As we move forward in the age of ever-evolving warehousing technology, it’s safe to say that all workplaces are in the midst of change. Today, as companies across every industry face constant pressure to do more with less, efficiency is the name of the game. This is especially true in the warehousing industry, being a critical component of the supply chain. Fortunately, the technologies available to the modern warehouse are growing more sophisticated all the time.
The warehouses of the future might not look like a scene out ofBladerunner, but what’s in store for the industry over the next decade? Warehouseswill build on current effective process-driven technologies, such as widespread supply chain automation, hyper-effective robotic technologies and, yes, plenty of drones to go around.
Let’s take a look at concepts of warehousing and what to expect for the future of warehouses.
In this guide, we’ll discuss:
- Supply chain challenges driving change
- The logistics marketplace
- Advances in tracking and visibility
- Advanced warehouse automation
- Big data and machine learning
- Autonomous vehicles
- Considerations for the warehouse of the future
- More resources on the warehouse of the future
Keep reading to find out how your company can shore up your warehouse operations using these up-and-coming technologies.
Supply chain challenges driving change
Warehouses face a number of challenges. Retail footprints are shrinking as more consumers opt to purchase online. For warehouses, that means shouldering a larger storage burden to compensate for the shift from brick-and-mortar shopping to e-commerce. That translates to an increased staffing need, which is only further complicated by tight labor markets.
During peak periods, warehouses can experience 3-5x volume spikes. Most warehouses are very manual as traditional hardware and software solutions are only accessible to the largest companies. A very manual warehouse leads to slow processes, inefficient workflows and being prone to human errors. This creates a need across many companies for scalable solutions that don’t require a substantial CapEx investment — and, ideally, work with a warehouse’s existing infrastructure and layout.
Consumer behavior continues to shift in response to the latest warehouse technologies and capabilities of modern retailers. With major players like Amazon catering to the demand for rapid shipping, other retailers are forced to follow suit or be left behind. Ultimately, meeting these demands falls on the warehouse. It seems an insurmountable challenge, requiring the ability to ship larger and larger items individually, rather than by the truckload, and in two days instead of weeks — all at the same or lower pricing. An impossible feat or not, consumers are putting their money where their mouths are:
- 66% of consumers have chosen one e-commerce vendor over another based on delivery options (Accenture).
- 54% of consumers consider “fast shipping” to be two days or less, and 64% of consumers are not willing to pay more for two-day shipping (Deloitte).
- 77% of consumers say they’re more likely to do business with the same retailer again after receiving free or fast shipping (Dropoff, Inc.).
As retailers are forced to meet these demands in order to attract and retain customers, they’ll look to warehousing and distribution partners with the capabilities to meet those needs. And that’s what’s driving the trends in warehousing and technologies that are shaping the warehouse of the future. Below, we’ll talk about the shifts underway and up-and-coming innovations that are transforming the warehouse.
The logistics marketplace
Warehouses, and the supply chain as a whole, are moving to a more integrated approach that supports transparency and visibility, for the warehouse, its logistics partners and consumers. Let’s look at a few trends in the logistics marketplace that will influence the warehouse of the future.
Effective capacity management is the foundation of a functional warehouse. Capacity planning is complex, though, requiring ongoing analysis of the four Ps: product, promotion, peak and predicament. If capacity management isn’t a priority, many warehouses find that slow-moving (or obsolete) inventory has quickly taken over all available space when you need it most.The warehouse of the future will take advantage of automated capacity management by leveraging technology for better, data-driven capacity planning. The result is fewer capacity planning errors that can lead to lost revenue and improved space utilization, which translates to a healthier bottom line.
On-demand warehousing is another trend to emerge from the need for greater warehouse flexibility to accommodate temporary demand for additional capacity. This trend enables companies who have built their warehouse to handle their peak season demands to monetize unused space during quieter times of the year.
