Article > Everything You Need to Know About IoT Warehouse Automation

Everything You Need to Know About IoT Warehouse Automation

A woman holding a laptop standing in front of a glass window into a server room.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the interconnectedness of everyday objects, such as appliances, vehicles, and other items, that are equipped with internet connectivity and sensors. This allows them to collect and exchange data, enabling them to be controlled and monitored remotely. The goal of the IoT is to make our lives easier and more efficient by allowing us to access information and control a wide range of devices from anywhere, at any time.

The Role of IoT in Warehouse Management

IoT technology can be used in warehouse management to improve efficiency and productivity. For example, IoT sensors can be used to track the location and condition of inventory in real time, allowing warehouse managers to quickly and accurately assess the availability of items. This can help to reduce the time and labor required for inventory management tasks, such as stock-taking and reordering. Additionally, IoT sensors can be used to monitor the condition of the warehouse environment, including temperature and humidity levels, to ensure that inventory is stored in optimal conditions. This can help to prevent damage and spoilage of goods, improving overall warehouse efficiency.

How Does IoT Warehousing Work?

In the context of warehousing, IoT technology can be used to improve various aspects of the operation, such as inventory management, asset tracking, and temperature control.

For example, sensors can be placed on warehouse shelves to track the inventory levels of individual items. This information can then be sent to a central system, allowing managers to have real-time visibility into the status of their inventory. Additionally, RFID tags can be attached to assets, such as pallets or containers, to automatically track their location within the warehouse. This can help improve the efficiency of operations, as workers can quickly and easily locate the items they need.

Components of IoT Warehouse Automation

IoT Devices

These types of devices usually utilize smart sensors and gather data so it can be processed by any IoT-based systems. These devices can help monitor the warehouse and can track placement of assets and items left in a warehouse. 

Gateway

This connects the IoT devices to your warehouse management system. These connections can happen through the WiFi network, a bluetooth connection, an ethernet connection, or even a cellular network.

Server

The server should be a dedicated computer which receives the raw IoT data. This data will be processed into insights or saved for future use. And it largely helps in automation of warehouse processes because a server sends commands to smart devices with developed algorithms. You can use two types of servers for your IoT warehouse automation, the first is a cloud-based server which means the shared server is maintained by a third-party company. And the second is an on-premises server which is a server physically installed in your warehouse that creates a local IoT device network. 

Application

This is what is installed on your desktop so the user can interact with the data collected from IoT devices and also allows the user to send commands to IoT devices from their computer to help and maintain the warehouse management inventory tracking system. 

Edge Computing

If you are a larger warehouse with a high amount of IoT systems, you are likely to use edge computing. This layer sits between the gateway and data storage and allows extra edge nodes to review data from the smart IoT devices and send direct commands without the information needing to be reviewed by the central server or an application user. 

Benefits of IoT Warehouse Automation

The use of IoT (Internet of Things) technology in warehouse automation can bring numerous benefits to businesses. Some of these benefits include the following: 

Real-Time Tracking

One of the main advantages of using IoT in warehouse automation is the ability to track and monitor inventory in real-time. This can help businesses reduce the amount of time and effort spent on manual inventory checks and improve the accuracy of their inventory records. In addition, IoT technology can be used to automate many warehouse tasks, such as picking and sorting items, which can help increase productivity and reduce the need for manual labor.

Reduced Operating Costs

When using an automated warehouse you often require less space and staff. Plus because of the IoT programing you will likely experience a reduction of costs because these processes prioritize and reduce congestion, improve sustainability efforts, and optimize processes. 

Increased Performance

Because IoT optimizes your warehouse, you’ll find your ability to pick and pack orders as well as onload and sort inventory has increased both in speed and efficiency. The IoT sensors offer data on how to optimize working areas and allow you to reduce the use of manual labor and occurring errors. 

Improved Inventory Management

With IoT devices you’ll have continual visibility into your inventory because the RFID tags within these devices will provide the information needed. You can track the status of materials (raw, work-in-progress, finished goods) as well as the type of materials. Plus you’ll always have an accurate inventory count. 

Automated Maintenance

IoT devices use predictive maintenance which means you can schedule maintenance and inspection routines systematically so your business and your clients can avoid experiencing the frustrations of unplanned downtime. 

Enhanced Forecasts Accuracy

Because of the consistency in understanding inventory counts and order volumes, with IoT devices your forecast accuracy will skyrocket. Which means you will have a stronger understanding of what to purchase more of and what is just sitting on your shelf. 

Reduced Risks

IoT technology can help improve the safety of warehouse workers by enabling the use of automated equipment and robotics. This can help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries on the job, improving overall workplace safety.

Detailed Analytics

Another benefit of IoT-powered warehouse automation is the ability to collect and analyze data on warehouse operations. This data can be used to identify areas for improvement and optimize warehouse processes, leading to increased efficiency and cost savings. For example, data analysis can help businesses determine the most efficient routes for picking and packing orders, reducing the amount of time and effort spent on these tasks.

Devices for IoT Warehouse Management

RFID Tags

RFID stands for radio-frequency identification. An RFID tag is a small device which uses radio waves to transmit information wirelessly. It typically consists of a small chip and an antenna, and are commonly used in a variety of applications, including inventory tracking, access control, and contactless payments. In the context of warehousing, RFID tags can be attached to pallets, containers, and other assets to automatically track their location within the warehouse. This can help improve the efficiency of operations, as workers can quickly and easily locate the items they need. 

