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3 Ways to Use IoT in Warehouse Management

The internet of things (IoT) is connecting devices and machines to the internet like never before. And while many warehouses are still using traditional methods to manage inventory and track shipments, the IoT can offer a number of benefits. Here are three ways the IoT can be used in warehouse management

As IoT fills the world, it provides a number of ways to track inventory in warehouses. The connected devices mean a building doesn’t need to be packed to the rafters with scanners and shelves.

Instead of having a large, open space meant specifically for storing items and packages, the warehouse can be smaller and more organized. In addition, the connected devices mean data is captured in real-time or near real-time allowing warehouse managers to manage inventories with ease.

Internet of Things in Warehouse Management

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a set of connected systems, devices, or appliances where the exchange of data between them is enabled by the use of computer networks.

The IoT has been described as a modern-day mechanical system that includes physical objects that are embedded with electronics and connected over the internet through various software and hardware technologies, enabling them to work together for the purpose of exchanging data between them.

IoT in warehouse management enables businesses to manage their supply chain more efficiently by eliminating excess inventory, increasing productivity and improving communications between facilities.

The global warehouse automation market is expected to develop at a CAGR of 14% through 2026, reaching $30 billion.

The IoT works by connecting devices that make it possible to monitor and manage your supply chain remotely. It also connects devices at different points of the supply chain so they can communicate with each other whenever necessary.

For example, a sensor embedded into a shipment of products will send messages to the cloud containing information on the shipment’s estimated time of arrival, destination data and whether it met its shipping deadline on time.

How Can IoT be Used to Improve Warehouse Management

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Here are three ways IoT can be used in warehouse management:

1. Real-time Information on Inventory

One of the biggest benefits of using IoT in warehouses is real-time information. Instead of waiting for inventory counts to come in from warehouse sensors, data can be collected as ships are coming into port, product is unloaded and packages can be tracked throughout the supply chain.

That opens up new opportunities for warehouse managers. For instance, retailers could use real-time information on stock levels to make decisions like which items to pull from store shelves or which products to hold back for future sales. Or it could help manufacturers discretely decrease supply of a specific item during slow times to increase demand when the item is actually selling better.

2. Connected Tracking Devices

Inventory management in a warehouse can be done manually, but it can also be done without the need for human involvement. Use connected devices to track parts on the warehouse floor instead of having to scan each item.

One example would be using a temperature-sensitive tracking device on each equipment rack (the warehouse equivalent of shelving) which sends data back online whenever a piece of equipment is taken out for any reason.

Using fewer hands to track inventory and increase accuracy means there will be less room for error when deciding how much inventory to keep on hand at different times of the year.

3. Communication Between Machines

Connected devices can also be used to track the movement and locations of warehouse machines. In a typical warehouse, items are placed on shelves according to where the shelving is located, but the use of a connected device could differentiate whether or not the product is at risk of being exposed to extreme temperatures.

Machines don’t need to be in one place for long before they begin operating, so it’s important for them to have some form of a communication system that can send information back online when they’re needed. That way, the machines don’t need to sit idle while they wait for someone to check in on them.

Customers choose e-vendors based on delivery alternatives 66% of the time, 63% consider delivery speed to be critical, and 77% are willing to pay more for faster delivery.

The internet of things is changing the way data is collected and used in a wide range of industries. As the connected devices become more advanced, we’re going to see an even greater impact on warehouse management.

8 Benefits of Using IoT in Warehouse Management

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As the internet of things takes shape, there are a number of benefits in connecting devices to the internet. Warehouse management is one area that’s particularly ripe for change as a result. DHL is not far behind, having announced a USD 300 million commitment to augment 60% of its distribution hubs in the United States with IoT and autonomous robots.

Here are eight ways IoT can benefit warehouse management:

1. Greater Accuracy for Inventory Tracking

The traditional method for tracking inventory involves using warehouse workers to tally items as they move through the supply chain. That can lead to mistakes in counting, not to mention it’s a labor-intensive task.

