The Warehouse of the Future
There has been a lot of recent discussion about what the warehouse of the future will look like, so we asked Padraig Regan, our Chief Product Office to outline his views on it. While some future warehouses may look very different to those of today – dark warehouses, drone deliveries, robots conquering the world – most of tomorrow’s warehouses will still look very similar: loading bays, receiving areas, racking, outbound areas, etc.
The biggest changes will be in how goods are transitioned through the warehouse. The focus will be on speed, efficiency, accuracy, worker experience, and how workflows can be improved and optimised.
No big technology change
The warehouse of the future will not come about because of some major development in technology that we will all suddenly adopt. Instead, there will be an evolution of warehouse operations, made possible by the accessibility and applicability of a mix of new and emerging innovative warehouse technologies.
The technologies that will be used in the future, for the most part, already exist. It is not new technologies we need, it is making these technologies accessible to supply chain organisations and warehouse operations of all sizes and all budgets, to drive mainstream adoption. What is key is making technology accessible and applicable enough so that adoption is driven to the early majority and eventually to maturity.
AI, machine learning, and digital twins
These are the ‘advanced’ technologies that will be key elements of the warehouse of the future. In fact, they should be a key part of warehouses of the present, but they are simply not available to most warehouses today due to cost or fear of the difficulty of implementation. This means that they are not currently impacting the industry in the way they could be and should be.
One way that these technologies will become accessible to more businesses is through the deployment of no-code technology adoption platforms, such as StayLinked’s Evolve.
The no-code technology adoption platforms allow almost plug and play adoption of new technologies by providing the glue that enables an existing WMS to quickly and easily talk the same language as the new technologies.
No-code platforms empower supply chain organizations and warehouse operators to deploy the right mix of new technologies, which are most applicable to their business operations, as part of a low risk, low-cost approach. There is no need for huge investment or disruption or the re-skilling of existing IT team, or the need to hire technology experts.
All of the technologies we are discussing are driven by data. Having a data strategy that can apply data driven insights to shape warehouse evolution will be key. And the data reliant technologies will need to be fed and informed by the data from the existing environment, while the output will need to be fed back into changes and improvements in the existing environment.
Which is another reason why platforms such as Evolve are critical to driving the warehouse of the future – they can enable these technologies to play their part in the existing solution.
Robotics and automation
Robots are what most people predict when they see the warehouse of the future, but rather than a future of robots everywhere, we will see companies deploying them tactically in smaller, scalable automation projects, co-ordinating their interactions with other technologies within the environment. The focus will be on relieving human workers of the heavy, dull or repetitive tasks and enabling them to focus on high-value tasks.
The relationship between human and machine
Some of today’s workers are using ageing and cumbersome mobile devices. But in ten years’ time many more technologies will have been introduced. However, workers will be able to intuitively work with the new technologies as they will have been seamlessly ‘dropped’, over the years, into their existing workflows.
There will be more technology for the warehouse worker to interact with, but the technology will be intuitive and help workers to do their job better, making them more productive and efficient, increasing job satisfaction.
Enablement and optimization
The warehouse of the future will be all about enabling supply chain organizations and warehouse operators to easily enhance and optimize their existing workflows. This will increase productivity by taking advantage of all the relevant tools and technologies which are applicable to their business requirements.
In the warehouse of the future a mix of technologies, regardless of what those technologies might be, will be deployed to help the workforce, and therefore the entire warehouse operation, to be efficient, productive and, perhaps more important, future proofed.