During our global fourth industrial revolution businesses are continuing to digitally transform and take advantage of technological advancements to improve the way that they work and find new and innovative ways to serve their customers. This is true of the warehousing and supply chain industries as technology is proving to be a driver for change and a disruptor in how the industry adapts and transforms.
As the industry landscape continues to shift it’s becoming more important than ever for businesses to take advantage of the solutions presently available. Along with this shift is the pace at which it is occurring within the warehousing industry, making it imperative that businesses adopt these new ways of working which are driving change within the digital transformative revolution. But if you’re new to this concept of the fourth industrial revolution, what is it, and what technology concepts can be leveraged for warehouses?
Without getting into too much of a history lesson let’s look back at the industrial revolutions that have occurred. The four industrial revolutions are categorized as 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0. The first industrial revolution is generally pinpointed as having begun in 1784 (depending on sources, opinions, and definitions the start dates for each industrial revolution shift slightly) and was defined by the introduction of steam power and mechanization. The second began in 1870 and was defined by the introduction of electricity which provided the means for mass production. The third around 1969 brought about the digitization of production, distribution, and services especially with the advent of the early internet. Skip ahead to our present day, and somewhere not too far back, we reach the fourth revolution (presently ongoing) which introduced digital networks, AI technology, and cyber physical systems (a fancy way of saying a physical environment monitored by a computer; think building climate control or self-driving cars).
Generally speaking, revolutions have winners and losers. Businesses can thus see themselves as either embracing or rejecting a new way of doing things, whether actively or passively. In either case when a disruptive force enters the global economic landscape some businesses either adapt or get left behind, either due to redundancy or else the inability to adapt and renew. The great thing about the digital revolution we’re currently in is that you don’t have to be first through the door to be a winner. In fact, for most businesses, including warehouses, it’s usually best to allow the technology to mature to the point where it’s viable and will help, not hinder your business.
That said we’re at a point where technology is vastly improving how the warehousing and logistics industry are delivering services. So let’s focus on some of the digital transformative concepts that warehouses can take advantage of.
Efficiency is what digital transformation is all about. If it didn’t make warehouses better at what they do it wouldn’t make much sense. Process optimization is thus a good place to start when transforming your business. Leveraging automation to eliminate tedious and repetitive tasks will allow staff to focus on core and more important work. It will also empower employees to be more service focused and allow them to be more productive as they participate in value added customer focused services.
In line with customer focused service, digital transformation allows warehouses to be able to communicate data concisely (a major part of the fourth industrial revolution) and make it available anytime, anywhere. Customer portals that are integrated with your WMS allow you to share inventory related data with your customers. Not only this but basic functionality like order submission, scheduling, tracking, reporting, and filtering features and tools can also be made available to customers. This adds value for your customers as they manage their inventory and business while giving back time to your business that can be spent on more productive tasks.
Introducing smart devices with scanning applications that syncs live with your WMS will help to reinforce processes and make the work of managing the warehouse efficient and productive. By having a solution with scanning technology, like Akatia’s WAM Mobile application, your warehouse, business, and customers will have real-time inventory data that is accurate and which they can rely on. Furthermore, by implementing concepts like forced scanning, and process configuration for mobile scanning devices you can ensure that errors are limited and that your processes are standardized. This type of technology is also helpful with onboarding new employees as the scanning application prompts and ensures that the right process is followed in a predictably and consistently. The devices can also be used to communicate between team members when issues or roadblocks arise so that they can be resolves quickly.
We’ve discussed only a few ways that digital transformation can be leveraged by warehouse and logistics operations, but the potential is far greater than this one article can hold, and it's very attainable. By digitally transforming through the introduction of WMS technology, optimizing processes, and introducing new ways of working businesses boost productivity and improve efficiencies that save them time and money. In turn warehouse and logistics operations are better positioned to meet industry challenges and customer needs in an ever changing global industrial landscape.
There are few industries that have not experienced remarkable change during our present fourth industrial revolution. Businesses in all industries are readily applying the technological and innovative solutions available. Businesses should thus take advantage of these opportunities for digital transformation to position themselves to better deliver and succeed in our technological age, including in the field of warehousing and logistics.
If you're thinking of digitally transforming the way you operate your warehouse and inventory management, get in contact with us by clicking the link below. We'd be happy to speak with you!