How Warehouse Systems Have Changed
Long gone are the days where warehousing consisted of people with clipboards and forklift trucks. The warehousing industry has since moved on to bigger, more innovative things. Now, with the rise of ‘Just In Time’ services and growing consumer demand for speedy delivery, warehouses are becoming very futuristic places.
The most significant change in warehousing is without a doubt automation. All across the world there are automated warehouses, where any personnel are there for simple operational and supervision purposes. Goods are stored automatically and can be retrieved by computers which will transfer the required goods onto conveyors and cranes. Considering some warehouses have to sort 300 items per minute, it’s no surprise that such a system is appealing. The new generations of automated warehouses are even using autonomous forklifts, as well as barcode reading and package inspection.
Enhance remote transit sheds (ERTS) are also very popular thanks to ‘just in time’ delivery promotions in the world of ecommerce. These types of warehouses allow for imported goods to sit in a country away from an airport or port without customs inspection. Once the final destination of the goods is decided, then they will undergo customs clearance. An ERTS facility could be in the intended country of delivery, or it could be enroute. For example, if an item is being delivered to Germany from England, it could be stored in an ERTS facility in France. Either way, for international deliveries, the delivery times are shortened considerably.
Warehouses are now also finding themselves as retail outlets. Companies such as Costco have been making use of this system for years, but online food shopping is now also adopting this principle in the form of ‘dark stores’. While some, such as the Hanger Lane, West London Waitrose dark store, consists of a team of workers wrapped up to the nines against the refrigeration system, others, such as Tesco’s Erith, South-East London dark store, is fully automated. These automated dark stores are known as a ‘goods to person pickstation’, where robots remove the desired groceries from crates and deposit them with a picker. Perhaps this really is the future of grocery shopping – it’s estimated that around 6% of food shopping is already done online and this looks set to rise.
Robots aren’t just finding their place in grocery warehouses, however. Amazon are already keen to make use of robotic drones in delivery, but they also employ robots within their warehousing through Kiva Systems, a company they purchased in 2012 for $775 million. Kiva Systems run a complete order fulfillment solution which follows all processes from inventory control and replenishment to picking, packing and shipping. These robots could save between 20-40% of the cost of fulfilling an order. Who knows how much further this will progress in the coming years; Andy Rubin, the Google executive responsible for android, has already announced he plans to develop real humanoid robots to take over all aspects of retail.