Automation as a service is a fast growing business model where customers can deploy automation on an as needed basis. It’s gaining prominence because it provides facilities with the ability to rapidly scale up and down as demand dictates and allows buyers to expand or experiment with technologies such as robotics without going through a rigorous purchasing process.
The growth of open-source technologies and cloud-based services means applications are better able to share data than ever before. This connectivity is supported by APIs, allowing applications to seamlessly collect data from disparate warehouse information systems. The information silos that exist in today’s supply chain will vanish in the warehouse of the future thanks to completely integrated technologies.
Along with the connectivity made possible by APIs, the logistics marketplace will be able to take advantage of multi-modal optimization through seamless integration with vendors, logistics providers and other supply chain partners. Multi-modal optimization allows for sophisticated planning across regions, routes, modes of transport and more to easily achieve lead time and cost goals.
Advances in tracking and visibility
The Internet of Things (IoT) is already shaking up the world of warehousing. IoT fosters better communication and collaboration between supply chain partners, plus greater accountability across the board. IoT adoption will continue to grow over the next decade as technology costs are now within reach for many warehouses and warehouse logistics operations. Other benefits of IoT include:
- The ability to readily identify risks in the supply chain
- Provides real-time data on weather and other conditions causing shipment delays
- Helps companies meet chain-of-custody regulations for sensitive cargo
- Reduces damaged and lost goods, as well as equipment damage
- Precise location data reduces the time it takes to locate specific inventory
- Improves inventory management and forecasting accuracy
The IoT is just one of several driving forces behind the trend toward end-to-end supply chain visibility. Another key element is real-time tracking, supported in part by IoT as well as technologies such as RFID and other real-time location systems (RTLS).
Mobility is also playing a significant role in the modern warehouse. The proliferation of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, means warehouse workers and logistics partners have a wealth of tools and resources at their fingertips. Scanning inventory with barcode scanning apps, viewing the precise location of a shipment on a map, pulling up detailed shipping and receiving data and generating reports in seconds are just a few of the many functions made possible by mobile. At-your-fingertips access to essential tools and data means greater visibility everywhere — the office, the receiving department, the floor and the field.
A survey of 143 professionals in North America and Europe conducted by VDC Research found that most respondents are committed to modernizing their warehouse operations with smart technology investments, including mobile devices and applications. However, as reported by Invanti, more than half of IT decision-makers surveyed (53%) consider their mobility deployments immature.
According to theGEODIS 2017 Supply Chain Worldwide survey, full supply chain visibility was the third most important strategic priority for companies in 2017, but surprisingly, just 6% of companies had achieved this goal. One challenge is that 70% of companies describe their supply chains as either very or extremely complex.Thanks to the greater accessibility of technologies required to support it, more warehouses will be achieving end-to-end supply chain visibility over the next decade.
Advanced warehouse automation
When it comes to boosting warehouse operations, many experts say the smartest approach that a company can take is to invest in automation.Although automation has been around for decades (maybe centuries!) in one form or another, innovative businesses are focused on incorporating autonomous elements into their existing infrastructure and systems to transform the fulfillment process without a total infrastructure upheaval.
Technologies like Chuck, our completely customizable, autonomouscollaborative robotthat uses the very same sensors found in self-driving vehicles, stand in as robotic “workhorses.” They never tire, even when running 24/7, and provide near-perfect success rates, which cuts out the human errors which arise in manual cart picking operations.
Before the appearance of tools like Chuck, companies integrating more inflexible robotic alternatives were often forced to start completely from scratch and redesign their warehouse. Complex infrastructure upgrades and months-long wait before those systems were fully functional meant achieving ROI was a long-term goal, not a short-term one.
Another trend in warehouse automationisaugmented reality (AR), which can be used to increase the efficiency of the order picking process and reduce on-the-job training needs. Virtual reality (VR), AR’s cousin, is also making waves in improving the safety and efficiency of the delivery process. VR can also enhance secure delivery and identity verification through facial recognition technology and other advances.
