Latest Warehouse Management Trends by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Warehousing is being completely transformed by advances in technology and new workplace trends.The capabilities of warehouses to store, organize, track, pick and pack, and ship out inventory determine how efficient and effective the world’s biggest businesses can be. As e-commerce continues to grow and add to the billion-dollar retail business’ bottom line, those changes are happening quickly.

Big Data

The power of businesses to analyze massive amounts of data is matched only by their ability to collect it. “Big Data” is a term that refers to massively large data sets that businesses can analyze computationally to reveal larger patterns and trends that might not be obvious to the human eye. This power to collect data comes from advances in tools like barcode scanners and RFID scanners. Some of the biggest companies, like Amazon and Wal-Mart, use the humble but flexible and expanding-in-capability barcode scanner to collect information from every item that passes through their warehouses.

Barcodes hold more data than ever before thanks to maturation in the 2D barcode label space, and now warehouse workers can glean valuable information like origin, destination, photographs, price, stock levels, and more with just the scan of the code. As a result, businesses are better able to see what items are flying off the shelves at different times of year, how best to balance their inventory turnover ratio, and examine what operations could be streamlined to their fullest capacity.

Wearable technology

From wearable barcode scanners (on fingers, wrists, and perhaps eventually glasses) to devices that track movement over the course of a shift, companies are increasingly investing in technology that delivers them as much information as possible. Big data isn’t just about tracking inventory trends. If employees wear Fitbits and other devices, they can see how efficiently their employees move around the warehouse, when they may need to take breaks, what routes they could take to arrive at a shelf faster, and how their automated vehicles and equipment (more on that below) can join the stream of movement without disruption.

The rise of autonomous machines

Automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) are the next step in turning warehouses into ever-more efficient inventory management hubs. Everything from stackers, forklifts, pallet trucks, and even inventory-carrying robots like Kiva and Fetch robots are revolutionizing how work gets done in warehouses.

Advances are being made to move inventory from trucks to shelves, or around warehouses, around-the-clock. This boost to efficiency will result in untold multiplications of work output.And though these advances in technology may worry humans, it’s clear that at least in the near future, people will still be needed to handle more delicate tasks, as well as perform upkeep and oversight of the AGVs. Humans won’t lose their jobs, necessarily; the jobs will change.

Millennial management

The changing of hands from the Boomer generation and Generation X to Millennials will mark a change in how warehouses are managed and led going forward.

But as a generation that grew up with a lot of the technology and tools in use in warehouses today—smartphones and tablets, particularly those powered by Android; cloud computing; augmented and virtual reality—Millennials are uniquely poised to launch warehouses into the next generation of technology advances and efficiency.Additionally, Millennials will bring a sense of environmental and social consciousness to warehousing (the use of greener materials and more transparent supply chain management).

 Blockchain

Blockchain can potentially affect warehousing in a number of ways. In terms of how it’s currently being used, smaller companies are using smart contracts and processing payments in a clear and public way to avoid disputes. Larger companies with efficient warehouses will be able to more efficiently integrate blockchain practices and technologies that promote transparency, scalability, better real-time access, and lower costs per transaction.

Cloud computing

Now with the rise of a global supply chain and the need to track packages from origin to the doorstep, warehouses need to stay connected to every other link to the chain. Thus, IoT and cloud computing mean a lot. The best way to keep everyone on the same page is to use cloud computing, which updates seamlessly with every barcode scan, database change, reorder, and more.

 Rethinking the warehouse itself

Warehouses are going up en masse around the country and world. As humanity’s insatiable need for new and exciting stuff only increases, and ease of purchasing through e-commerce and via mobile devices adds to the deluge, companies are realizing they need more space than ever.

They also need it closer to major urban centers than before. The most troublesome and costly part of delivering a package to a consumer is “the last mile,” and warehouses are looking to close that gap by building closer to the people they’re delivering to. As new warehouses are being built and older ones retrofitted for new challenges, design changes include column spacing, ceiling height, and materials that promote sustainability. Finally, it’s possible that warehouses themselves won’t even be “in buildings.” Amazon has filed patents for some wild new warehouse designs, including in blimps, underwater, and underground. New trends in warehousing are emerging as quickly as new trends in technology and workplace efficiency are.

