20 Innovation Ideas for Warehouse

The modern world thrives on creativity. There is great reward in innovative and new ideas – and for good reasons! Such ideas help us move forward with time, grow and get better at what we do. As a result, innovation seeps into every industry, and logistics are no different.

New trends and ideas coming in every moment. Industry 4.0 is on a steep and steady rise. A fast change has made it all the more essential to keep up and stay ahead of the game. It has become the key driver of success in the present world.

There are many simple and complex tools out in the market today. To transform your own business, you must be aware of the latest and most useful inventions in the industry. At the same time, the pace of change for each company is bound to differ. The best way to grow is to identify and bring in the tools that suit the current needs of your company.

Here are 20 innovation ideas that can help your company grow and keep up with the modern supply chain industry today.

1. Telescopic handler forklifts

A telehandler is a multi-use device and can have many names. Some of the most common are reach forklifts, boom lifts, or cherry pickers.

As a hybrid model of a crane and a forklift, a telehandler can:

1) Both lift and lower loads.

2) Attach to other devices to perform more tasks.

3) Extend to greater heights and further into the distance than a forklift.

The machine comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. For this reason, telescopic handlers can fit into any kind of warehouse and its needs. The most common way to use it is with pallet forks. A pallet fork helps move loads at high places that a standard forklift cannot reach.

It is this diverse nature of the device and customisation options that help get work done more efficiently. But its best use is to lift heavy loads and work at heights.

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT are devices that connect to the internet to share data. IoT allows us to harness and use real-time data to maximise efficiency in a fast world.

IoT aids in a number of tasks, such as:

1) Collect information on stock and workflow efficiency.

2) Track each asset in transit or within the premise.

3) Warn theft, low stock, or displaced goods.

3. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

EDI is an electronic method of document exchange in a standard format. It can simplify and quicken the process of passing information.

You should integrate EDI into your systems to:

1) Automate transactions.

2) Reduce costs.

3) Share invoices, shipping notices, and purchase orders.

4) Expand your business reach.

5) Track real-time movement of goods.

The process of EDI is also quite simple. You translate the file into a standard EDI format using software. Once the file is ready, you can transmit it to your partner using a network provider. However, there are many standard formats, and you should always stay in sync with your trading partner for the standard to follow.

4. Co-bots

Co-bots are just another way to ease the work burden. A collaborative robot, rather than working on its own, works with a human. A co-bot does not take over tasks but assists them.

A human-robot team tends to work better than sole humans or robots. These robots can help you pick, pack, place, inspect and sort goods.

A co-bot is:

1) Mobile, flexible, and light in weight.

2) Easily integrates into the current infrastructure.

3) More accurate and less prone to error.

You can buy or rent a co-bot. This makes it easy to handle the ebb and flow of demand without firing and hiring labour throughout the year.

5. Motion Sensors

Simply put, a motion sensor is a device that uses a sensor to detect nearby objects. Motion sensors can have a variety of types to serve different purposes.

The use of motion sensors in a warehouse is to:

1) Save energy and reduce cost via the use of smart lights.

2) Avoid accidents due to the use of forklifts.

3) Prevent theft by the means of alarms.

It is important to keep note of where you place each motion sensor for effective use. It is best to look into the type of sensor and discuss its optimum use with the seller before you choose to install one in your facility.

6. Carton Erectors and Sealers

A carton erector or sealer automates the task of erecting or sealing a case. It can notably reduce the time and effort at the task with low capital cost. In simple words, they can form boxes and seal them after packing.

The major benefits of these machines are:

1) The two devices can integrate with one another.

2) They can either be fully or semi-automated, based on the need.

3) Alert for low tape or boxes.

These machines are usually very reliable. They ensure a minimal amount of box drops, so there is not much loss to worry about.

7. Slip-Sheets

A slip sheet is a support device for unit loads, made of either plastic, fibre, or paper. The purpose of a slip sheet is to push or pull a load on and off of a forklift.

Other than cost-savings, there are many reasons to shift to slip sheets, such as:

1) It prevents the loss of box compression strength.

2) A slip sheet is light in weight and easy to store or transport.