Drones are likely to have a role in the warehouse of the future, as well.In August of 2017, researchers at MIT announced that they had been programming drones to relay RFID as a way to aid in inventory control — an innovation that could make tagging obsolete in the future. This technology allows small drones to fly above a warehouse floor to read RFID tags from tens of meters away, with an impressive 19-centimeter margin of error. The hope here is that the drones will be able to read existing RFID tags, without the need for the warehouse to purchase new tags, readers or reader software.
At the moment, there are a few things holding back drones from becoming part of the warehouse team at all companies, with the chief concern having to do with safety. Current regulations dictate that only a specialized class of lightweight aerial drones can be used in warehouses, but these drones may lack the capabilities needed to accurately read RFID tags from a distance.
Within the next several years, industry leaders predict that many warehouses will be able to use drones to track their inventory. This will give warehouses of all sizes the ability to conduct comprehensive inventory counts and audits at the drop of a hat.
Advanced sortation systems are already being leveraged by some warehouses and adoption of these technologies will continue to grow for the highest volume largest retailers in the world. Advanced sortation systemshave a very high cost per user which means it’s often only the largest companies in the world who can afford such an investment. Sorters and shuttles provide fast unit or parcel sorting for applications such as direct-to-consumer order fulfillment, retail and even returns processing, among others.
For more on sortation, read “How Sortation Boosts Your Competitive Advantage.”
Big data and machine learning
Big data and machine learning aren’t new concepts, but they’re poised to transform warehouse operations over the next few years. Artificial intelligence, for instance, can be applied to a number of use cases in the warehouse. Thus, one of the main challenges facing warehouse leaders when it comes to big data and machine learning is to identify key business drivers (or KPIs) and then determine how to best apply AI to improve them.
Order picking accuracy, fulfillment time and inventory accuracy are all KPIs that can be optimized through the use of AI, while some may apply AI to more general drivers such as safety, productivity or facility damage. By analyzing aggregated data from various information systems within the warehouse, AI can be used to automate tasks and decision-making.
Advanced analytics, such as predictive analytics, are leveraged to improve forecasting and drive smarter decision-making in the warehouse. Advanced analytics can be applied to use cases such as:
- Accurate demand forecasting
- Smarter inventory location planning
- Clarifying stock demand value
- Risk reduction, even with more complex supplier networks
- Rapid response to supply chain issues
- Manage complexity and demand resulting from new channels
- Intelligent optimization of picking, storage and more
Advanced analytics can also result in more user-friendly data — that is, data visualizations and other easily digestible formats, making it simpler to derive actionable insights from data. Data visualization, along with advanced analytics, will play a crucial role in achieving end-to-end supply chain visibility discussed earlier in this guide.
Autonomous road vehicles
Autonomous vehicles, once considered a pipe dream, are well within reach for the warehouse of the future. Companies like Uber, Waymo (under parent company Google) andDrive.aihave already taken the self-driving car concept to the streets. But what about the warehouse? There are a few developments bringing the concept of autonomous vehicles to the warehouse:
- Platooning is a strategy that utilizesforward-collision avoidance systems coupled with vehicle-to-vehicle communication that enables two or more trucks to travel in close proximity, resulting in lower wind resistance and fuel economy savings for both vehicles. The truck at the front of the convoy serves as the leader, while the trucks following adapt and react to changes in the head truck’s movements via technology. While each truck has a driver who remains in complete control of the vehicle, these technology-driven reactions take place with little to no action on the driver’s part.
- Driver-assisted vehicles aren’t fully autonomous. Instead, a driver-assisted vehicle relies on technology supplemented by the driver, rather than drivers supplemented by technology (known as driver-assist).
- Full-autonomous vehicles would operate without the aid of a driver, or with a driver monitoring the vehicle remotely with the ability to take control at any time. In this case, a driver could potentially monitor several vehicles at the same time.
