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Reinventing Supply Chain Management using IoT enabled Smart Warehouses

In every warehouse, supply chain management is key for planning transport and logistics activities. Even today, most warehouses are managed by traditional methods, for storing goods, the warehouse operators manually manage everything from shipment reports (arrival and dispatch) to inventory management. They need to manually check and validate the inventory and keep paper-based records. One of the biggest challenges in the warehouse is handling a large number of materials, equipment and workers involved in supply chain operations. This is where IoT enabled smart warehouses came in.

IoT provides greater visibility into the warehouse by connection, monitoring, and management of data points from devices to the central warehouse system. Looking at the array of benefits with deploying IoT, the warehouse owners are spending more on IoT. According to Grand View Research, the global spending on IoT in warehouse management market is anticipated to reach USD 19.06 billion by 2025, increasing adoption of digital technology in the warehouse is expected to drive this growth.

Let’s discuss how IoT is helping to build smart warehouse solutions for increasing efficiencies, creating revenue opportunities, and improving overall operations.

Asset and Inventory Management- Real-time Tracking

In warehouse management, one of the traditional challenges is efficient inventory management. The warehouse operators always find difficulties in managing inventory, they need wide visibility and control on inventory for safety and business perspective.

IoT enabled solutions provides rich inventory data enhanced with RFID tags, Bluetooth trackers, Beacons, GPS, and WiFi capable sensors, Voice picking solution that can keep track of inventory, data capture, goods identification in real-time and improve workforce performance.

Now a days, in warehouses most of the items are RFID tag enabled, each tag has a unique ID that contains digital data about inventory items, and all tags are scanned by RFID scanners so we can keep track of inventory from the moment it enters the warehouse to the moment it ships out. Also, a shelf- fitted sensors and weighing devices can predict real-time status about inventory. With this status, the warehouse operators can monitor activities and reduce costs for picking mistakes, eliminates wasting errors, reduces product waste and spoilage and with alert system gets update on expiration dates.

There are many solutions in the market for better inventory management, like Honeywell’s Vocollect solution. Honeywell’s voice technology solution is mainly used in the warehouse with mobile workers to run a better business with voice. This solution is based on ergonomic headsets, wearable mobile device, and advanced software which utilizes speech to text and text to speech technology. Honeywell’s voice provides audible instructions to warehouse operators by navigating, guiding them to complete assigned tasks, or steps to complete inventory processes like picking, inventory replenishment, maintenance and repairs.

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Augmented Reality Smart Glasses for Fitness & Training

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IoT enabled Smart Glasses- Vision Picking

IoT enabled smart glasses plays an important role in the warehouse to harmlessly pick items and transport them to a different zone in the warehouse area. IoT and augmented reality enabled glasses provides information regarding the overall process and guides warehouse operators to work safely and seamlessly with the least infrastructure setup.

For example, DHL is already using the latest augmented reality-based “vision picking” pilot program for warehouse management. Vision picking glasses help operators to not only work hands-free but also helps in performing their task easily in a busy warehouse operation. The smart glasses can help operators in optimizing efficiency, a better workflow of information, greater visibility, decrease in error rates, workers safety, and increased service levels at lower operating costs.

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Enabling Remote Monitoring & Predictive Maintenance of Warehouse Equipment

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IoT enabled Robotics- AGVs and AMRs

IoT and Robotics both work with the data collected from the devices. IoRT or Internet of Robotic Things is a concept where the devices can monitor the activities, record events, fuse sensor data and perform actions using a local or distributed intelligence. The IoT connected robots can perform critical tasks in a warehouse operation.

In a warehouse operation, a large amount of work is done manually like moving large, heavy objects, pallets, driving forklift and turret trucks but with IoT and robotics, devices can monitor the events happening, reducing accidents, decrease in operation time and cost.

Autonomous Guided Vehicle (AMRs)) and Automatic Mobile Robots (AMRs) are often under the umbrella of robotics. In this robotics technology – RFID sensors, scanners LiDAR, camera vision, navigation sensors these robots identify and sort each information of packages and make their own way without any huddle. Self-driving forklift robots improve workers safety. This robots work in real-time and consist of innovation like 3D cameras, scanners, warning indicators. With RFID mounting and sensor interconnectivity, these can detect products and equipment and helps with real-time mapping to store managers.

Benefits of IoT in Warehouse

  • The first major benefits using IoT is in the form of inventory management. RFID and Bluetooth trackers keep track of inventory in real-time, including each and every action of inventory in the warehouse. If something is running low or some issue occurs on the supplier’s side that can be resolved by IoT system alert management.
  • Using IoT technology in picking and packaging can help to reduce mistakes and also prevent orders mistakes with the wrong customers. This again helps to cut theft-related in-house and in-transit losses, by keeping a close digital eye on everything in the warehouse. This is good for companies that deal with high-dollar items like electronics or ornaments.
  • With IoT connected devices operators can also continuously monitor and automatically adjust atmospheric pressure, temperature, moisture that can harm the integrity of transported goods. Hence, store managers can cut spoilage related losses and helps to increase customer satisfaction.

Wrapping up

Shoppers are implementing IoT for creating smart warehouses, improving transparency, improved last-mile delivery, predictive maintenance, real-time product tracking, and to achieve higher productivity. IoT won’t ever entirely replace a human workforce but can help in automating and giving an error-free result which helps to generate revenue.

Microsoft Azure platforms like Azure IoT hub and AzureSphere enables the convergence of intelligent cloud and edge by providing the AI, Machine learning, and analytics capabilities on the edge.

eInfochips helped many companies with their logistics and smart warehouse related projects. We are working with logistics giants for the last couple of decades. We are a Microsoft Gold Cloud Productivity Partner providing, customized IoT solutions to enterprises and help them in implementing a highly scalable, reliable, and cost-efficient infrastructure. If you are looking to kick start your IoT developments and transform your products do get in touch with us.

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