As technology has advanced, warehouse managers have begun incorporating more and more of it into their warehouses. Some people balk at the price of smart technology, but those prices are dropping, and the time and effort saved by implementing these smart devices means they often pay for themselves in as little as a few months. Here are a few of the different smart devices that warehouse managers are using today.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanners make inventory control incredibly simple. Employees can use handheld scanners to manually scan codes, of course, but these devices can also be set up as unmanned scanners at the loading docks. When pallets come through the docks, they pass the scanner, which automatically scans and logs the product information. This way, no product is left out of the inventory system. When products are loaded back onto trucks, they’re scanned again.
While the RFID scanners can help you know what has gone in and out of the warehouse, they can’t keep track of what’s been moved within the warehouse itself. That’s where handheld scanners, smartphones, and tablets come into play. Your shelving system can be divided into a grid of rows and columns. When a pallet is first placed on a shelf, the code for that section of shelving is scanned. This way, the pallet can be very quickly found later. If the pallet has to be moved, it’s current shelf section is scanned, then the product is moved, and the new section code is scanned. This updates the database. Employees can access this information at any time from their smartphones or tablets.
People have heard of automatic cars that can drive themselves, but that technology has, in some similar ways, been applied to forklifts already. Tracks are laid throughout the warehouse that self-driving forklifts can use to move between the shelves and the loading docks. A computer system controls these automatic forklifts, telling them where to go and what pallets to select. These pallets are then moved to the dock. Sensors are placed on each forklift and throughout the warehouse that detect movement on the tracks, forcing forklifts to stop before they hit anything.
Other types of drones are also replacing employee-driven forklifts as a means of picking and delivering products in fulfillment centers. A fleet of drones requires only a few operators to oversee, saving on personnel and time.
For warehouses where individual products are picked from pallets and bundled for orders, computer-assisted picking will help speed up the process. Employees wear wireless headsets links to the inventory computer system. The computer reads out the shelf locations or bins and the number of products needed. Employees pick the products and read the code into the headset so that the computer can confirm that the right product has been pulled. This helps improve the speed of the picking process and reduces the manpower needed since no one has to sit at the computer reading the order into the headset.