Considerations for the warehouse of the future
It’s not as simple as it may seem to simply adopt the latest technologies for today’s warehouses. In terms of warehousing design, existing facilities typically have legacy designs and layouts, so to be successful new automation must be both flexible and minimally disruptive without significant increases in capital expenses.
Finally, labor shortages mean that warehouse will look to ways to increase productivity, automation tools that are simple to use and easy to train workers on and change the nature of the work in order to attract new labor.
Warehouses have played an integral role in the supply chain for decades, yet there’s no chance the warehouse will become obsolete. Instead, the future looks bright for the warehousing industry as innovative, forward-thinking companies pave the way for the warehouse of the future by embracing the latest advancements in technology. Interested in more? Let’s discuss the solution that’s right for you. Contact us today.
More resources on what warehouses will look like in 10 years
For the latest information on the future of warehouse technology, including robots, drones, and evolved supply chain management, visit the following resources:
- The Past, Present, and Future of Technology in the Warehouse
- How E-Commerce is Changing the Future of Warehouses
- Changing the Future of Warehouses with Amazon Robots
- The Warehouse of the Future
- The Flying Drones that Can Scan Packages Night and Day
- Drones in the Warehouse–Will They Take Off?
- Making Sense of Collaborative Robots
- 7 Common Applications for Cobots
- Next Generation Supply Chain Visibility
- Future of Supply Chains 2025
Smart warehousing is the key to a futuristic warehouse. A smart warehouse streamlines order picking, sorting, packaging and shipping. You can quickly identify the correct item and pick it up using smart picking devices such as wearable scanners, picking robots, smart glasses and pick-to-light systems.What is the future of warehouse industry? ›
The warehouse of the future will take advantage of automated capacity management by leveraging technology for better, data-driven capacity planning. The result is fewer capacity planning errors that can lead to lost revenue and improved space utilization, which translates to a healthier bottom line.What are 3 goals in maintaining a modern warehouse? ›
The primary objectives of warehouse include providing the right product, at the right place, right time, and damage free at a competitive cost. Fundamental to achieving and sustaining these objectives is measuring performance.How can technology improve a warehouse? ›
- Automated Picking Tools. ...
- Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) ...
- Automated Inventory Control Platforms. ...
- Warehouse Management Systems. ...
- Internet of Things (IoT) Implementation. ...
- Collaborative Robots (Cobots)
AI, VR, gene-editing, blockchain and nanotechnology are the five foundational technologies that will transform our lives.What are the 6 warehouse technologies? ›
- Collaborative mobile robots. ...
- Electronic data interchange (EDI) ...
- Mobile sort solutions. ...
- Automated picking solutions. ...
- RFID. ...
- Drones. ...
- On-demand warehousing.
In 2023, major warehousing trends and innovations include robotics, inventory transportation, fleet management, and the Internet of Things (IoT).What is the modern concept of warehousing? ›
Warehousing is the process of storing goods which are to be distributed later. A warehouse is defined as any place which is used in the accumulation of goods.What is a modern warehouse? ›
Modern warehouses automate processes. Systems should support automated inventory movement using bar code scanners and RFID. Other automation technologies may include labeling, pallet or container license plating, automated replenishment, carousel and robotics integration, EDI, and scale integration.What are the 5 main activities in warehouse? ›
The six fundamental warehouse processes comprise receiving, putaway, storage, picking, packing, and shipping.
Well-organized, technology-driven warehousing will help logistics players facilitate sustainable inventory management, efficient order picking, error-free processes, timely order shipping and deliveries, and cost-effectiveness, all of which will make for a superior customer experience.In what three ways can warehouses improve? ›
- Review effectiveness. ...
- Warehouse layout. ...
- Forecast ahead. ...
- Track your products. ...
- Keep on top of stock. ...
- Take advantage of technology. ...
- Reduce shipping errors. ...
- Train your staff.
Three Levels of Warehouse Automation: Manual, Informed, or Fully Automated.What are the 7 ways to improve warehouse space utilization? ›
- Extend your racking up vertically.
