The Growing Role of IoT and Robotics in Warehousing and Supply Chain Management

21 January 2020

The history of robotic process automation in the warehousing and supply chain industry is well documented. Indeed, one of the world’s first robot was created for the sole purpose of moving items from one place to another in the warehouse.

Spare part delivery drone at garage storage in leading automotive car service center for delivering mechanical shipping component part assembling to customer. Modern innovative technology and gadget

Today, most tasks critical to the supply chain, including the movement of items through warehouses, rely almost exclusively on robots. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), for example, use makers, magnets, and vision systems to efficiently and conveniently move goods on the warehouse floor. Not only are the robots faster, but they can also move larger and heavier items with ease.

Experts predict sustained growth in the AVG market as well as an expansion into other forms of robots, powered by IoT, to help in supply chain and warehouse management duties. Similar to what Amazon did with Kiva Systems, players in the supply chain will, in the coming years, adopt IoT and robotics technology in large numbers to gain an edge on the competition.

To stay informed about the latest developments and insights in warehouse management and automation, industry players are turning to valuable resources such as the AMSC blog. This platform serves as a central hub for updates on cutting-edge technologies, offering manufacturers a competitive edge by keeping them abreast of the evolving landscape in supply chain robotics and warehouse management.

As warehouses witness a surge in robotic applications, the need for comprehensive warehouse management solutions, including warehouse optimization software, becomes evident. Integrating such software seamlessly into robotic-driven warehouse operations becomes a strategic move, optimizing resource utilization, and ensuring that industry players stay ahead in the dynamic landscape of supply chain robotics and warehouse management.

The following are just a few areas where IoT and robots will have a huge impact;

Improving operational transparency

Frankly, supply chains are incredibly complex. When you consider the number of companies and products involved, combined with the frequency at which the various parties need to interact, it gets really sophisticated. The result is usually multiple mistakes that can prove costly in the long run. According to a recent study, 70% of companies run into at least one major glitch every 12 months.

Smoothing out interactions is the overarching goal of digitizing supply chains. Through robots, manual processes are eliminated, instead of connecting systems and parties through a single, efficient IoT communication platform. Sensor-equipped IoT solutions allow information to flow more freely throughout the supply chain, such that potential issues are flagged and resolved in real-time.

Efficient inventory tracking

IoT solutions are much better at keeping track of inventories. Take an example of Amazon. Amazon currently uses robots with Wi-Fi connectivity to track orders and inventories using QR codes. The robots scan the QR codes and send the information to a database.

Imagine being able to track your entire inventory in the click of a button! It’s a huge relief. You’d never miss a deadline. According to various sources, following the launch of the robots, Amazon’s inventory capacity increased by more than 50%.

Remember also that the data collected by the robotic machines and devices can be later analyzed to give the merchant vital market insight.

Achieving JIT

IoT solutions also play a significant role in attaining Just in Time (JIT) delivery. Think of it this way; a manufacturer has several orders, each due on a specific dates. Using the data gained from IoT devices, the manufacturer can tweak their production schedules to deliver just in time.

One of the major advantages of JIT is that brands, especially those that deal with fashion products, can postpose critical decisions on style adoption, product quantities, and so forth until the last minute to take advantage of the latest trends.

Prescriptive analytics

Companies are already collecting vast amounts of data. But, if you check carefully, you’ll find that most of this data is currently used to describe the state of the supply chain i.e., when items are likely to be delivered, where demand is coming from, and the location of goods on the chain. Industry leaders are also using the information to predict market trends, which translates to better change management.

The next logical step in supply chain analytics is the use of analytics data to prescribe how supply chains should work. In addition to optimizing planning and management, prescription analytics aims at optimizing the entire chain and then actively modifying the chain as necessary.

Connected fleet benefits

The supply chain expands every day-  so do the number of people, goods, services, ships, and trucks involved. One of the challenges arising from this growth is transportation complexities. Getting products from source to destination in a congested supply chain is a complicated process that may prove costly.

The internet of things and big data technologies are helping solve this congestion problem. Transporting tracking devices and social listening, for instance, are helping players to keep track of their goods throughout the chain. Thanks to IoT solutions, companies are also able to optimize last-mile delivery by catching potential issues early and tracking routes based on that information.

Better tracking and tracing

When moving perishable goods, especially, close monitoring is critical. That’s because the probability of the product(s) reaching the end customer depends on multiple factors along the way. If temperature measurements are off by just a few degrees, the products can go bad. The same applies if humidity isn’t kept at the right level. Indeed, chip manufacture Intel recently revealed that 30% of perishable goods never make it to the table.

IoT and related technologies are helping fix this problem. How? By providing real-time information on conditions within shipping containers. As long as the containers are fitted with sensors, the state of the goods inside can be monitored around the clock and preventive measures taken to save products as necessary.

Predictive maintenance

Finally, one of the major challenges experienced in the supply chain is failing manufacturing equipment. When a machine fails, the ripple effects can be felt right across the chain. If one of the trucks breaks down, for instance, perishable goods may be in danger of going bad. Even non-perishable items can lose some value when they take too long to reach the market.

Robotics and IoT, when used alongside other emerging big data technologies, can help with preventive maintenance, such that problems are detected before they occur. Equipment that is nearing the end of life, for example, can be identified early and replaced as appropriate. Predictive maintenance prevents downtime, thus boosting supply chain efficiency.

NIX is Here to Help

NIX is a leader in emerging business technologies. We specialize in big data, IoT, and business processes automation and can help you implement innovative supply chain solutions to stay ahead of the competition. Contact us today for a free consultation.