With the surge in e-commerce, the warehouse has emerged as a crucial if increasingly complicated element of the supply chain. Establishing systems that make inventory visible both within distribution centers and at the warehouse level can pose a serious logistical challenge. Compound this with the need for systems that effectively manage transportation, provide insight into respective costs, and stay competitive with the Amazon.coms of the world, and the challenge seems daunting.
That’s where technology comes in. Warehouse management systems (WMS) are rapidly increasing in sophistication and becoming a reliable method for protecting goods within the facilities from loss or damage.
Current WMS Technologies
WMS have proven to reduce paperwork and data entry, and improve pick efficiency. Automated warehouse solutions such as gravity-fed racking pick-to-light systems, combined with the paperless warehouse and digital storage, also reduce operational costs and impact on the environment. New barcode, RFID, and voice technologies reduce both time spent in data entry and labor needs on the whole.
In more technologically advanced warehouses, advanced robotic systems are transforming forklifts into robots to move product more efficiently. In large, fully automated, customized warehouses, highly efficient robots do almost all of the work, making minimal errors, often in darkness (a secondary cost-savings) and round-the-clock at that. Meanwhile, sophisticated analytics help eliminate process weaknesses, and modeling tools help warehouse operators with layout planning, construction, and design.
In short, it is easier to store, track, pick, and move cargo within warehouses, with far more efficiency and accuracy. This is inherently dropping the risk to rock-bottom levels.
WMS In the Future
In years to come, sensors, machine-to-machine communication, and the Internet of Everything will work in tandem with increasingly dexterous robotic systems to gradually reduce and—as costs for such systems come down—perhaps even eliminate the need for a human workforce within the warehouse environment. Additive manufacturing and 3D printing present another technological solution to making warehouses more efficient: When consumers can print products on-demand, the need to have a warehouse at all is virtually eliminated, as is the risk of loss or damage to cargo held in warehouses.
E-commerce consumers have come to expect faster deliveries, flexible carriers, free returns, detailed tracking, and unconventional delivery methods, from drones to at-will delivery partners. To keep up with consumer expectations, warehouse managers will increasingly incorporate agile and powerful technology that has the ancillary benefit of protecting your cargo (and limiting your liability).
But don’t expect technology to remove all risk. For the most comprehensive coverage, contact us to learn about Falvey Shippers’ all-risk cargo insurance policy.