What is a Smart Warehouse?

woman using digital fulfillment tools in a warehouse
01.17.2023

Over the last two decades, rapid advancements in small-scale robotics have given rise to the “smart home.” With the assistance of modern robot helpers, such as Amazon Alexa and the iRobot Roomba, homeowners have improved efficiency in their everyday lives in their own unique styles.  

Such a concept has spread to encompass warehousing applications, as well the advantages of a “smart warehouse” are nearly infinite in type and scale. And now, thanks to forward-thinking business models, such spaces are more accessible than ever.  

 

Defining Smart Warehousing 

Every warehouse looks a little different, and every automation solution serves to meet another need. 

The term “smart warehouse” refers to a warehouse operation that functions with the assistance of automation.

 

Visualizing 

One of the best advantages of artificial intelligence (AI) is the increased ability to understand how your warehouse operates. Using cloud computing programs that turn customer data into comprehensible visuals, you can get a clear picture of how your warehouse can improve and best predict what should come next for your business. 

While supply chain issues never seem to end, you can stay one step ahead of the market. Many problem-solving AI programs can recommend inventory levels and ordering timelines, so you stay caught up. 

AI can even help with your customer relationship management (CRM). By automating the distribution of marketing materials and other administrative tasks with business software, you can keep your customers satisfied while removing work from your plate. 

 

Cutting Costs 

On top of helping with strategy, AI technologies can help out your human workers. With automated systems functioning at full capacity, machines can take over many of the minute, repetitive tasks. Robots such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and other co-bot models can help sort, select, and carry products to workers. Some mechanized systems can even complete orders from selection and packaging to shipment. 

The reliability of pre-programmed industrial robots cuts down on human error and frees up much of your human resource pool to take on more complex work. Your workers are also much less likely to get injured on the job when robots take on more intensive labor. 

 

Scalability on Your Terms 

While a smart warehouse has undeniable benefits, smaller operations may be daunted by the budget it might take to integrate advanced technology into every process step. After all, expensive on-premises software can take months to reach its full potential. On top of that, new programs for industrial robots are being released at speeds higher than many warehouses can afford. 

 

Implementing Software-as-a-Service 

To meet smaller warehouses in whatever financial situation they may be, software-as-a-service (SaaS) programs have skyrocketed in popularity.  

The SaaS model works much like your average rental or streaming service. A designated SaaS vendor owns a range of cloud-based software programs. A warehouse can select SaaS applications from its web browser and rent programs from the vendor. These rental contracts are often much more affordable than buying a software package outright. 

At virtually any time, a warehouse that utilizes SaaS products can choose to end its contract on one program and switch to another or expand the software programs they use. This keeps a warehouse from using an outdated software system simply because it can’t afford an upgrade. 

Since the software remains the property of the SaaS vendor, the regular maintenance and service that SaaS programs need is the vendor’s responsibility, not the user clients. This removes yet another cost barrier that often bars operations with lower OpEx from utilizing the latest technology and programs. 

 

Partnering with Robots-as-a-Service 

Rental programs can benefit your warehouse far outside the bounds of software. Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) programs work in much the same way as SaaS. In this system, robots are rented to industrial facilities on short contract bases. When the contract time window is up, the manufacturing center or warehouse can choose to renew their contract or start a contract on a new machine. 

Just like SaaS, the machines remain the property of the RaaS vendor, and the vendor is still responsible for upkeep and repairs. When RaaS and SaaS programs are utilized together, warehouses of all sizes and scales are granted affordable access to the latest technology and equipment while minimizing hassle and wasted expense. 

Smart warehouses power the future of the shipping and transportation industry. With SaaS and RaaS services, more warehouses can access rapid developments in business applications than ever before. 

For more industry-leading information and top-tier warehousing software services, rely on GreyOrange. 

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