The IoT Reality: How to Prepare Your Warehouse

Tags: Warehousing, Technology

The smart warehouse is here, and it’s powered by an ever-increasing number of “things.”

The Internet of Things (IoT) has introduced tags, cameras, sensors, robotics, and more, all generating and needing a steady flow of data to run your warehouse. Countless case studies have found them to be faster, more efficient, and less prone to errors than us humans.

That got us thinking about one of the biggest, and costliest, error potentials: a bad rollout. So, we wanted to share four steps every warehouse needs to review and manage to adopt an IoT solution, whether it is a pure product tracker or if you’re fully automating put-away.

1. Get Your Data Together

The IoT world is full of data, and supporting this data is often one of the most extensive requirements for a large-scale implementation. Not only does each device need information to do its job, but your other systems have to receive that data and be able to use it. The scale and range of these setups are immense.

Turn to your IT team or vendors, depending on if you build or buy, and get an estimate of data usage and storage needs. You’ll want enough room to collect what you can and keep it, plus the power to process it for analytics. The more you’re able to capture and use, the more accurate your predictions will be.

If you’re choosing a new vendor or partner soon, be sure to include IoT in the questions you ask them.

2. Determine Your Use Cases

IoT lands in the warehouse in a big way. You can track individual workers, use small sensors to monitor inventory status and position, track carts and forklifts, scan for damaged goods, and adjust robotics that keeps your processes moving. IoT devices can make it easier for you to reorder and avoid stockouts or even perform preventative maintenance checks.

Take time to learn about the use cases and see which ones are right for your business. Planning and creating your IoT infrastructure should look at the IoT solutions you’ll implement in the near-term as well as the ones you’re most likely to adopt in the next year or two.

3. Plan Your Implementation

Warehouse prep for IoT can become very involved. You’ll need a foundational infrastructure as well as the IoT devices themselves, and likely a few handheld items to read or receive data on the floor. You might need to install Wi-Fi in your warehouse and all of the access points and signal boosters required to have complete coverage. There are also fixed sensors, barriers, and cameras to monitor things too.

And, that’s just the physical elements.

Your warehouse will need the proper software to access and use all of the IoT devices, and then your team will need to be trained to use it correctly. This takes time to install and get it right. Plus, your people need to learn how to optimize it and where to look when problems arise.

Planning and preparation for your IoT rollout, with a robust change management plan, not only helps the installation and launch be successful but ensures your team knows the tools well enough to use them. Nothing tanks ROI like people trying to figure out workarounds to do things the old way.

4. Come Back to Tags, Robots, Drones, and More

The IoT space is amazing, especially for the warehouse.

Temperature sensors can help you reduce product losses, there are drones able to perform accurate inventory counts, and wearable IoT devices are already scanning shipments and tracking the health of workers to prevent harm and fatigue. We’re also seeing a growth of pick-and-pack robots that do the heavy lifting and call in humans where their effort is best used.

This tech that feels far-reaching will very likely become an industry standard in the coming years. The goal of your tech lead today needs to be figuring out the best available tech for tomorrow. However, you should encourage them to keep looking at what the industry offers and what’s next.

Incremental advancements can help control your costs and keep you from getting left behind in the next big tech wave. Whether it’s IoT, AI, or whatever comes next, there’s no more time to stand still in business. Enjoy this new frontier.