Reference: Myers, E. (2018, August 14). 7 New Trends In The World Of Warehousing. Retrieved from http://www.systemid.com/learn/7-new-trends-in-the-world-of-warehousing/.

Questions:

  1. How does cloud computing help in warehouse management?
  2. How is the rise of autonomous vehicles helping inventory management?
  3. How is wearable technology and big data enhancing operational efficiencies in warehouses?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solving the last mile delivery challenge by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

  1. Crowdsourcing

This model allows retailers and logistics partners to connect with local couriers who use their own transportation to make deliveries. In this gig economy, crowdsourcing is a great way to ensure customers get faster delivery and it also eliminates the possibility of repeat attempt deliveries by providing the option of on-demand and scheduled deliveries to customers.

  1. Brick-and-Mortar Distribution Centers

Some retailers are using their storefront as a solution to the quick delivery problem. They have transformed their stores into distribution centers so that options such as same-day delivery are available to the customers.

  1. Smart Technology

The advancements in technology have inspired solutions that are cost-effective and convenient for both the retailer, as well as the customer. They make use of smart technology like sensors to provide retailers information regarding temperature variation in packaging, weather conditions for route planning, etc.

  1. Data Analytics

Advanced analytics (such as machine learning) help retailers optimize their last mile delivery operations. Data analytics can inform the company (or logistics partners) regarding customer-specific delivery constraints. Studying GPS traces along with relevant insights into the availability of local infrastructures such as roads and parking spaces can help make the entire process more efficient.

  1. Futuristic Delivery

Many startups, retailers and logistics services, are discovering new ways to tackle last mile delivery. Drone delivery, for instance, can not only shorten the time spent on delivery but also reduce the expensive human workforce. This workforce can then be directed towards more complex tasks. Autonomous self-driving vehicles with lockers are predicted to be the most dominant form of last mile delivery in the future.

Reference:

6 Last Mile Delivery Challenges and Solutions in Today’s Market. (2018, December 28). Retrieved from https://volttech.io/last-mile-delivery-market/.

 Questions:

  1. What are the different ways to tackle the last mile delivery problem?
  2. How do brick and mortar stores help in solving the last mile delivery problems?
  3. What are the futuristic delivery options to solve the last mile delivery problems?

 

How drones will benefit supply chains by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Drones speed up operations and decrease delivery times for the end user while cutting down on supply chain costs.

Asset Management

Manually monitoring inventory can require workers to spend extraordinary amounts of time and resources to count products on shelves. Keeping track and monitoring inventory levels can be an exhaustive process when done periodically, especially during high order demand periods such as the holidays. The use of drones to scan and check inventory anywhere in the warehouse using OCR, RFID, and barcode readers can offer better inventory management, especially when the drone can move from warehouse to warehouse on the property in moments and deliver this information instantaneously to integrated warehouse management software.

Speeding up Deliveries Between Commercial Buildings

Raw materials can be moved from warehouse to manufacturing floor with the use of drones. Drones can also move finished products from warehouse shelves to store shelves, or place products on pallets for shipping to end users and retailers.

Monitoring Supply Chain Delivery Routes

Additional capabilities involve monitoring supply chain routes for disruptions that could impact truck deliveries. These drones can monitor road conditions, construction slow-downs and other hazards while reporting the information to logistics managers who can quickly select alternative shipping routes.

Reference:

Drones and Supply Chain: How they May Impact the Process. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ecsourcinggroup.com/drones-and-supply-chain-how-they-may-impact-the-process/.

Questions:

  1. How do drones impact supply chain?
  2. How will drones help cut supply chain costs?
  3. How will drones help in asset management?

 

 

How to streamline procurement in the future of supply chains by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Here are some recommendations of how companies can thrive with all the disruptions taking place in the field of supply chain and change their procurement strategies to keep up.

  1. How to plan for impacts of automation and migration of workforce

Mass migration on a large scale, along with forecasts that significant numbers of workers will be displaced by automation, will increase volatility in supply chain labor dynamics. This volatility could be mitigated through responsible and inclusive labor practices. Companies with supply chains that expect significant uptake of automation through 2025 could insist that key suppliers develop clear plans to support a sustainable workforce transition.

