The Logistics & Warehousing sector is experiencing a new wave of automation solutions in quest of faster deliveries and efficient distribution of products.

Automation in Logistics & Warehousing
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    Logistics & Warehousing

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A lot of warehouses are opting for automation to have an edge over competitors or simply stay in business. New software solutions have made inventories easier to handle, work and schedule workers and robots as the complete solution, which can progress and advance over the time. The motivation and momentum to get new technologies certainly exists. The coming years would sustain the development of most recent technologies in logistics and warehousing where the people might not need to do heavy lifting and all the work can be completed quicker and efficiently.


Mechanisation has reduced the pressure on the workers and bodies however automation might take some stack of the minds also.


The Tech Takeover

The coming years in the near future are the data years. With enormous data available during all the steps of transactions, the future might see data being processed efficiently to reduce the logistics and transaction costs. One more interesting prospect created is the opportunity for logistics to become a data-centric industry whereas information takes preference in the logistics service value propositions above the real ability of moving cargo.


All the etailers have already started implementing the concept of automated warehousing while offline retailers are still learning of the advantages of these practices from online retailers. Whereas leading etailers including Amazon, Flipkart, Pepperfry and Jabong have their automated warehouses, the retailers also want to do the same. The Future Group and Hindustan Unilever are planning to take their logistics and warehouses on automation. They are planning to have 100% robot-monitored storage. Logistics companies including Delhivery, DTDC, and Gojavas also have completely automated warehouses.


Why Automate the Warehouse?

As the name indicates, the automated warehouse is a warehouse in which the consignments are transferred and stored by the machines. Robots, conveyor belts, and pulleys are employed in the automated system with partial or no human involvement.


The advantages of having the automated warehouse consist of:

  • Lesser handling steps
  • Manual entry elimination
  • Reduced errors
  • Reduced expenses
  • Simplifying the issues and dealing associated to backend, and
  • Smoother operation and handling process


Automation in the warehouses proves to be a very important investment for any business. By organising core IoT capabilities, data, devices, and automation, one can start implementing automation technology for pick up and move the packages to selected picking stations, among many other applications which make the warehouse procedures faster and smoother.

Bigger investments in the warehousing will improve scale, productivity and flexibility using automation, the IT investments and process improvements will happen. There are many elements that will drive huge investments in the IT systems and automation including smarter fulfilment, low operation cost, controlled environment with perishable products, traceability, cross-docking, multi-channel serviceability and more.


There is a lack of skilled labourers in the industry, which is another significant driver that increases IT and automation penetration in Indian logistics & warehousing industry.


Emerging Trends in Logistics & Warehousing

Visualise a world where the automation comes with the technologies to deliver services or products without any human intervention. The process might work like this: A consumer places the order. The 3D printers get the information and take the print out. Then, it’s collected from the shelves by the robots, packed and positioned in the self-driving trucks. These trucks leave the warehouse facility and the drones are dispatched automatically of a truck for product delivery while moving. These trucks never stop until they are ready for reloading.


This example produces an enormous amount of information which can leverage within a supply chain. However, the same information may have extreme impacts on the transportations agencies and planners across the globe. Whereas this example will become a reality in the future, it’s important to understand how the best emerging trends of automation will outline the supply chains with transportation procedures in the upcoming years.


Definition of Automation for Supply Chain: There is a different definition of automation for supply chain. Everything which can be managed through computer systems can be automated. It consists of billing, lading bill generation, compliance reports as well as movements in the warehouse floor or factory.


Robotics Has Made the Inbound-Outbound Logistics Easier: One more automation trend involves robotics. Robotics performs functions as per the request of any person or system; however the majority of robotic systems today are doing their work as per the instructions from the order fulfilment systems. The order procedure automatically notifies the robots working in the warehouses and activates the procedure flow.


Robotics isn’t isolated to the warehouse pulling with outbound logistics. It can also be used for managing inbound as well as outbound strategies and procedures. Using trends in robotics and automation, supply chain companies use the resources and tools required to ramp up things and reduce the product cycle starting from order-to-delivery. So, more drivers and trucks will be required however the threatening shortage of drivers and capability crunch will activate other automation trends.


Automation in Vehicles and Trucks

With advancements in the technology and IoT, most big companies like Uber, Google, Amazon, and Facebook have started using driverless truck and vehicles pilot programs. These programs will provide supply chains the access of a new infinite source for moving the products, surpassing the challenges inherent during the driver’s shortage and capability crunch.


The driver’s shortage and capability crunch is expected to arise in 2017 because the consumers are demanding more and more products at low costs and quicker than before. Meanwhile, some obstacles have already occurred like the initial self-driving car got wreck earlier in the year. With every challenge and obstacle, the companies are forced back to conquer the obstacles.


In reply to the increased curiosity in the driverless trucks and vehicles, some recommendations have come from some reliable sources to create an advisory committee to review the ongoing advancements in driverless vehicles and maintain the public security. Supply chains and transporters will reply to this course by leveraging all the latest automation trends and data power to make sure compliance with amplified government oversight, with the agencies that you represent.


Many companies have previously tested some cross-country driverless trucks, although with the person sitting in a cab to manage in case of system failure. Though, to organise a wide-scale operation of highest level for driverless trucks, there is still a long way to go!


Meanwhile, more and more automated vehicle systems are working together with drivers to improve the safety as well as sustain vehicle control. Related systems are deployed in the crash & pedestrian detection systems to automate braking & tracking controls in the vehicles. It’s not hard to apply the latest technology and automatic features in the fleets in 2017.


Bottom Line: What’s the Possibility?

The possible applications of these types of technologies may consist of real-time traffic conditions monitoring and warnings, passing on the traffic before accidents take place, similar to the Google Maps’ capability to display traffic jamming in the real-time.


Data using such systems may automatically response to the transportation planners’ systems for automatically changing signal phase as well as timing to allow instant rerouting or traffic flow adjustments on the broader scale.

-Dharmesh Tolia


Image Captions:


Pic 1: New software solutions have made inventories easier to handle


Pic 2: SSI-Schaefer is a provider of state of the art intralogistic storage and picking solutions


Pic 3: Launched at CeMAT 2016, the STILL iGo neo CX 20 is the first order picker that recognises its operator and follows him.


Pic 4: At CeMAT 2016, Jungheinrich presented numerous industrial truck, warehouse and material-flow product innovations.