Smart Sensors

Warehouse smart sensors are sensors used to monitor and track various aspects of a warehouse, such as inventory levels, temperature and humidity, and the movement of goods. These sensors are typically connected to the internet, allowing them to transmit data to a central system where it can be accessed and analyzed. They can also be used to track the inventory levels of individual items, providing real-time visibility into the status of the warehouse’s inventory. This can help managers ensure they have the right products on hand to meet client demand, and can help prevent stock-outs and overstocking.

Beacons

An IoT beacon is a device which uses Bluetooth technology to transmit a signal to nearby devices, such as smartphones or other sensors. Beacons are often used in location-based applications, such as retail stores or museums, to provide information or services to nearby clients or visitors. In warehousing, IoT beacons can be used to track the location of assets and inventory within the warehouse. A beacon attached to a pallet of goods can transmit its location to a central system, allowing managers to track the movement of goods within the warehouse in real-time. 

AI Cameras

AI cameras are cameras which are equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) technology, allowing them to analyze and interpret the visual data they capture. This can enable them to perform tasks such as object recognition, facial recognition, and motion detection. Using AI cameras in a warehouse allows employees to track the movement of goods within the warehouse, providing real-time visibility into the location of inventory and assets. AI cameras can also be used for security purposes, such as monitoring access points and identifying unauthorized individuals.

GPS Trackers

Warehouse GPS trackers are devices that use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to track the location of assets and inventory within a warehouse. These devices typically consist of a GPS receiver and a transmitter, which are attached to the assets being tracked. Warehouse GPS trackers can help workers quickly and easily locate the items they need, reducing the time and effort required to find and retrieve items. Additionally, GPS tracking can help prevent loss or theft of assets, as managers can monitor the movement of goods within the warehouse and identify any unauthorized activities.

Smart HVAC Systems

Smart HVAC systems, or smart heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, are HVAC systems equipped with sensors and connected to the internet, allowing them to be controlled and monitored remotely. The use of smart technology in HVAC systems allows for greater control and efficiency. For example, sensors can be used to monitor the temperature and humidity of a space, and the system can be automatically adjusted to maintain optimal conditions. 

Latest IoT Warehousing Trends

Automated Guided Vehicles

Warehouse automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are robotic vehicles used in warehouses to move goods and materials from one location to another. These vehicles are equipped with sensors and other technology that allows them to navigate autonomously within the warehouse, following predetermined paths or instructions. AGVs can be used for a variety of tasks in a warehouse, such as moving goods from one location to another, loading and unloading trucks, or transporting materials to and from production areas. They can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing a reliable and efficient means of handling goods within the warehouse.

Blockchain Item Tracking

Blockchain item tracking refers to the use of blockchain technology to track and manage the movement of goods and assets within a supply chain. Blockchain is a distributed database technology that allows multiple parties to securely record and verify transactions without the need for a central authority. While item tracking a blockchain can be used to create a shared and immutable record of the movement of goods and assets within a supply chain. Each transaction, such as the transfer of ownership or the movement of goods from one location to another, can be recorded on the blockchain, providing a transparent and verifiable record of the item’s history.

AR Glasses

AR glasses, or augmented reality glasses, are wearable devices which can superimpose digital information onto the real world. In a warehouse setting, AR glasses can be used to provide workers with real-time information and guidance, helping them to perform their tasks more efficiently. By simply looking at a particular shelf or location, workers can see the items stored there, along with any relevant information, such as quantity or expiration date. This can help workers quickly and easily locate the items they need, reducing the time and effort required to find and retrieve items.

Drones

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), can be used in warehousing for a variety of tasks, such as inventory management, asset tracking, and security. For example, drones equipped with sensors and cameras can be used to scan warehouse shelves and automatically count and track the inventory levels of individual items. This can provide real-time visibility into the status of the warehouse’s inventory, allowing managers to quickly and easily identify any shortages or overstocks.

Key Takeaways

Overall, using IoT to automate your warehouse is a good way to boost your efficiency and bring your warehousing operations into the future. If you’d like to talk to an expert on how to automate your warehouse, check out ShipHero!

IoT in Warehouse Automation FAQs

What is Warehousing Automation?

Warehouse automation encompasses anything which automates and improves the efficiency of warehouse tasks. This can include software, hardware, people, and robotics which can be integrated in every part of warehouse operations including unloading and sorting inventory, picking and packing items, capturing warehouse data, automated retrieval of items, and automated shipping processes. 

What is IoT Automation?

IoT automation refers to the use of IoT (Internet of Things) technology to automate various processes and tasks. IoT automation involves the connection of physical devices, such as sensors and actuators, to the internet, allowing them to send and receive data. In a warehouse setting, IoT automation can be used to improve various aspects of operations, such as inventory management, asset tracking, and temperature control. 

How IoT Improves Warehouse Operations?

While IoT is a new trend in the logistics industry, it is one way in which many warehouses have found the answer to every warehouse’s question: How do I ship faster and more accurately? With IoT, many warehouse processes can be automated in order to reduce operation costs, boost performance, reduce human error, and lower risks.

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