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Warehouse 2.0: Powered by IoT

Smart Warehousing is helping companies of all sizes engage with this new digital world of selling everywhere to everyone.

Overview

By adopting intelligent software and new advanced technologies, many businesses, particularly SMEs, will move to leverage the flexibility, speed, and performance of goods-to-person automation in their warehouse operations.

Mohamed Azmy

/ Sr. Logistics and Supply Chain Consultant
After the shocks of 2020, large retailers and manufactures will be looking to build greater resilience into their supply chains by sourcing from a broader base of suppliers, many of which may be much smaller, more local businesses. These suppliers will need to adopt systems and agile processes that allow them to perform to the exact standards demanded by large retail clients. For many, this will mean upgrading warehouse management systems and creating agility through the use of flexible and scalable automation.

The Client

Our client, an operator for a chain of warehouses, managed his business for many years using outdated manpower-intensive processes. Recognizing the market shift, our client engaged with us to design and deploy a game-changing automation solution that caters cleverly for peaks, allowing for scalability and invests in low-CapEx projects that create value immediately – as opposed to focusing on large-scale projects that deliver over a protracted period.
Roadmap
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01. Assess
The fairsystems approach started with a relatively intensive data analysis and modeling process to consider a fuller range of market solutions. This process baselined the current peak and average throughput, stock, and order profiles of the client before overlaying growth and any changes in the shape of the business. This was then distilled into a ‘material flow’, indicating the average and peak hour throughput of each process step of the operation for the design horizon (normally ten years into the future). This was a key input to the solution evaluation.
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02. Deliver
A range of feasible automated, mechanized, and manual options were agreed upon with our client based on our extensive experience in warehouse automation projects. Our consultants then produced budget costs for each solution and evaluated the payback against the current solution to identify the most attractive option. Once a preferred solution has been agreed upon, an end-to-end concept was developed. Next came the implementation stage, where the project really started to gain momentum and the future became real as the operations team was readied for the future and the equipment physically installed.
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03. Continue
Then came Go-live, which signaled the start of a new chapter on the automation journey, but the hard work was not over. The ramp-up period is almost always an extension of the implementation phase since it is important to ramp up volumes gradually and in line with a predetermined plan. This was the right time for fairsystems and the operations team to develop new working practices in order to deliver the expected throughputs and productivity on a consistent basis. The continuous improvement mentality would continue long after the ramp-up plan is complete.
Solution Details

@fairsystems, we know that challenges are merely opportunities in disguise.

Automated Data Capture System (ADCS)
Deliverable: We implemented an Automated Data Capture System (ADCS) to reduce the chances of mistakes and to make any error in receiving, picking, packaging and shipping highly improbable. Modular shelving systems that suit the collection and warehouse robotics were used to assist humans in the picking process by increasing speed and making the whole process error-free. Wireless barcode readers, handheld computers, etc have been used. Data can now be collected from barcodes, RFID tags, IoT devices, etc.
Mechanized Automation
Deliverable: Modular shelving systems that suit the collection and warehouse robotics have been installed to assist the warehouse workers in the picking process by increasing the speed and making the whole process error-free. With the help of self-guided forklifts and pallets, the fairsystems' team reduced human intervention and the chances of errors. These automated guided vehicles follow a specific digital path in the warehouse for loading and unloading the goods packed in boxes or other containers. Following the markers on the floor, these vehicles navigate in the warehouse.
Warehouse Management System (WMS) and IoT
Deliverable: The availability of wireless networks and small-sized computer chips have made it possible to make thousands of products that can help to stay connected. Beacons, Drones, RFID, sensors, etc are all Internet of Things (IoT) devices that can scan, store, share, and retrieve data with the help of the internet. fairsystems used the IoT to make the whole logistics process smoother, synching our supply chain information with the Warehouse Management System (WMS) without needing human contact.
Warehouse Execution System (WES)
Deliverable: Like the conductor of an orchestra, the Warehouse Execution System provides the overall coordination of all WMS and WCS functionality into one application – inventory management, order management, billing, workflow, and the direction of material handling equipment, such as the AS/RS. fairsystems implemented the WES to simplify communication and control between different functions. This system is ideal for organizations with increased order volumes and high throughput needs, as it is able to receive and track products, while optimally marrying inventory to customer orders through its order fulfillment processing capabilities.
Barcode Labeling and Scanning
Deliverable: Documentation is the indispensable component of the warehouse operations as it is the record of the products being stored, arranged, picked, or delivered. Thus, the automation of the documentation with barcode labeling eliminates the possibility of any errors and saves a huge amount of time by speeding up the whole process. fairsystems implemented Barcode scanners to collect accurate data related to the flow of the products in and out of the inventory.
Inventory Management System (IMS)
Deliverable: fairsystems automated the inventory with a solution collectively known as the Inventory Management System (IMS). This solution provides an eagle-eye view of overall warehouse operations. This enables the warehouse supervisors to gain visibility over the flow of the inventory. In addition, the information related to the products flowing in or out of the warehouse could be made accessible from any part of the world thus adding transparency to the whole process.
Warehouse Control System (WCS)
Deliverable: fairsystems implemented the WCS to manage the flow of items on the automated equipment. A warehouse control system (WCS) is a software application for orchestrating activity flow within a warehouse or distribution center. The WCS coordinates material handling sub-systems such as conveyor belts, carousels, scales, and sorters.
Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS)
Deliverable: We implemented the Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) to offer a faster, more efficient way to move goods through our client's facilities using horizontal and vertical storage carousels. By eliminating forklift trips down storage aisles and wasted travel time between widely placed racking, AS/RS allowed the warehouse to run more efficiently and adjust racking to save storage and floor space.

Result:

A business’s competitiveness depends on its access to, and analysis of, critical data. Today, our client has finished developing his chain of smart warehouses where robots, pickers, packaging machines, and sorters are seamlessly integrated to produce, not only optimum performance, but valuable data that is shared in real-time with wider systems in order to deliver a competitive advantage.
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Carrying costs
decrease

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Order lead time
decrease

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Receiving efficiency
increase

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Picking accuracy
increase

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Inventory turnover
increase

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