How Warehouse Management Has Changed in the Past Five Years

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As we discussed earlier this week, warehouse management has undergone some serious changes in the past couple of decades. Manual processes are being replaced by automated solutions, resulting in greater efficiency and improved productivity.  While you may be aware of some of the latest and great trends in warehouse management, there may be some trends worth revisiting.

The economic recession took its toll on warehouses across the country and many are just now beginning to embrace new trends and technologies. Because the industry is extremely competitive, flexibility and technology are crucial for companies wanting to succeed. Over the past five years, companies have adopted warehouse management systems at increasing rates and those numbers are only expected to grow. Warehouse management systems are becoming the norm and warehouse automation is becoming the goal of growing warehouses.

New technology has vastly improved the visibility into supply chains and allowed for greater opportunities for collaboration. Because warehouses need to handle large amounts of data at a time, companies have begun looking for solutions capable of handling the information and data they require. Take a look at some of the technologies that have emerged in the past five years:

Radio frequency identification technology (RFID), also known as Automatic Identification (or AutoID), is an automated data collection system that has gained a steady support following over the past couple of years.  Consisting of four basic components (tags, readers, antenna and software), RFID allows products to be automatically scanned in larger volumes and at higher speeds. Warehouses adopt RFID technology for its ability to reduce costs, streamline warehouse processes, increase data accuracy and improve a company’s ability to execute.

Although RFID has many promising benefits, it is just now emerging as a technology to be taken seriously. Expect to hear more about RFID in the upcoming years.

While barcoding is certainly not a new technology, warehouses have begun adopting barcode scanners at increasing rates. Companies are now using barcode scanners in their warehouses to track inventory as it moves through the warehouse. Barcoding not only reduces the amount of errors, but it also allows companies to view a large amount of information about a product in one place. In the past five years, barcoding has emerged as a staying player in the warehouse management hardware game.

Cloud Computing
While cloud computing has certainly been around the past five years, many warehouses are just now considering using cloud technology. Warehouse managers have been slow to adapt to the Cloud, partly due to security concerns and the lack of others in the industry using the technology. Many software companies, however, are now introducing software applications that can be accessed via the Cloud to encourage cloud usage. These applications can be used on smartphones, tablets and computers, making it a highly versatile solution for companies.

Voice and Mobile Applications
In order to improve efficiency and make tasks easier for warehouse staff, many companies are employing voice and mobile technologies. Warehouse workers now commonly use voice technology to pick, pack, replenish, and ship. Mobile devices have also become commonplace in the warehouse. Five years ago, the only portable device used in the warehouse was maybe barcode scanners. Today, many warehouse workers access software on the go with their smartphones and tablets.

While technology has certainly transformed warehouses over the past five years, lean manufacturing has also contributed to the changes seen in warehouses. Many companies have focused on eliminating waste and reorganizing their warehouses for optimum workflow and productivity. Because lean manufacturing has greatly reduced the acceptable margin of error, many companies have turned to the above technologies to increase accuracy in the warehouse.

In order for a warehouse to survive in today’s marketplace, it needs to continuously be making improvements and changes. The past five years have introduced a variety of new technologies and ideas that have set the stage for the progress to come.

Stay tuned to our blog to learn more about the newest technologies, warehouse management trends and emerging products.