The IoT offers greater accuracy on inventory counts by having each item in the supply chain track its own data back online as it moves through different departments and stages at manufacturer, distribution and retail facilities.

That means a location in the supply chain can send data on inventory when it’s first received, or each item in production can check data from the warehouse sensors to determine if an item is due for a refill, for example.

2. More Accurate Machine Tracking

Most warehousing facilities use a barcode scanner to identify each piece of equipment located in their storage racks or stored on shelving. But with connected devices, manufacturers and retailers could also rely on tracking machines to identify individual pieces of equipment as they pass through the supply chain so that information is available online all the time.

3. Better Data Management

Tracking items as they move through the supply chain also means better data management. Companies can use data on inventory levels and shelf space to determine when to order more items in the future, when to reorder specific items and how much storage space is available at any given time.

As a result, inventory can be managed with greater accuracy so there’s less need for managing extra inventory on hand and no overstock of products going unsold.

4. Easier Communication Between Devices

The IoT provides two-way communication between connected devices which means fewer third parties are needed during many stages of a supply chain – even in warehouse management.

The use of voice or text messaging between machines and each other, for example, means fewer times a machine has to communicate with a human when it comes to powering down or starting up.

5. Better Data on Transportation Processes

While most warehouse management tasks that involve moving products in and out of the supply chain can be handled manually, data collection could also help with the more complicated transport processes that occur along the way.

Most companies participate in weekly or monthly shipments of inventory. By collecting information connecting shipments made between facilities, businesses can better determine which products are traveling from where to where and how much is being transported at any given time.

6. Better Supply Chain Management

Fewer hands are needed to handle warehouse management activities, which means more accurate data on inventory levels and other tasks that involve managing the supply chain. More efficient processes for managing the supply chain can also lead to a reduction in costs as businesses don’t have to rely on more staff, and there’s less room for errors in counting inventory items or tracking machinery locations. The global warehouse IoT market is expected to develop at a CAGR of 21.21% through 2025, owing to lower costs and longer battery lives of IoT sensors.

7. Improved Efficiency of Warehouse Facilities

The IoT creates greater efficiency when tracking warehousing facilities, so there’s less need to rearrange existing storage racks or shelving and less time wasted while employees physically go through each piece of equipment to track when it needs maintenance and how much time is left in its lifespan.

8. Real-time Data Collection

For some warehouse management tasks, such as managing inventory and supply chains, it’s important to collect data in real time. That way, companies can stay on top of inventory levels and automatically reorder or restock products when they’re running low.

The internet of things is shifting the way we interact with our environments – creating new opportunities for businesses to collect data (and improve their management) in the process. As connected devices become more advanced, we’ll see an even greater impact on warehouse management.

6 Examples of IoT Applications for Smart Warehousing

The global fleet management software market is expected to grow to $59.08 billion by 2028, up from $19.58 billion in 2021. Real-time monitoring of warehouse equipment, tracking of shipments and real-time inventory management are three examples of IoT applications that can benefit warehouse management.

1. Monitoring for Labor Productivity

The IoT can create a data trail for each worker in the warehouse so it’s easier to track employee productivity. Workers could be tracked using a mobile application on an employee badge or used in conjunction with wearable technology like a smartwatch or smart glasses that include an internet-connected camera that would track the process by which products are moved around the facility, tagged, and packed up into shipments.

2. Real-time Inventory Management

The IoT can deliver real-time information about a warehouse’s inventory that can help keep orders and shelves stocked in the right quantities at all times. That could include tracking when specific products go out of stock, automatically ordering more from a vendor, or making adjustments to inventory levels based on data from connected devices operating in areas such as distribution facilities, manufacturing plants, and retailers.

3. Real-time Inventory Tracking for Shipping Purposes

Tracking the shipment of items between facilities by enabling a mobile application that tracks each piece of equipment being moved is one example of IoT applications for smart warehousing.

For example, a shipping app could help managers oversee the transportation of products from distribution facilities to manufacturing plants and also make sure only the right number of items are sent between facilities at any given time to reduce delays and keep product lines moving efficiently.

