Transforming Warehouse Management With IoT

by Finnegan Pierson

How IoT will transform warehouse management.

Warehouses can be massive complexes that represent millions of dollars in supplies and merchandise. It’s becoming more of a challenge to satisfy demanding customers and still retain profit margins. For today’s busy warehouses, implementing the right technology is becoming more essential.

Smart Systems

A better, smarter way to manage warehouses is represented by IoT (Internet of Things) technology. With the IoT, every item that’s processed is tracked on inventory systems throughout the supply chain. Goods can be located by ID number no matter where they are, whether they’re inbound in a vendor shipment or on their way to a customer’s doorstep. IoT systems have been adopted by 10 percent of companies, and another 30 percent plan on adopting these technologies.

IoT technology allows sensors to pick up information at all stages of logistics. This could be packages being loaded, material or equipment distribution in manufacturing, or customer traffic in a retail store. Data is collected and analyzed to provide proactive monitoring, inventory control, and decision making driven by real-time information. This enables organizations to make faster and more accurate choices.

Far beyond improving warehouse operations, IoT technology is being used to establish patterns and achieve better speed, accuracy, and efficiency across the supply chain.

As products and materials enter or leave each distribution center, detailed information on each transaction is applied to a system that can be integrated with other systems to form a comprehensive IoT platform. Every time a product is shipped or received, IoT systems make data available without the need for human interaction. This can also provide a personalized experience for customers.

All information gathered through an IoT-equipped supply chain is aggregated by software that can provide reporting across a variety of web-based or mobile channels, or issue alerts and notifications to selected groups of users.

IoT Applications

IoT systems can serve several different purposes. Warehouse and inventory management are not necessarily the same thing and may involve different systems. No matter what the end goal, successful adoption of IoT technology requires a willingness to examine data and the adaptability to effect changes indicated by the data.

Supply chain IoT includes already widely-used technologies such as RFID chips and barcodes. Strategically located cameras or sensors can capture the radio signal or code to record completion of each step in transit, from bulk lots to individual packages, and all the way from the original manufacturer to the end user. Dimensioning systems allow every package shipped to be automatically allocated weights and sizes from an internal database. Companies can consistently track product and timestamps throughout the process. Smart designs provide accountability and identify weaknesses that can be addressed in order to streamline warehouse practices.

The captured data can be made available in any required format, such as automatic checking against invoices, reordering to meet safe inventory levels, responding to product queries from mobile devices, or automated distribution of reports.

Business Value

The IoT industry is expected to reach a global value of $8 trillion by over the next decade. By providing value to companies, the IoT provides value to the consumer. A modern technical perspective is beginning to see warehouses and distribution centers not as logistical puzzles for meeting demand, but as value streams. Every inventory-based company can realize significant gains by implementing practices and technologies that reduce the expense of wasted supplies, time, and movement.

In a competitive environment, promptness and accuracy are important to sustaining business relationships, with both vendors and customers. With the real-time data of IoT systems, companies can provide higher levels of customer satisfaction by catching product issues before the merchandise ships.

As more “smart” devices become available in terms of tools, equipment, and software, the IoT will continue to transform warehouse operations and empower data-driven decisions. Better and faster operations provide not just greater visibility and efficiency but greater confidence from staff and consumers.

This article was submitted on behalf of QMI Services.