Automation, machine learning, real-time data and overall interconnectivity are all essential components of Industry 4.0. By linking physical production and operations with cyber-physical systems, the factory of the future will be able to optimize its processes and increase overall productivity. Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution!
The journey from preventing inventory loss to improving production turnaround will revolutionize how goods are moved and distributed in any warehouse setting. The new technologies in use as part of this journey can also enhance sustainability by increasing energy efficiency, reducing emissions and lessening the need for wasteful materials.
Cloud-based inventory can help improve efficiency in the warehouse by improving visibility into inventory. It provides access to all the inventories in one location, making it easier for managers to make decisions about balancing stock. And, because the information is in the cloud, it's accessible from any location, at any time.
Check out the other benefits of cloud-based inventory management:
Improvements in accuracy, speed, quality, compliance coverage and overall workload sound good? That’s often the result when businesses switch to a cloud-based inventory management system.
But not all businesses are created equal, and different warehouses have different needs. Before making a switch in your inventory system, consider the unique requirements of your warehouse and factor them into your decision.
Consider the following before switching to cloud-based inventory:
Buyer vs. vendor mentality — If your business is a buyer, you'll need a more flexible system capable of making changes to accommodate changing customer needs. If your warehouse is a vendor, you'll want to ensure the system can keep up with your production schedule and supply chain requirements.
Perpetual vs. periodic inventory — If your warehouse uses a perpetual inventory management system, find a cloud-based solution to integrate with your existing system. If your warehouse uses a periodic inventory management system, you'll need a system that can import and export data in the necessary formats.
Robotic picking systems and artificial intelligence (AI) are additional 4.0 industry tech advances that can improve warehouse efficiency. These order fulfillment systems use robotics, data and software to automate all or parts of processes in a warehouse.
Pick-and-place robotics can be used in various ways depending on the product and the manufacturer's automation requirements. There are four primary applications for pick and place robotics:
Determining the true costs of robotics and various AI integrations is key – and those costs add to upfront investment and operational expenses, but they often help improve accuracy, speed and productivity in the long run.
Handheld and mobile devices have revolutionized the way warehouses operate by giving managers the real-time information they need to make automated decisions.
Mobile printing can help improve warehouse operations in many ways. By allowing users to print on-demand labels and integrating other solutions, such as warehousing management systems and radio frequency identification, mobile printing can help improve accuracy and speed in the warehouse.
Using printers such as the M611, BMP51 and BMP61 for express label needs, a warehouse can easily integrate with a handheld or mobile system via Bluetooth or print labels directly from a device. This cuts down on wasted materials and saves warehouse space. Mobile printers have also grown in popularity because they help cut back on operational mistakes and the costs that come with them.
Warehouse employees can use mobile scanners to scan barcodes on picked and packed products. This helps improve accuracy and eliminates the need for employees to search for products on shelves.
Additionally, mobile barcode scanners can help reduce the margin of error associated with data entry. By automating data entry, portable scanners can improve the accuracy of inventory data and help warehouse managers make better decisions about stock allocation and product demand.
Several issues can hamper warehouse operations, including defective equipment and inefficient processes. Regular equipment monitoring is a must to keep things running smoothly.
The solution? Handheld and mobile diagnostic tools that help identify problem areas in the warehouse before they become significant. These devices allow managers to quickly detect issues such as improper machine temperatures, machine downtime and the lack of water or other fluids. That’s critical information for quickly addressing problems and keeping operations running smoothly.
Numerous technologies have been introduced to cut costs, make warehouses more efficient and improve accuracy. However, they must link together to operate flawlessly.
Enter the industrial internet of things (IIoT), the network of physical objects, machines, sensors and devices, connected to enhance operations, efficiency, management control and the overall experience.
IIoT includes machinery and devices such as:
The IIoT is not new, but it can revolutionize the way warehouses operate, and it’s being newly applied to the industrial sector. The number of internet-connected devices is also increasing, so it's only natural that businesses are looking for answers to boost their efficiency.
Here are some of the most popular IoT devices in the industrial sector:
When it comes to security and maintenance, having secure electrical hubs and breakers is one of the most important aspects of having a remote / connected device that functions and communicates with the central hub. Without these, devices may be unduly exposed to damage or destruction, and the whole system may be compromised.
Overall, the IIoT offers tremendous potential for the industrial sector.
Labeling and tracking all equipment is essential – and even more so when you’re upgrading or expanding your warehouse. Bringing in new devices? Be sure to label and register them with the network for monitoring and efficient use.
Look to these best practices when building a network:
Like yin and yang, these two go hand in hand when mapping out a warehouse to create a network. Every piece of equipment must be labeled, and the warehouse layout should be mapped out to account for all devices.
Industrial labeling is important because it must comply with regulations. Therefore, ensure you know about OSHA compliance and how to make more effective warning signs, for things like combating optimism bias, when relying on machines.
Recording includes tracking the movement and placement of machines, employees and products in the warehouse. Use this information to improve the layout of the warehouse and help with future expansions and upgrades.
In warehouses, numerous devices and machines must be labeled and registered:
With these advances in mind, it’s clear that labeling equipment is essential for both security and efficiency purposes. When upgrades or changes are made, a network map can ensure that everything is connected and working correctly.
When it comes to the future of the industrial sector, 4.0 industry advancements will play a crucial role in improving efficiency.