3) Rodents, insects, or residues do not infest or contaminate them.

4) Reduces the chances of fire hazard.

These sheets are often an alternative to pallets, but you can also use them with pallets as and when needed. You can also find slip sheets many shapes and sizes to cater to various needs in a warehouse.

8. Anti-fatigue Matting

As the name suggests, an anti-fatigue mat helps reduce fatigue. The mat absorbs shock with its cushion-like surface to cut down pressure on lower limbs. This can further eliminate the chances of injury or lower back pain due to prolonged walks or standing.

When you choose an anti-fatigue mat, you should consider that:

1) The mat is durable and long-lasting.

2) It is easy to clean and maintain.

3) It does not slip.

4) It has sloped edges to avoid tripping.

An anti-fatigue mat works best when paired with anti-slip tape. Other articles to consider in terms of fatigue are the types of footwear and flooring used.

9. Simulations

A simulation echoes a real-world process or system to know its impact. It predicts the outcome of an idea. A test like this can help avoid real loss due to the failure of a new idea.

You can use simulation across many areas, such as:

1) To study and apply the optimal layout using CAD.

2) To find design and usage flaws in new equipment.

3) To test a new workflow, process, or strategy.

There is specific warehouse simulation software that can validate, test, and improve upon any process. It is both, a low-cost and risk-free method to get results.

10. Drones

A drone is just another type of robot. A drone refers to any unarmed aerial vehicle, or UAV, but takes on specific roles in a warehouse.

You can use a drone to:

1) Track, audit, or count inventory.

2) Search for items within the premise.

3) Inspect roofs for damage.

4) Secure and protect assets by surveillance.

A drone does not only cut down on labour costs. The use of drones also plays a crucial role in the safety of your workers. They can take up many that pose danger, like the need to work at heights.

11. Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS)

An ASRS (or AS/RS) is a computer system that automates the task of placing and receiving loads. The system gives real-time data and helps make the most out of your floor space.

There are several types of ASRS machines, but we can fit them into three broad classes:

1) Shelf-based picking, which delivers a tray of products.

2) Bin-based picking, which delivers a single bin of products.

3) Robotic picking, where nearby robots deliver products.

Other than better storage, an ASRS can also reduce labour costs and human error, increase safety, and save time.

12. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)

An AGV is a mobile robot, often used to carry loads along the floor. It makes use of a sensor and uses a line drawn on the floor as a guide to travel.

You can find and set up three types of AGVs:

1) Unit load, which can transport only one product, pallet, or bin at a time.

2) Forklifts, which move pallets from one place to another.

3) Towing, which pulls vehicles with loads behind them.

You can also get a variety of AGVs that run on different mechanisms or cater to different needs. However, almost all of them run on batteries, are cheaper and easier to take care of.

Also, note that an AGV does not work well outdoors and is not as flexible as an operator.

13. Articulated Robot Arms

Articulated Robot Arms are limbs with rotary joints that can pick, move, or place goods. The robot looks like a human arm and is the most common type used in the industry.

It is most known for being versatile and can adapt to take on many tasks. A robot arm can:

1) Take the load off of a pallet and move it to the racks.

2) Steer heavy goods that can pose a threat to human workers.

3) Pick and pack stock to store it.

4) Stack up goods on a pallet to prepare them for shipping.

Robot arms come with varied load capacity and speed. Other aspects to consider when buying one are precision, the set-up, and the distance it can cover.

14. Pick-to-Voice Systems

A pick-to-voice system is a hands-free, eyes-free, and paper-free method to direct pickers through their task. It makes use of a smart voice agent to give easy to grasp prompts to help locate pick points in a warehouse.

A pick-to-voice system is also fairly easy to learn and use:

1) The worker makes use of a headset and a mobile device.

2) The WMS imports, records, and releases orders.

3) The device instructs the operator for the items that he needs to pick.

4) It will then confirm the location and take feedback from the user.

The system repeats the process until the worker picks the last item on the list. Pickers can also carry barcode scanners to improve the process further.

A pick-to-voice system makes picking faster, safer, and more accurate. The same leaves a positive effect on the productivity of the process.

15. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags

An RFID tag is a non-contact mode of data transfer. Tagging an item with an RFID tag allows you to identify and track assets in an automated manner.

There are two types of RFID tags:

1) Active RFID, which has its own power source.

2) Passive RFID, which takes power from an antenna.

3) Semi-passive, which runs the circuit on a battery and the communication via an antenna.

4) These tags further can divide into low, high, or ultra-high frequencies.

RFID tags are known to work better than barcodes at many levels. It can track data in real-time and read it faster with the use of a sensor. At the same time, smart labels are tags that combine both the above to simplify RFID tech.

16. Composite Panel Technology

A composite panel or sheet is a multi-layer sheet that can insulate and maintain thermal control at a low cost. Such a panel can consist of plastic, paper, wood, metal, or fibre.

Since the panel has layers, the core can reduce the weight, density and cost while it still serves the purpose. Strong materials on the top layer protect the softer core, making these sheets durable and long-lasting.

You can use a composite panel to form:

1) The external shell of the main building.

2) An enclosure inside the premise.

3) A barrier to protect from rain and weather changes.

When using a panel, the key factors to consider are height, density, strength, R-value, and water absorption.

17. Cleaning Bots

As it sounds, cleaning bots are robots that clean for you. Your staff does not need to scrub floors for hours anymore and can focus on more essential tasks around.

Like all other robotics, bot cleaners ease the burden, make the whole team more productive and processes more efficient. In a time where it is not easy to meet demands, it takes on a mundane task for humans to have more time.

A bot cleaner can:

1) Clean better, faster, and more often than humans.

2) Function with or without a human.

3) Reduce fatigue and errors in the task.

4) Shift to manual mode as per the need.

A robot can also repeat the task without any signs of fatigue. It makes maintaining the facility and its machines much easier, helping them last longer and work well through their life span. A cleaning bot also has a long service life and can last up to 5 years based on wear and tear.

18. Warehouse Management System (WMS)

A WMS is a software service that acts as an umbrella to control and manage all processes within a warehouse. It allows you to manage day-to-day tasks in the most cost and energy-efficient way possible.

You can find three types of WMS solutions to install:

1) Standalone, third-party app which integrates into other main software such as ERP.

2) ERP module, which is a built-in WMS into an ERP solution.

3) Cloud based, which is a web-based SaaS and uses cloud services to function.

The right WMS for you may vary on your need. However, the best way to move forward is to take up a cloud-based WMS. These are known to be more flexible, scalable, and secure.

Using a WMS can speed up the entire supply chain process. It integrates with many third-party apps to build a network of control. It is a one-stop solution to all data and managerial issues you may face as you bring in new tech tools.

19. Warehouse Control System (WCS)

A WCS is a software that allows you to manage real-time activity flow. A WCS acts like a control system for the sub-systems in your facility such as, AS/RS, AGVs, sorters, etc. The WCS falls under the WMS, which acts as a host to the system.

The roles of a WCS are diverse but also specific. Key roles of the system are:

1) Exchange data and info with the WMS.

2) Use analytics to find the most efficient route or strategy.

3) Assign cartons through the supply chain process.

4) Monitor other systems and sensors in real-time to help them coordinate better.

A WCS ensures a smooth end-to-end workflow. It makes the functions within the supply chain more visible and easier to handle. Tracking day-to-day activities optimize all levels of the process and help the team become more efficient.

20. Dock Management System

A dock management system makes use of tools to automate dock door schedules. It sets the appointments for pick-up and drop-off shipment for you. It makes use of the data in the system to check and allot slots and share them with all involved.

Out of the many benefits of dock scheduling software, some are:

1) Reduced traffic at the dock.

2) Track record of on-time or late pick-ups and drops.

3) Lower manual effort with a simplified process.

4) Cloud-based services with high security to store and share data.

5) All parties stay updated on any changes in the schedule on a single platform.

An online dock scheduling software will allow shippers to book slots through an online form. The manager can then accept or reject an appointment. The vendor and the manager stay notified with real-time updates on the status of the shipment.

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