4. Sensors in Containers

There are many ways that connected devices can improve the shipping and storage of products. For example, there’s an IoT application that uses sensors in a container to maintain temperatures inside a container between -2 and 35 degrees Celsius.

That means fewer trips back to an assembly facility or warehouse because parts or materials that were incorrectly packaged get exposed to conditions outside too long for them to be usable, resulting in lost inventory.

5. Best Practices for Warehouse Automation

There are many best practices for warehouse management that can be automated using IoT applications, such as reducing waste when it comes to picking products through the use of machine learning and smart hubs.

In addition, the IoT could make storage easier by switching to location-based inventory tracking that determines which area of a facility is most likely to have items stored in a certain amount of space or less time before they have to be restocked.

6. Warehousing Facilities Expand into the Cloud

Warehouse management has long been handled manually because it involved physically moving items around warehouses and facilities – except for people who could afford human labor but still wanted more control than what hardware-based IoT systems could offer.

Plants that might otherwise have relied just on hardware in a facility could now afford to install IT infrastructure in the cloud as a way to better manage equipment, inventory and produce more efficiently.

The IoT can make it easier for facilities to manage their supply chain faster and cheaper by increasing productivity, minimizing waste and improving efficiency in warehouse management.

5 Tips for Using IoT in Your Warehouse

1. Look into Monitoring Software

The IoT opens up a lot of possibilities for managing warehouses more efficiently because it enables businesses to remotely monitor the locations of products and equipment, as well as track their progress through the supply chain.

Most warehouse management companies should already be using some form of inventory tracking system that includes software with inventory management features, but there are also software packages and platforms for tracking inventory and business systems for manufacturers that can be utilized to create a fully connected IT infrastructure in your company.

2. Leverage Connected Devices Strategically

Since the IoT makes it possible to manage the entire supply chain from a single platform, that means any connected device in your warehouse could provide useful data about products being managed by your team.

Essentially, the IoT enables businesses to collect data from the entire supply chain all at once, so that means more opportunities for you to manage inventory and keep your team running more efficiently.

3. Use a Single Software Platform for Integrating Connected Devices

Integrating multiple software platforms into one unified platform is a good idea for managing connected devices because it will allow you to access more data from different sources in real-time without having to go to each individual platform individually.

This will make it easier to manage the supply chain by giving you an overall view of how products move around the entire system with just a few clicks of a button.

4. Build Workflows Using Machine Learning

The IoT can help you automate some of the manual processes involved with managing a warehouse, so that means building workflows that use machine learning to automate processes and reduce errors along the way.

For example, if you’re managing an inventory system from a software application, it could identify faulty parts or products being shipped when they’re already on the ground floor of a facility in your warehouse. That way, you can reduce errors by automatically sending out new or repaired parts instead of manually handling each part individually.

5. Automate the Entire Supply Chain

In addition to automating processes in your warehouse, make sure you connect your facility into the rest of your business systems in order to automate everything else.

Connecting cloud-based software with connected devices and IoT platforms means that data on inventory, logistics and factory operations can be accessed by everyone across the supply chain in real time. This will improve communication across all aspects of your business, resulting in a faster supply chain overall that reduces costs while ensuring quality control.

The IoT promises to enable businesses to manage complex tasks that require human input much more efficiently by using connected devices and software platforms designed specifically for managing warehouse management.

The Future of IoT in Warehouse Management

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The IoT in warehouse management market is predicted to reach US$ 15.0 billion by 2031, growing at a 15% CAGR during the forecast period 2021-2031.

Many warehouses are located in remote areas, which makes it more difficult to monitor a facility’s systems and inventory 24/7. Not only is the IoT useful for tracking inventory, but it can also be helpful for monitoring warehouse activity that could indicate a security breach.

For example, if motion or sound sensors pick up an unusual amount of activity in a certain area of your facility at an odd hour of the day or night, you’ll know immediately to check whether someone is trying to steal products or equipment from your warehouse.

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