What the Warehouse of the Future Will Look Like + 5 Emerging Warehouse Technologies to Use Today

Dec 17, 2019

For those in the warehousing industry, the pace at which technology is advancing can be both exciting and a little intimidating. 

The number of applications can go on forever and just the thought of keeping up with the latest and greatest advancements just sounds overwhelming. 

Lucky for you, we took the time to give you an update on some of the emerging warehouse technologies and what the warehouse of the future will look like. 

Emerging Technologies

  • Collaborative Robots 

Collaborative robots are one of the first waves of robotic technologies into the space of warehouse operations. 

Robots and humans are learning how to work in collaboration with one another in the daily operations of warehouse and distribution centers. 

It is something that has been accepted by people likely due to the fact that it is easier to imagine working with robots rather than be replaced by them altogether. 

Collaborative robots can be pretty flexible when it comes down to application, but right now, the most popular are the picking and packing collaborative robots that are currently being used by Amazon. 

This type of technology is something that should be utilized by larger warehouses who have the extra budget to invest in the latest and greatest technology. 

The robots are lightweight and can be quickly programmed while also being controlled remotely, and take just a few hours of time for set-up. 

The scary part is that these are just the gateway for what is next for robot technology that can replace a majority of humans. 

  • On-Demand Warehousing

Odds are that you have heard of apps like Uber and Airbnb have made their presence known in the areas of transportation and accommodation. But there are not many people that realize this type of model is also being used in industrial warehousing.

The idea may seem simple enough, but the effects it has could transform the industry. Organizations would no longer need to have massive regional hubs that force them to have long-distance deliveries. With this system, they could use small facilities that they can expand or contract when desired. 

There is data being used and analyzed that helps to decide where exactly to build these on-demand warehousing spaces and be strategic as possible in terms of easier highway access.

  • 3D Printing

3D printing is not exactly brand new and has been around for a few years now. It is able to use the 3rd dimension to build a particular item. A popular use for them has been for building replacement parts that are made from simple materials, but as the printers have improved, they have been able to expand their applications. 

A majority of organizations will use 3D printing for small and specialized projects but may be taking a shift in gears and become an increasingly more important tool for larger-scale projects. 

It is a powerful tool for manufacturers that are in position to take full advantage of manufacturing according to the needs of the operation.

  • Predictive Maintenance

There is a variety of technologies that are impacting maintenance and its future. Maintenance has always been a process of reacting and then taking action. For example, waiting for something to break, then fixing it. These days, organizations are given insight into the lifecycle of products, materials, and components. 

By utilizing these technologies, you won’t just notify organizations when they need to repair, maintain, or upgrade, but can predict when these products are likely going to fail. 

Warehouses all over are starting to use proactive maintenance strategies to save them from the expensive and time-consuming failures of equipment and make them less likely to happen. 

By using this, you can avoid downtime and optimize your procedures taken with the maintenance so you can make a repair on small issues before they become major issues. 

  • Mobile Inventory Solutions

Mobile inventory solutions let you have a more cohesive, streamlined process for managing your inventory. With our inventory management solution, topShelf, you are able to access your inventory through a mobile device or smartphone.

Why is this important? Here is how topShelf makes it easier to manage your inventory through our mobile interface: 

  • You can download the mobile interface on platforms such as iTunes or Google Play and it is very easy for you to set up. It works on any Android device, iPhone, or Windows CE device. 
  • Give warehouse employees an easier time receiving, picking, packing, and shipping orders by giving them the ability to scan barcodes on their mobile devices. 
  • Printing is much easier with the ability to print barcodes for parts, bins, or other assets to any Zebra ethernet printer. 
  • The mobile interface is able to cycle count so you can always keep track of your inventory. 
  • Manage the daily operations of the warehouse with the easy access of your mobile device, allowing you full control and access even when you aren’t at your computer. 

Warehouse of the Future

Robotic Solutions

Robotic solutions can be used and implemented in several areas of a warehouse. They can be used for storage purposes which includes all types of automated and retrieval systems. Because of robotics being incredibly precise, the retrieval process of items can take less time and become more efficient. 

Any warehouse vehicle has the ability to become an automated guided vehicle by installing a robotic module. These machines will be able to work in current warehouse installations meaning that they can be introduced quickly and don’t require you to totally change the processes you are using. 

Underwater or Underground Warehouses

When you think of a warehouse, you definitely don’t think of it being underwater or underground. You will likely think of a big square building that has a lot of aisles and space for people and robots to make their way around. Amazon recently filed a patent for a storage system that will take place completely underwater. 

The way this facility will work is still in the works, but the patent outlines a number of options to use. Inventory could be delivered by truck and lowered into the water in a watertight container that could hold the products. To bring the item up, an air canister that is started by a signal sends the container to the surface and is received by humans, drones, or other robots to deliver the package. 

A similar idea came for a warehouse that would a hollowed-out area underground where inventory would be deposited through a chute into an underground pool and brought up by balloons. 

Both of these are a much different way of thinking as far as warehouses and would need great advances in technology. It may be time to start thinking of different ways to move away from the traditional box warehouses we have now. 

Beehive Tower

Another patent that Amazon has is a beehive type tower that is built with drones. These towers could take on a number of different looks with one taking the shape similar to an egg, and the other having more of a spiral shape. 

These types of towers could be built in a highly-populated area that will best serve the area’s needs. 

Since drones are only able to hold deliveries of five pounds or less, these towers will be stocked with smaller items that are popular and be delivered with more efficiency. 

 

Just like most things in our society, we will see major changes and upgrades with warehouses in the coming years. Whether it be with robots or new designs and locations, there is promise for improvement and excitement. 

People are constantly finding new and better ways to do things so just the thought of these ideas can make you wonder what the future holds. 

With the implementation of robots, it’s hard to believe that we can take it up a notch from that, but I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned to find out. 

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