The forklift operator adjusts his smart glasses to properly fit his head and presses the power button. The glasses immediately send him visual and auditory instructions. He’s directed to pick a product in a specific aisle and row.
As he nears the pick location, a green rectangle appears on his glasses to highlight his destination.
Once he picks the item, the glasses’ built-in scanner verifies that he has the right package, then directs him to the appropriate loading dock.
All the while, sensors strategically placed throughout the warehouse are collecting and enabling the free flow of real-time data.
This scenario is just one part of today’s “connected warehouse.” Enabled by Internet of Things (IoT) technology, these modern distribution centers are becoming increasingly common, as companies try to cope with pressures from e-commerce.
In fact, according to one recent survey, the global IoT market in warehouse management is expected to reach $19.06 billion by 2025.
Vision or Reality?
But is this concept more vision than reality?
The fact of the matter is, right now, it’s mostly vision. In reality, the majority of distribution centers are not currently using IoT-connected sensors or equipment. And while many warehouse automation systems generate data in real time, they’re usually wired into a warehouse control system (WCS) or warehouse execution system (WES).
However, the IoT-connected warehouse is gradually materializing. That’s because DC automation and materials handling vendors, who already provide WCS and WES software, are increasingly developing warehouse IoT solutions.
What’s It All About?
According to Jack Allen, Cisco’s senior director for global logistics, IoT may not change warehousing overnight, but it’ll certainly speed up processes. “Information is going to be so much more available and increasingly real time, enabling warehouses to be much faster and more agile,” he says.
“Much of the value in logistics isn’t just in moving the goods, but in understanding the information. That means quick answers to questions like, ‘Where is my shipment?’ or ‘When will I get my goods?’ or ‘Can this production line keep up with the demand requirement?’”
It does indeed appear that the future of warehousing is in IoT.