  1. How to build responsible regional sourcing hubs

Growth in new markets and demographics and meeting customer demands for customized, on-demand goods and services will require understanding and meeting new consumption patterns and preferences, as well as providing goods and services in new locations and formats. In response, supply chain leaders will have an opportunity to develop nimble, regional supplier networks that can meet both commercial expectations and sustainability aspirations.

  1. Digitalize Supplier Assessment and Engagement

With more data about supply chains produced and disseminated than ever before, supply chain leaders have the opportunity to rethink how they collect and interpret supply chain information. Practitioners will need to hone in on the supply chain information that is decision-useful in a sea of available data and dashboards and will need to reconsider which data they need to commission and how it is collected.

  1. Strengthen Supply Chain Transparency and Disclosure

The regulations that shape mandatory corporate disclosures about sourcing practices, futuristic supply chain leaders can prepare for a variety of possible future scenarios through enhancing both visibility into supply chain practices and disclosures about those practices. Enhanced transparency will support supply chain leaders in the case that global trade is transformed by political shifts toward economic nationalism.

  1. Embed Climate-Smart Supply Chain Planning

To prepare for the environmental changes and other supply chain risks that come with it, companies will need to take into account climate risk and preparedness into supply chain planning models, seek alternative materials and resources where necessary, and look for new ways to secure supply and minimize disruptions in their supply chains.This would also mean working with suppliers that share a commitment towards climate awareness and action.

Reference:

Future of Supply Chains 2025: Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bsr.org/en/our-insights/primers/future-of-supply-chains-2025.

 Questions:

  1. How can companies plan for shifts in procurement trends?
  2. How will climate-smart supply chains be useful in the future?
  3. How will regional sourcing hubs be useful?

 

Autonomous Vehicles transforming supply chains by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Last Mile Delivery and Distribution Center Implications

The final mile of delivery is usually a bottleneck in the delivery process, both to suppliers and distributors alike. They result in delays frequently, even with the close proximity of the product to the end consumer. Thus, companies have begun experimenting with autonomous vehicles, that could deliver goods to the end costumer without the presence of a driver within the vehicle. Self-driven vehicles seem to affect coordination by decreasing costs and delays. They may to incredibly affect distribution and production centers as well. A common hone has been to construct these in cheaper areas, where good roads and human resources were available. With a move in customer prerequisites that presently call for speedier deliveries, these huge centers will have to be built closer to the end buyer. These centers will also have to be smaller in size, since companies want to be present near the end consumer at various places rather than being present in limited or central locations. This would increase the cost of real estate, warehouse costs and operational costs. However, these costs can be offset by the reduction in costs due to the implementation of these autonomous vehicles for the last mile deliveries. These vehicles can operate for longer hours, are less prone to accidents due to human errors, thus increasing operational efficiencies.

No drivers for long hauls

It is most likely that these autonomous vehicles will see their implementation in long distance travel first. Since driving on highways is more predictable than on city roads, it requires for lesser skills to navigate. Currently, a large chunk of the transportation costs arise from having to pay drivers. Also, drivers can only drive for a certain number of hours at a stretch and then need to rest. Thus, the vehicle lies idle for that duration. Hence, driverless vehicles would reduce these costs and improve efficiencies.

Corporations are also looking into “platooning”,  in which a group of trucks would travel together over long distances.  The lead vehicle would fix a speed and direction and the following vehicles would just have to follow it.During the last leg of the travel, or the last miles, these vehicles would go in their separate directions respectively. This would not only reduce the costs of having drivers, but also reduce the risk accidents and fuel costs.

Reference:

Impact of Autonomous Vehicles in Your Supply Chain – Bâton Global. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.batonglobal.com/post/impact-of-autonomous-vehicles-in-your-supply-chain.

Questions:

  1. How will autonomous vehicles change supply chain as we know?
  2. How will driverless vehicles solve the last mile delivery issue?
  3. How can driverless vehicles be used to reduce transportation costs?