- Install a mezzanine above a floor-level process.
- Reduce aisle width in the racking area.
- Change your storage medium.
- Add half-pallet storage locations.
- Leverage your warehouse management system for directed put-away.
- Use underutilized space.
- Internet of Things. ...
- RFID technology. ...
- Automated inventory control platforms. ...
- Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) ...
- Collaborative robots.
They include: artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), blockchain, drones, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, 3D printing and virtual reality (VR). Today, the Essential Eight continue to evolve and make their mark — with the pandemic accelerating emerging tech adoption.What technology is best in future? ›
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA) ...
- Edge Computing. ...
- Quantum Computing. ...
- Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. ...
- Blockchain. ...
- Internet of Things (IoT) ...
- 5G. ...
- Cyber Security. Cyber security might not seem like an emerging technology, given that it has been around for a while, but it is evolving just as other technologies are.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML); Blockchain and Web3 technology; Intelligent automation and robotic process automation (RPA); Internet of things (IoT); and.What is the role of technology in warehousing? ›
There are several technology solutions that support more agile warehouse operations. Warehouse management systems (WMS), for example, are a common technology used by modern warehouses. These software solutions help to maintain optimal inventory levels and maximize space utilization for improved profitability.What are the 7S of warehouse? ›
The 7S implementation consists of seven phases shown in Figure 3 viz. Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain or Self Discipline, Safety and Spirit.
Amazon has been developing a robotic system that can identify potential space in a storage bin and adjust its contents to create space before placing more items inside, per its Amazon Science website.
The “2024 problem” is looming over the logistics industry. Regulations to limit overtime for truck drivers will be introduced in April 2024, which could greatly reduce their ability to transport goods.What are the logistics goals for 2023? ›
Logistics trends in 2023 are expected to evolve more to cope with global economic and technological advancements. Logistics industries will focus more on automation, labour shortage and real-time tracking for efficient supply chain management.What is the logistics outlook for 2023? ›
The primary assumptions driving the logistics industry outlook for 2023 are softer volumes and lower prices, which will make it tough for companies to match or exceed the results of 2022. But one major lesson the past few years have taught the sector is to expect the unexpected.What are the 4 types of warehousing? ›
- Private Warehouses. Private warehouses are owned and managed by suppliers and resellers to fulfil their distribution activities. ...
- Public Warehouses. ...
- Bonded Storage. ...
- Co-operative Warehouses. ...
- Distribution Centres.
Warehousing is the process of storing physical inventory for sale or distribution. Warehouses are used by all different types of businesses that need to temporarily store products in bulk before either shipping them to other locations or individually to end consumers.What is the role of warehousing in modern logistics? ›
Warehousing and the storage of goods play a vital role in the logistics supply chain across the world. Not only do warehouses provide safe and secure storage around the clock, they also allow you to have your goods stored in one central place, which makes planning and organising your logistics that much easier.What are the two basic types of warehouses? ›
The two major types of warehouses are public and private warehouses.What is the advantage of new warehouse? ›
A new warehouse = fewer problems
The costs of repairs to a new warehouse are incomparably lower compared to older facilities. An advantage of new industrial parks is that their key structural elements are covered by two- to ten-year-long guarantees.
- #1 Dependable. Every employer in every job type would probably list the ability to rely on their employees as their number one request. ...
- #2 Flexible. The warehouse world isn't just about being able to lift boxes or drive a forklift. ...
- #3 Organized.
The Keys to Warehousing Logistics. At the core of any business selling physical products is warehousing. There are three key parts to warehousing, which include warehouse management, warehouse management systems, and warehousing services or operations.What is the most important thing in a warehouse? ›
You will almost always need to store inventory within your warehouse for at least a little while before orders come in. Inventory storage is one of the most strategic decisions you can make in your warehousing, and should work for your business, not against it.
