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Integrated Technologies for Logistical Efficiency

Technologies are important items in any business plan for a company to be more efficient. A company needs to introduce any new technologies that can make its logistics and warehousing more effective. In integrated logistics, smart technologies such as warehouse management systems, automated guided vehicles, automated storage and retrieval systems, collaborative robots, wearable technology, and fleet management systems enable more accurate, faster, and higher-quality items to be delivered to customers. By using a warehouse management system, the business can improve inventory management and track items throughout the supply chain. This article discusses the usage of these technologies for logistics efficiency.

Warehouse Management System

A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software program that allows a company to follow the inventory from ordering to final delivery. The WMS is designed to support the complete supply chain. When using a cloud-based WMS, it provides full visibility into their inventory wherever they are so long as they have access to the internet. By using a WMS, they can also include automation technologies such as automated guided vehicles (AGV), collaborative robots, and automated sorting stations to name a few. When using automation with their WMS, the WMS will collect data, assign locations in the warehouse, and transmit information. The automation in the WMS allows a company to reduce manpower and at the same time increase its efficiency for outbound shipments to customers.

Automated Guided Vehicles

Automated guided vehicles (AGV) are unmanned, load-carrying units that use software and sensors to travel along a preplanned route in the warehouse. AGVs are a safe way to move loads. Typically, an AGV is used to move raw materials, work in process, and finished goods in support of manufacturing, storage, retrieval, picking, and distribution. AGVs can include load carts, unit load AGVs, tuggers, and forklifts. AGVs are usually battery-powered units that use computer software to communicate with the WMS to show the exact location in the warehouse. The software also tells the AGV where to stop, turn, reverse, and at what speed to travel. AGVs are used in many industries such as automotive, hospital, manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution. By using AGVs a company can improve safety, scheduling, and repeatability while reducing operating costs and product damage.

Collaborative Robots

Collaborative robots, also known as cobots, are machines created to assist people in a work environment to keep workers from performing repetitive, complex, or hazardous tasks. The use of cobots allows people to focus on value-added processes such as data analysis and strategic decision-making. By using cobots a company can improve safety, increase productivity, and lower operating costs. after the COVID-19 outbreak, there was a boom in online orders and e-commerce business which has resulted in a 15-20% yearly growth for warehousing. The reason behind Logistics Service Provider’s shift toward warehouse and logistics automation can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, warehousing is labor-intensive, and having robots handle these jobs can help providers increase their output exponentially. Another reason is the pandemic-induced lockdowns, social distancing, and employee safety which could be achieved through robots with minimal human intervention.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are used in manufacturing and distribution facilities. These systems replace large areas of shelving in the warehouse. Unit load AS/RS systems are bigger systems that usually store and retrieve pallets of products. Mini-Load AS/RS Systems move smaller quantities of product in boxes or totes. Both AS/RS are set up the same way: it includes pallet racks with narrow aisles between, allowing a tall-masted crane to move down the center of the aisle on a raised metal rail. When the mast gets to an assigned location, a carriage moves up or down the mast to the level where the product to be selected is located. A load-handling device is attached to the carriage and reaches into the location to either place or retrieve the load. There are many positive aspects to implementing an Automated Storage and Retrieval System. Some benefits include having a compact footprint, reduced manpower requirement, improved accuracy when picking, better inventory control, and improved safety.

Automated Sorting Stations

Automated sorting stations identify individual items on a conveyor and divert them to assigned locations using different devices controlled by special specific software. Sorting devices are applied to different applications depending on the product type and the speed of the conveyor. These systems will increase the item sorting rate while lowering the level of error. Automated sorting stations can be used in several ways in a distribution center. Some examples would be receiving, picking, packing, and shipping.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology includes devices that are connected via the Internet and can be worn on the wrist, head, face, or any other body part. These allow warehouse personnel the same freedom as mobile devices, but with a higher degree of ease when it comes to movement. Wearable warehouse technology is equipped with smart sensors and is calibrated with the WMS to make warehouse processes more efficient by providing access to a large amount of information on the go. Wearable technology can come in several forms. One is a wearable computer that can provide the functionality of a tablet while also allowing ease of movement. Another example would be using smart glasses. Smart glasses are used with virtual reality and provide added efficiency when it comes to navigating, labelling, and picking. A final example would be voice headsets. By using these, picking efficiency will increase through voice commands rather than scanning labels.


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References

Chelsea Tarr. (2022). ASRS 101: Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems. Kardex. Available at: https://us.blog.kardex-remstar.com/automated-storage-and-retrieval-systems-asrs#benefits_of_automated_storage_and_retrieval_systems (Accessed: 12 June 2022).

Chia Jue Cun Jayce, SDDSC. (2022). Digital Technologies for an Effective Supply Chain. SIPMM Publications. Available at SIPMM: https://publication.sipmm.edu.sg/digital-technologies-an-effective-supply-chain/  (Accessed on 12 June 2022).

Conger. (2021). 11 Warehouse Automation Trends in 2021. Conger. Available at: https://www.conger.com/warehouse-automation-trends/ (Accessed: 02 June 2022).

Interlake Mecalux. (2021). Cobots: at your service in the warehouse. Interlake Mecalux. Available at: https://www.interlakemecalux.com/blog/cobots-warehouse#:~:text=Cobots%2C%20or%20collaborative%20robots%2C%20are,technologies%3A%20AI%20and%20machine%20learning. (Accessed: 12 June 2022).

Siva A/L Rangasamy, DLSM. (2021). Technologies for Integrated Logistics Operation. SIPMM Publications. Available at SIPMM: https://publication.sipmm.edu.sg/technologies-integrated-logistics-operation/ (Accessed on 12 June 2022).

Soh Chai Xia, DLSM. (2021). Key Technologies for Efficient Logistics Operations. SIPMM Publications. Available at SIPMM: https://publication.sipmm.edu.sg/key-technologies-efficient-logistic-operations/ (Accessed: 12 June 2022).

Brian Wike, Diploma in Logistics and Supply Management
Brian Wike, Diploma in Logistics and Supply Management
Brian Wike has over 28 years of extensive experience in the professional field of logistics and manufacturing, specifically in the automotive and medical device industries. Brian is a member of the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). He completed the Diploma in Logistics and Supply Management in June 2022 at SIPMM Institute.
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