The demand for warehouse space has exploded in recent years as eCommerce continues to grow. But it's not just about the space. Customer expectations have evolved, which means warehouses need to operate more efficiently and extend services that reflect the customer journey. Often, this means embracing innovation and establishing new processes quickly.
Take “chaotic storage”, Amazon’s inventory management system. Conventional wisdom suggests that warehouse stock should be carefully organized. But chaotic storage is about immediately filling empty shelf space. Paired with the right technology, this method can save a whole lot of time.
On the surface, it’s surprising that Amazon would adopt an approach that seems counterintuitive. But sometimes, the most successful companies are those that look at their operations in a completely new way.
For companies that are ready for change, indoor mapping and positioning technology is shaking up warehouse management in a major way. Implemented correctly, these technologies will lead to far more efficiently-used spaces.
Here are three ways indoor mapping will transform warehouse operations in the years ahead.
Tracking Heavy Equipment
The largest warehouse in the world is also the largest building in the world. At 472.3-million cubic feet, the scale of the Boeing Everret Factory is mind-boggling. It’s easy to imagine how searching for a critical piece of equipment in a space this size can quickly turn into a serious loss in productivity. Ultra-quick shipping has become the standard, which means every minute counts.
How much time and productivity gets eaten up while workers are walking around in search of the nearest forklift?
There’s only one way to know the locations of all important machinery—and how far workers are from it at any given time—to understand the space, location, position and relationships of the building, people and assets in real-time. The big picture.
The InnerSpace platform delivers real-time maps that reflect the inside of the warehouse and accurately identifies the positions of the equipment and people inside. InnerSpace then pairs this data with visual dashboards and customized analytics to help managers better understand how their equipment is being used and make better deployment decisions.
That same data, also drives the InnerSpace wayfinding app for workers to navigate directly to the nearest forklift, instead of searching randomly. The time-savings are enormous.
The technology exists, and the outcomes are possible.
When it comes to saving time, inventory management can make a real difference. As Amazon has proven, there’s a lot more to it than simply putting things in the correct spot.
Effective systems are focused on retrieval. How easy is it for workers to find what they need? What can management do to help them complete their part of the fulfillment process as efficiently as possible?
Indoor mapping and positioning technology streamlines the steps involved, cutting down on the time it takes to complete them. It all starts with a comprehensive view of what’s happening in the warehouse.
Armed with a complete understanding of how employees find inventory—from common patterns in their movements, to places where they get distracted—management can make decisions that lead to greater productivity.
It’s not just managers who can make a difference. Consider this from the worker’s point of view. Where’s the inventory they need to fulfill an order? What are the most efficient pathways to fulfill multi-SKU orders? Are picking stations set up to optimize worker safety and productivity? Knowing the answers can revolutionize productivity and avoid loss.
By arming workers with the InnerSpace mobile app, we can provide turn-by-turn navigation, and recommendations to move inventory efficiently. With the right mapping and positioning solution, developers have access to the data and tools they need to create these types of efficiency-enhancing apps.
What will all of this mean in the near future? Systems are evolving to perform functions like predicting when inventory will need to be resupplied. And soon, industrial robots will enter more warehouses, where they’ll play a major role in finding and moving inventory.
After this transition, 3D mapping and positioning will continue to provide management with operational insights, leading to even greater efficiency.
Improving Overall Workflow
In warehouses across North America, the pressure to ship quicker is growing. Management needs to find ways of cutting down on the time it takes to get inventory out the door—without sacrificing worker safety.
One of the best ways to do this is to examine workflows in order to find inefficiencies. At which spots inside the warehouse are workers slowing down? Can these slowdowns be connected to extra physical exertion caused by something in the environment?
While the warehouse itself is critical, productivity isn’t determined entirely by the dimensions of a building. Logistics makes all the difference.
As just one example, shifting the placement of picking stations can reduce certain types of physical strain on workers. And improving ergonomics is often the key to increasing efficiency.
To achieve these outcomes, decision makers must first gain insight into how the warehouse environment can be improved.
Combined with accurate positioning like that in delivered in the InnerSpace platform, we can provide the ultimate workflow overview. How are workers—and inventory—moving around the warehouse? With access to real-time visuals and analytics, managers don’t have to spend a lot of time answering this question.
As an added (and absolutely crucial) benefit, better ergonomics often mean improved safety. Free of excessive physical strain and the distraction that goes with it, workers are less likely to get into accidents.
It’s also worth mentioning that real-time maps and location info can be extremely helpful during emergencies. When a chemical spill, fire, or other hazardous event occurs, it’s important to know where workers are. Even as automation begins to play a larger role in warehouses, there will always be people involved. And there will always be hazards.
In short, a well laid out warehouse takes workflow into consideration, without sacrificing safety. And the right indoor mapping and positioning solution can help management optimize for both.
With indoor mapping and location, managers can make the most of every square foot of interior space. As a result, warehouses that make use of this technology will become more efficient, cost-effective, and safe.
It all comes down to implementing the right solution. All too often, trying to reap the benefits of indoor mapping means piecing together numerous technologies and professional services.
Warehouse processes are slowly but surely becoming more streamlined. Successful companies will choose all-in-one solutions that can be easily integrated with automation.