According to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, automation will have taken over just under 5% of global jobs by the year 2024. Since machines aren’t great at creative problem solving like humans are, the careers it will replace will be the ones with extremely low skill functions: routine inventory control such as lifting, counting, and moving; and repetitive manufacturing tasks.
In fact, the rise of the machines has already begun in modern mega warehouses and massive manufacturing plants, but end-to-end warehouse and manufacturing automation that replaces nearly all humans with machines is costly and only the largest of enterprises can afford such an investment. The significantly smaller budgets of SMBs suggest that in 2024, a competitive level of automation will include man and machine working side by side to increase productivity.
Let’s take a look at the “futuristic” technologies savvy manufacturers and distributors like you can focus on over the next decade as you plan for increased inventory control in your operations.
Learn about the affordable, easy-to-use, cloud-based inventory control tools that are available right now for your forward-thinking business. Contact Scanco online or at (877) SCANCO-1 to learn more about your options.
One of the biggest challenges that the leaders of modern distribution companies face lies in the task of finding—and training—low cost holiday labor. The increase of eCommerce has amplified the need for ‘round-the-clock seasonal operations and has led to a labor shortage during the holidays. This means that busy warehouses now must compete for short-term, low-skill workers.
The labor shortage is only expected to get worse but, in the meantime, overburdened warehouses find themselves in the unenviable position of having to spend far too much time training workers with a short shelf life. The distribution industry’s conundrum is that untrained employees are likely to waste time wandering the warehouse or picking inaccurately, but training workers to navigate and understand complex warehouse setups further narrows the holiday season’s razor-thin margins.
That’s why modern warehouses are increasingly turning to voice-directed picking, a hands-free solution that leverages the power of artificial intelligence to audibly guide workers through the warehouse without wander time; walk them through the steps of the pick, pack, and ship process; and prompt employees to make visual confirmations of inventory selections so they can also increase order accuracy.
These flexible systems cut down on training time for picking, receiving, transfers, and more, yet they increase standardized procedures and pick accuracy throughout the warehouse—and in some cases, they’re more effective than machines because the visual confirmation step asks human workers to think critically about their pick selections to determine if they’re the right product. Fully automated warehouses that use machines from end to end must rely solely on barcode accuracy, and may therefore suffer huge runs of inaccurate picking due to a single faulty barcode label.
Mobile Integration for Inventory Control
Since the early 90s, cutting-edge companies like Scanco have been providing barcoding software and tools that make it easier for businesses to track goods and processes within their locations and beyond. Because barcoding is so popular, most modern manufacturing and distribution operations have used ruggedized barcode scanners in their companies for some time. You probably already use a form of barcoding in your locations.
Admittedly, barcodes aren’t new technology, so though they’ll play a critical role in the future’s warehouses and manufacturing plants, they can’t be described as “the future of software.” What can be described as the future is the way smart leaders use mobile scanning tools to streamline inventory control tasks.
Not only does the barcode scanning technology of the future speed cycle counting and year-end physical counting by 75% with paper-free, automated data entry that helps ensure high levels of accuracy, it also leverages those highly accurate numbers to provide you with real-time insight into warehouse and manufacturing processes from anywhere and at any time.
These cloud-based scanners and information portals work on affordable iOS and Android devices, which means their operations are intuitive and require little to no training, and the real-time insight they provide can enhance your ability to:
- Manage any process from any location effectively
- React quickly to unexpected changes and stay agile
- Assist with JIT (just in time) purchasing decisions
Of course, one of the largest changes we’ll see in the future is the increased adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace. While your business can currently use chatbots and relatively simple analytics programs to easily check in on the current status of goods and production, the AI of the future will do more.
From helping you make confident decisions in all of your business locations worldwide to assisting with complex inventory control functions, artificial intelligence of the future is poised to help your company gain instant, accurate answers to not just the what of business operations, but also the why.
In essence, over the next decade, AI will help cutting-edge leaders find root causes of common business problems through:
- Space utilization analysis
- Inventory needs vs. capacities analysis
- Cost reductions on all fronts
The current generation of artificial intelligence tools is powered by what’s known as “machine learning” capabilities, which means that instead of relying on humans to enter data to train the machines, the machines themselves build frameworks that help them understand the data that they automatically collect. Because we all know how error-prone manual data entry is, machine learning AI technologies typically provide more reliable data analysis with high levels of detail.
One thing to mention: although most of us see the words “artificial intelligence” and think “robots,” futuristic AI that helps you analyze your business operations to create greater, smarter efficiencies is unlikely to be housed in robot form. Not only are robots just a little bit creepy, they’re also cumbersome and they’re hard to transport. Instead, tomorrow’s AI (and today’s!) will be housed on your mobile device as an easily reachable, anytime app that drives your business forward.
Get the Technology of Tomorrow – Today
Fortunately, it’s easy to access the futuristic technologies your business needs to compete in the changing business landscape of 2018 and beyond. Today’s leading independent software vendors (ISVs) are hard at work designing can’t-live-without tools that integrate with the software you already know and use, such as Sage 100, Sage 500 ERP, Acumatica, and NetSuite. Ask around and you’ll find that the technology you thought was far away on the horizon may be available now—and easier to afford than ever.
Since 1989, Scanco has focused on making the latest, cutting-edge tech solutions available to manufactures and distributors, and that’s still our goal. Contact us online or call us at (877) SCANCO-1 to learn how you can take advantage of tomorrow’s technologies today.