We have all heard of drone deliveries, and how they have already started changing the way we receive our orders at our front doorstep. Before these goods can even arrive, whether by drone or courier, they have to go through the manufacturing process, arrive at warehouses and logistics centers, where humans and machines process our orders and ensure that we receive exactly what we purchased in the expected time.
Automation in warehouses
Automated guided vehicles (AVGs) are far more commonly used than most people believe. Only the distribution centers of companies on a similar scale as Amazon and Ocado have robots collecting items for distribution to shoppers. Developed in 1971 by Nippon Yusoki, the world’s first automatic guided forklift changed the world of logistics. Those first models had fixed routes and were guided by wires but today’s AVG technology move effortlessly, guided around by cameras, lasers or even by automatically measuring their surrounding environment.
Warehouse management system (WMS) gives the vehicles instructions from a computer program which oversees the organization of the warehouse. However, manned forklifts are still best suited in warehouses where there are smaller settings, while AVGs are best suited in larger areas where manpower can be better used in other sections.
All this will change in the near future, when AVGs will be able to manage a wider range of instructions, but conventional fork lift trucks are still the most popular.
Rising demand for forklifts
The continued boom in e-commerce has seen a global rise in forklift sales by 13.3% in 2017, when compared to 2016 according to Mitsubishi Logisnext, one of the largest manufacturers of all types of forklifts. With nearly two thirds of the North American market interested in the electric versions, the buyers of these forklifts are interested in cutting down on carbon emissions. The extended battery life of the latest battery technology is helping drive the market since they also lift heavier loads.
Automation and optimizing of warehouses
Currently, warehouses which cannot use AVGs don’t need to feel excluded from modernizing and going digital. With production and delivery deadlines increasingly driving business every available tool is welcome.
Software is playing a major role in helping companies keep accurate stock inventories, work out the time needed to manufacture products, quantities required and even optimal placing of products within a warehouse.
Other digital tools that are increasingly popular include IoT- enabled applications which automate and simplify tasks such as scheduling, dispatch and invoicing services. The future is looking bright as more predictive and proactive tools are being developed to manage fleets and keep the flow of goods constant.
Keeping track of goods once they leave the warehouse facilities is just as important and fleet tracking helps managers monitor both automated and human-powered vehicles. These monitors combine big data with sophisticated analysis in order for packages to arrive on their expected time of delivery.
Consumers are also increasingly becoming environmentally conscious, but both they and the suppliers of their goods want to see their parcels delivered in the fastest and cheapest way possible. Drone deliveries may seem like the best possible way to achieve all this, but that is still coming. Humans and machines are already working together to ensure that the customer is never disappointed. Meanwhile, our favorite products arrive at our doors leaving as small an environmental footprint as possible.