Everything in our lives is becoming digital. From how we order food, to streaming a new movie, to getting our taxes done, most things happen via our laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Warehousing is no different.
A few years ago, everything was still handled by pen and paper, clipboards, and big file cabinets. Now, many of those are relics of the past, and if your company is still holding onto the clipboard, it’s time to let go. Consumers want transparency, accountability, and faster order shipping. With peak season underway, every advantage helps.
The Warehouse is Going Digital
The digital evolution of warehousing affects everything, including the supply chain, order routes, how things are stacked, and picking and packing. The days of manual processes and tracking operations with limited technologies are over.
Multiple companies have designed systems and software that reduce delays, improve efficiencies, and eliminate risks. Technologies that enhance end to end transparency include:
- Artificial intelligence
- Robotic systems
- Smart barcodes
- Mobile tech and sensors
- Tracking goods across the supply chain
Overall, increased adoption of these technologies leads to industry-wide changes and improvements in warehousing, including:
- Reduced labor costs
- Quicker production
- Fewer processing errors
- Increased productivity and efficiency
- Better inventory management
Different warehousing industry sectors are finding ways to optimize and transform their businesses, and with peak season here, how a company gets the edge for faster order fulfillment, shipping, along with customer satisfaction can transform a company’s fortune. Being prepared for the rush so that all aspects of the warehouse are operating smoothly is the difference between leading companies and those playing catch up in the middle of the holiday rush.
The Customer is Driving Digitization
Omnichannel retail—where orders can come in from both various social media platforms and brick and mortar locations, rather than multi-channel or traditional retail alone—is growing. And with the holiday season coming on quickly, we’re only going to see more orders placed this way.
Driven by consumer-generated data, retailers are changing how they’re optimizing warehouse efficiency. Better labor management and waveless picking strategies can be used by warehouses of all sizes. When talking about companies like Walmart or Amazon, investments in AI and even robotics are a part of the discussion. Some warehouses have driverless carts. The conveyor belts, carts, and shelves all “talk“ to each other. Thanks to new technology like bar codes, sensors, and radio ID tags, merchandise signals where it is and where it’s going. Some companies have smart eyeglasses that show them where to put packages in their cart.
These breakthroughs are all typically driven by integrated warehouse management software (WMS). Brands like Amazon, Walmart, FedEx, and Shopify have continued to push what warehouses can do thanks to a constant stream of new technologies because,
“Customers want quicker delivery times, shorter turnaround, better response,” said Deloitte Consulting expert Brock Oswald. The digital revolution is an important part of delivering on those demands.”
Peak Season Drives Technology Adoption
Increasing customer demands are helping eCommerce warehouses and fulfillment businesses thrive. And thanks to the holiday season, people are not going to hit the mall as often when they can comfortably shop from their couch with a few swipes on their phone.
Without tech to help fill those orders, it can get dicey. Right now, innovations are improving a variety of warehouse operations, including:
- Staffing and hiring
- Reducing human error
- Narrowing delivery windows
- Filling small orders
- Fulfilling omnichannel shipments
And then there’s tracking and restocking returned items.
When you can buy an item with a swipe, impulse buys are inevitable. According to Advanced Supply Chain, over 20% of people have buyers’ remorse and make a return. This is where a warehouse team relies on reverse logistics and restoring inventory. Someone needs to stock those items back, and technology helps teams restock items faster and with more data. Having enough people on staff to handle the sheer amount of holiday orders, especially returns, is a big part of keeping the warehouse moving.
Warehousing is investing heavily in voice technology areas, which helps workers pick orders, assess inventory, and accept shipments. As systems get smarter thanks to machine learning, predictive data will only get smarter. Mobile devices like tablets and radio-frequency identification (RFID) show physical locations of items, and barcode scanners keep accurate pick lists and shipping information. The Internet of Things (IoT) is also creating a large swath of data for leaders to parse through.
While technology drives innovation, people are still at the heart of this operation.
Staffing is getting digital, too
No matter how digitized we may get, there is always a human element. Workers matter, especially during peak season when most warehouses need three times the usual amount of workers on the floor to keep up. There are many variables that also drive unforeseen booms in business, especially when the holidays are near or an item is hot and there’s a stockpile of the newest “must have” item. Because so many shoppers are using their phones to buy things from Amazon and countless other stores, warehouses are busier than ever before.
Staffing solutions have to be agile, just like previously discussed technologies. Adia built a different platform than a traditional staffing agency, where instead of hoping for the best when it comes to workers, our worker pool is 10X larger than a traditional staffing agency’s with vetted workers around the country. If a warehouse manager knows they’re going to need workers immediately, trying to hire via their website or through a couple of job ads won’t cut it. Instead, with Adia, a warehouse manager can input how many workers they need, how long, and at what price point – all via a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
We’ve helped some of the world’s biggest companies meet their staffing needs. Relying on the old school methods of a staffing agency won’t cut it in today’s market. The market for filling orders, shipping orders, and keeping the warehouse humming is changing. We’ve seen this growth first hand thanks to our relationships throughout the supply chain. With the holidays coming, it’s going to be a busy year for warehousing. While digitizing processes is key, having a battle-tested staff to handle the business is equally important for a successful end of the year.