workloads evenly, warehouse managers must first understand the warehouse layouts. Instead of constantly checking the arrangements, warehouse managers can digitise warehouse layouts into a cloud-based platform.
You may wonder why it is essential to maximise space utilisation and distribute workloads equitably among labourers.
That’s because warehouses can expand without taking up additional space. Warehouse managers, for example, can use day-to-day data collection from warehouse monitoring systems to identify underperforming zones and maximise the use of these underutilised zones.
Equal workload distribution to workforce, on the other hand, will increase efficiency and result in faster work completion. Warehouse managers can distribute workloads by matching workforce and asset allocation based on individual zone data, accessible through warehouse monitoring systems.
Another benefit of warehouse operational efficiency is improved inventory lead times which results in cargo leaving the warehouse fuller and faster.
Finally, shorter inventory lead times improve delivery efficiency, which customers appreciate, thus increasing customer satisfaction. Likewise, efficient resource utilisation will make warehouse operations more environmentally friendly, reducing costs and carbon footprint in one go.
- Improve safety
Warehouse providers need to ensure that all employees are safe on the job. Fortunately, IoT-enabled smart warehousing can address this particular concern. Here are some examples of how IoT implementation in warehouse monitoring systems can improve workplace safety:
- Notifies warehouse managers of unauthorised entry into a zone or MHE usage.
- Prevents accidents between MHE by establishing safe distances; even if accidents occur, the devices will send a real-time alert.
- Controls and monitors the zoning density, allowing safe distancing within a zone.
How do IoT-enabled asset management and monitoring solutions work?
IoT technology grants connectivity between multiple devices in the warehouses, thanks to tiny processors and wireless networks. It also helps managers and personnel communicate without going back and forth to the workstation.
Moreover, a study suggests that IoT technology implementation could reduce inventory inaccuracy by 20–30%. It can result in reduced operational costs and improved workflow efficiency.
Here’s a closer look at the specifics of IoT technology within smart warehousing:
Beacons are IoT solutions that rely on low-energy Bluetooth technology, making them highly energy-efficient. When used in warehouse management, these devices work by transmitting signals to other nearby devices and can be monitored using cellphones and other GSM-based devices, which helps warehouses track their assets in real-time.
Warehouses typically embed beacon tags in their assets. This beacon inventory management system will assist warehouses in improving their asset management system, balancing their safety stock, and easing information circulation.
In addition, there are several reasons why beacon tags are preferable to use in smart warehouses, including:
- High read range: the low-energy Bluetooth or BLE technology used by beacon tags allows for excellent monitoring coverage. It increases efficiency because multiple activities can be controlled using a single mobile device.
- Consumes less power: BLE technology is designed to use less energy. As a result, most beacon tags that run on batteries last an average of three years without recharging.
- Cost-effective: beacon tags are being mass-produced due to the widespread use of Bluetooth technology in mobile devices. Mass adoption of these will affect pricing and create relatively inexpensive beacon tags.
Wearable technology, also known as wearables, are attachable devices that receive and transmit data to and from users. In warehousing industries, the common wearables include smart glasses, activity tracker bracelets, and many more.
These devices make it easier for all personnel to complete their duties and communicate with their managers hands-free. As a result, they can receive commands or report their current statuses without holding or letting go of the device and the item they’re working on.
Another vital feature of wearable devices is that they enable warehouse managers to track personnel movements. As a result of the technology, they can improve warehouse safety and security by reducing accidents caused by personnel entering dangerous areas.
Furthermore, the tracking feature of wearables improves transparency between managers and employees. By tracking their movements, managers can easily track whether or not employees are following the predetermined plan.
Sensors in warehouses help identify and verify all goods movement and personnel activities. Sensors typically employ RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to automatically transmit signals to receive and send information.
RFID sensors can be used in the form of tags attached to inventory, thus streamlining the process of asset tracking and reducing human errors. Asset tracking is a vital part of warehousing because it keeps track of each product throughout the entire supply chain stages in the warehouse.
This technology can also help keep the specific zones and rooms safe by limiting access to only those authorised visitors. Authorised visitors may register fingerprints, possess a specific key, or enter a PIN code to open the door lock.
- Cloud-based platform
Cloud-based warehouse monitoring systems allow for organising multiple activities on a single platform. It works by integrating information collected by IoT devices into the systems.
Warehouse managers can capture data and collect it securely on the cloud. Furthermore, cloud-based warehouse monitoring systems will provide insightful analytics that will assist them in making sound business decisions.
What are the benefits of IoT for warehouse managers?
Now that you know how IoT technologies work in warehouses, it’s time to learn about the benefits these technologies offer warehouse managers. Warehouse managers have many responsibilities, including overall management of the warehouse area and employee performance monitoring.
- Optimises space utilisation
Optimising space utilisation allows warehouses to grow without expanding their land—especially given the high cost of buying land and developing warehouse buildings.
Therefore, space utilisation optimisation focuses on making the best use of available space to accommodate the goods and assets that warehouses own. It works by embedding IoT technology in warehouse inventory, giving warehouse managers a clear awareness of the layout and configurations related to the storage facilities in the warehouse.
- Enhances equipment effectiveness
Improving equipment effectiveness enables warehouse providers to organise their assets, ensuring that none of their assets are idling or underutilised. It’s easy to do that when you incoporate asset tracking provided by a reputable warehouse monitoring system.
Ultimately, warehouses that use asset tracking solutions gain the ability to analyse and gain insights into the key aspects of their MHE. Quality, availability, and performance are all part of it.
- Grants remote monitoring
The ability of smart warehouse systems to remotely monitor activities benefits businesses with warehouses set up all over the world. It’s a feature of the systems’ ability to make real-time decisions without visiting each warehouse.
Instead, managers can use the cloud-based platform to monitor warehouse performance. Most importantly, the cloud-based warehouse system’s remote monitoring capability allows businesses to gain visibility into warehouse activities without compromising anything due to long distances.
- Increases employee productivity
Implementing IoT technology optimises floor-level activities, reducing the need for personnel to walk back and forth to their workstations. It enables warehouse managers to collect data automatically and make decisions in real-time.
At the same time, warehouse managers can also help their company boost profitability by increasing employee productivity. IoT devices allow employees to complete more tasks without relying heavily on physical movements. They can also easily communicate with the managers without submitting paper-based documentation, which can be troublesome and time-consuming.
- Reduces risk and cost
IoT technology embedded in the inventory allows warehouse managers to determine whether the equipment is safe for employees. If there is a break, the system will automatically reflect it, allowing warehouse managers to prohibit employees from using it.
Similarly, smart warehousing provided by IoT technologies may also equip warehouse managers with the current market status. They will then receive information about supply and demand trends and incorporate it into their operations cycle.
- Enables environmentally friendly operations
Businesses that can optimise their warehousing activities will be able to use energy more efficiently at all stages. It eventually leads to prudent energy consumption, which reduces carbon emissions, thereby assisting businesses in meeting corporate ESG goals.
So, are you ready to incorporate smart warehousing?
Many warehousing companies have successfully enhanced their performance by implementing IoT technology and switching to a smart warehouse monitoring system.
If you own a warehouse or organise stocks within your businesses, a smart warehouse monitoring system can only enhance your asset management system. We’ve been working on ensuring that our products and services can help you manage your business better and, that’s why, you should check out how Yojee can bring innovation to your warehouse monitoring system. We have consistently delivered technology solutions that suit our customers’ needs and assist them in achieving their efficient warehouse management.
Get in touch for a demo or a consultation here.
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