The most important thing to keep in mind after organizing your warehouse is to review your processes and procedures regularly.What is the difference between warehousing and warehouse? ›
Difference Between Warehouse and Warehousing
A warehouse can be any physical building that is designed to keep items secure. Warehousing is the process of using and optimizing an inventory warehouse, which includes product maintenance, and handling, and other warehouse services.
Planning, Preparation, Performance, Profitability. These are the essential elements of a successful warehouse operation, and if you let any one of them fall below your standards, you're going to have a hard time making money in warehousing.What are the 10 ways to improve warehouse efficiency and reduce costs? ›
- Order Picking Accuracy (percent by order)
- Average Warehouse Capacity Used.
- Peak Warehouse Capacity Used.
- On-time Shipments.
- Inventory Count Accuracy by Location.
Maximise and optimise all available space. Rather than expand the footprint of your warehouse, consider better use of vertical space. Adding taller storage units and the right equipment to pick and store material can help you keep more in the same square footage, rather than adding expansion costs.Which technology is most commonly for inventory and warehousing management? ›
Barcode System. Barcodes are one of the most popular types of technologies in inventory management because they help make item tracking less time-consuming.What are 3 examples of industrial technology? ›
Computers, robots, management systems, ERP's and cutting machines are just some of the examples of applied industrial technology. Today the presence of technology is so broad that all industrial segments can benefit from investing in it.What are the three main technologies components? ›
As discussed before, the first three components of information systems – hardware, software, and data – all fall under the category of technology.
- Carefully design your warehouse. ...
- Properly zone your inventory. ...
- Implement a streamlined returns process. ...
- Leverage the right warehouse equipment & technology. ...
- Track your inventory. ...
- Automate data collection.
As warehousing professionals adopt AI technologies like the internet of things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), drones and wearables to digitize their operations, these tools will optimize picking efficiency, lower operating costs, and improve ongoing operations and inventory visibility.How technology has changed warehousing? ›
Automation and robotics, along with drones, have revolutionized modern warehousing by reducing the need for manual labor, increasing employee safety, and improving inventory accuracy.What are the future of workplace technology? ›
Technology will allow future managers to make a more personal impact and empower their teams rather than simply “managing” what they're doing. Workers with tech backgrounds are in high demand now and will be even more sought after in the next few years.What technologies have a future? ›
- Computing Power. Computing power has already established its place in the digital era, with almost every device and appliance being computerized. ...
- Smarter Devices. ...
- Datafication. ...
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. ...
- Extended Reality. ...
- Digital Trust. ...
- 3D Printing. ...
Green hydrogen, nuclear fusion and other green technologies will be developing fast in 2023, as the world transitions away from carbon. Other technology trends include developments in gene editing, quantum computing and connected devices. Expect artificial intelligence to get even smarter in 2023.What are the 5 ways technology changing the way we work? ›
- Enhanced Productivity. Time management. ...
- Cooperative Collaboration. ...
- Better Security. ...
- Improved cost management. ...
- Increased communication.
From AI recruiting tools to industrial automation and robotic assistants, new digital technologies are transforming the modern workplace. Many of these systems promise to improve efficiency, productivity, and well-being — but how are they actually affecting the people who interact with them every day?What are the three technologies in the future? ›
There are 3D-printed eyes, new holograms, lab-grown food and brain-reading robots. All of this just scratches the surface of what is out there, so we've curated a guide to the most exciting future technologies, listing them all below.What are the emerging technologies in 2023? ›
New Technology Trends 2023 : Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Edge Computing.
By 2024, more than 50 percent of user touches will be augmented by AI-driven speech, written word, or computer-vision algorithms, 5. while global data creation is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes by 2025, up from 64.2 zettabytes in 2020.Which technology is most in demand? ›
- Data Science.
- Cloud Computing.
- Artificial Intelligence.
- RPA (Robotic Process Automation)
- Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
Quantum computing, with a processing ability that is much faster than classic, linear computers, is a fast-growing, next-generation technology that creates multi-dimensional computing spaces for algorithms to solve intricate problems and detect delicate patterns.