You’ve got a smart phone. You’ve probably got a smart TV and your next car may well be a smart car. Isn’t time that you were running a smart warehouse? Not a futuristic palace that is full of robots and AGVs, but a standard warehouse where manual, repetitive tasks are reduced to a minimum and decisions are based on information and not gut feel.
The first step to a smart warehouse is to measure what you can and automate where you can. By doing that you’ll collect the data you need to make informed decisions quickly and reduce human error which is the cause of many of your problems. Quick, correct decisions make your warehouse more agile whilst eliminating mistakes can have a direct positive impact on your bottom line.
So, how can this be achieved in an existing warehouse that has to stay operational and doesn’t have the budget for expensive refits or a new MHE fleet? The answer is straightforward enough. If you want the benefits of a smart warehouse, you should start by making your forklifts intelligent.
An “intelligent” forklift knows exactly where it is in the warehouse. It knows what it’s carrying and it’s aware of its surroundings. It sounds like a glimpse of the future, but it can be achieved right now on your existing trucks.
Let’s consider the benefits that forklift tracking systems deliver.
The trucks know where they are in the warehouse and continually report their position back to a central system. That gives you complete visibility. You can watch the trucks move around your warehouse in real time without leaving your desk. Their routes and timings are recorded for later analysis. You can even start to allocate tasks based on location and introduce interleaving to reduce the time each truck spends without a load.
Reduce Scanning by Tracking by Location
A truck scans a pallet load when it first enters the warehouse either from a production process or from a delivery. From that time onwards, the pallet and its location are known to the system and are tracked. That means there is no need to re-scan the pallet or location each time it is moved as the system can track it automatically using its location. That save 10-15 seconds for each move which is equivalent to a working day for every 2,000 pallets moved.
Of course your warehouse is ninety-something percent accurate otherwise you wouldn’t be able to operate. The question is how much are you paying to maintain that level of accuracy with recovery teams and stock checks? How much are you fined when you deliver the wrong pallet? If each truck knows where it is and how high it’s reaching, it knows whether a pallet is racked into the correct slot or taken from the correct slot. The driver can be told the moment that he makes a mistake and the cost of the misplaced pallet ripple through the warehouse is avoided.
A safer environment is more productive and will be less expensive to run over time. Knowing the position of trucks, their speed and their direction opens up the possibility of providing alarms and alerts to truck drivers if there is a danger of collision or incursion into a restricted area, for example. The system is location aware which means it doesn’t suffer from the false alarm problems associated with proximity-based systems and so people are more likely to react to an alarm.
The more you think about what can be achieved in a smart warehouse, the more compelling the case becomes. A return on investment can normally be achieved within two years but the cost savings go on well beyond that time. We offer systems to the logistics and manufacturing industries capable of providing everything that described above and many more benefits beside – perhaps it’s time to smarten up your warehouse.