In a digital world, warehouses are a reminder of the ongoing material realities of running a business – whether they house commercial vacuum pump parts, bulk grocery products, or computer components – and for a long time, warehouses demanded a lot of manpower to stay organized. Today, however, warehouse management is a computerized art, constantly being simplified by innovative devices and programs. In this regard, 2016 has already been a watershed year for warehouse management.
What’s new in the warehouse world today? These four innovations represent the best of inventory and warehouse-based distribution management practices.
Surveillance systems have always been an integral part of warehouse management because mass storage locations are tempting for thieves, and in the past warehouse owners have been known to institute multiple security checks to protect their inventory. Today, however, it’s easier to integrate multiple security strategies into a single system through smart surveillance tools.
Like smart security systems for homes, warehouses are now using smart security devices that stream live video feeds of the property, individually programmed smart locks, and frequently changed employee passcodes to protect their property. Being able to check on the warehouse from offsite is a particularly valuable surveillance improvement.
Count and Select
Robotics plays a significant role in warehouse management today, replacing people in jobs that are tedious and time consuming, such as counting products. Cycle counting, for example, is a common warehouse management practice that involves continually counting the items being stored to make sure the numbers remain consistent and inventory records remain up-to-date.
In the past, people performed these cycle counts, but it took a long time and wasn’t a stimulating role. That’s why warehouse owners have begun using drones to perform cycle counts. This is more efficient than having human workers perform them, and is also safer – the drones can fly directly to items stored up high, avoiding the need to put people on ladders or in cherry pickers.
More traditional robots have also come into the warehouse, some working collaboratively with human workers and others functioning independently. By and large, however, these machines are used to locate, select, and transport items as needed. In a large warehouse, having a machine that’s programmed to know where each item lives can be a real time management advantage, helping companies complete more orders each day.
Inventory management is an ongoing process that’s evolved from written lists to computerized databases, and that are now taking the form of virtual software solutions. With the backing of CommerceHub, for example, BJ’s Wholesale Club – the ultimate warehouse setting – now coordinates its inventory through the cloud.
The CommerceHub system improves customer service and allows the company to work with more vendors and offer a greater variety of products. It also makes it easier for the company to manage product flow on the national scale, as the inventory data all lives in one place.
You can’t run a business without strong organizational practices, and warehouses exemplify both the importance of order and the need for companies to embrace new systems as technology advances. A few years ago, no one could have guessed that drones would be dashing around warehouses, keeping count of the inventory – but here we are, seeing just how much better a workplace can run when technology and human innovation work together.