 

 

Disruptive Innovations transforming  logistics by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Disruptive innovation and bid data can address many challenges in logistics. Some of them are:

  1. The Last Mile of Shipping Can Be Quickened – The last mile of a supply chain is notoriously inefficient, costing up to 28% of the overall delivery cost of a package.
  2. Reliability Will Be More Transparent – As sensors become more prevalent in transportation vehicles, shipping, and throughout the supply chain, they can provide data enabling greater transparency than has ever been possible.
  3. Routes Will Be Optimized – If you underestimate how many vehicles a particular route or delivery will require, then you run the risk of giving customers a late shipment, which negatively affects your client relationships and brand image. Optimizing saves money and avoids late shipments.
  4.  Sensitive Goods Are Shipped With Higher Quality – Keeping perishables fresh has been a constant challenge for logistics companies. However, big data and the Internet of Things could give delivery drivers and managers a much better idea of how they can prevent costs due to perished goods. A temperature sensor inside the truck could alert the driver, and suggest alternate routes.
  5.  Automation of Warehouses and The Supply Chain – The ability to accurately predict demand in every DC, retailer, and customer is the holy grail of being able to deploy inventory where and when it is needed.
  6.  Better inventory deployment and labor management – For retail store managers, planning shifts to meet customer demand is a sensitive task- overstaffing kills profitability, and understaffing results in angry customers.  Planning has always been done based on history.  One retailer took into account the following additional data:
  • New delivery times
  • Local circumstances and holidays
  • Road construction
  • Weather forecasts

Big data and predictive analytics gives logistics companies the extra edge they need to overcome these obstacles. Sensors on delivery trucks, weather data, road maintenance data, fleet maintenance schedules, real time fleet status indicators, and personnel schedules can all be integrated into a system that looks at the past historical trends and gives advice accordingly.

References:

Swingle, K. (2017, September 25). Disruptive Innovation in Logistics. Retrieved from https://www.spartanwarehouse.com/blog/spartan-logistics-understanding-big-date-and-how-its-revolutionizing-logistics.

Questions:

  1. What challenges can be fixed with big data and disruptive innovations in logistics?
  2. How does big data help in better inventory deployment?
  3. How does big data improve reliability in transportation?

 

Automation in Manufacturing by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Three types of automation in production can be distinguished: (1) fixed automation, (2) programmable automation, and (3) flexible automation.

Fixed automation, also known as “hard automation,” refers to an automated production facility in which the sequence of processing operations is fixed by the equipment configuration. In effect, the programmed commands are contained in the machines in the form of cams, gears, wiring, and other hardware that is not easily changed over from one product style to another. This form of automation is characterized by high initial investment and high production rates. It is therefore suitable for products that are made in large volumes. Examples of fixed automation include machining transfer lines found in the automotive industry, automatic assembly machines, and certain chemical processes.

Programmable automation is a form of automation for producing products in batches. The products are made in batch quantities ranging from several dozen to several thousand units at a time. For each new batch, the production equipment must be reprogrammed and changed over to accommodate the new product style. This reprogramming and changeover take time to accomplish, and there is a period of nonproductive time followed by a production run for each new batch. Production rates in programmable automation are generally lower than in fixed automation, because the equipment is designed to facilitate product changeover rather than for product specialization. A numerical-control machine tool is a good example of programmable automation. The program is coded in computer memory for each different product style, and the machine tool is controlled by the computer program. Industrial robots are another example.

Flexible automation is an extension of programmable automation. The disadvantage with programmable automation is the time required to reprogram and change over the production equipment for each batch of new product. This is lost production time, which is expensive. In flexible automation, the variety of products is sufficiently limited so that the changeover of the equipment can be done very quickly and automatically. The reprogramming of the equipment in flexible automation is done off-line; that is, the programming is accomplished at a computer terminal without using the production equipment itself. Accordingly, there is no need to group identical products into batches; instead, a mixture of different products can be produced one right after another.

References:

(n.d.). Numerical control. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/technology/automation/Numerical-control

Questions:

  1. What are the different forms of automation in manufacturing?
  2. How is flexible automation different from programmable automation?
  3. What is are the disadvantages of programmable automation?