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The Digital Warehouse of the Future

Article by Heman Kassan, Chief Commercial Officer of Technodyn

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Photo: gettyimages

Today’s warehouses have evolved beyond purely being physical sites that are used to store products. They are now an integral part of the supply chain, as data is produced exponentially.

Managing these warehouses in their physical and digital forms has become a significant logistical challenge for organisations.

But this does not have to be the case, as advanced technologies can help address the complexities of a data-rich environment.

Even before the pandemic, forecasting and planning were challenging enough for those businesses relying on warehouses. And depending on the industry, factors such as seasonality, moveable holidays, weather, and other external events significantly impact stock control and management; thus, any delay in the supply chain and logistical processes can negatively affect the business.

In the post-COVID world, the pressure is on with organisations no longer competing purely on price but on speed-to-market.

But when dealing with these ever-changing market dynamics and volatility, opportunities for innovation present themselves, especially if the company has the right capabilities to help future-proof the warehouse.

Moreover, these capabilities are not built on legacy technology, spreadsheets, or other productivity tools. Instead, it requires digitally driven solutions capable of dealing with the scalability needed while integrating into cloud environments for growth.

Injecting resilience

The (digital) warehouse of the future will leverage applications like enterprise resource planning software to support supply chain and manufacturing decision makers in more integrated ways. This will contain things like supplier relationships, analysing time-based performance to identify the risk profiles of suppliers, connecting those risks to projects and contracts, and identifying the consequences and potential scenarios to mitigate against these risks before they can manifest themselves.

Recent occurrences have demonstrated to the market that manufacturers can come up with solutions to overcome supply chain disruptions on the fly, thanks to the availability of advanced, cloud-based technologies.

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Along with this is the capability to better model, analyse, and plan for supply chain risks that can result from disruptions.

Scenario planning

Similarly, the new warehouse will extend beyond the well-known just-in-time supply for production to incorporate just-in-case planning. For instance, this will address questions such as ‘Are parts most likely to fail locally held in stock? Is inventory burdened with a surfeit of costly, rarely required spares constantly becoming outdated?

If a new part is unavailable, can an alternative, replacement, or re-conditioned part be substituted instead, saving cost and time?’

The modern warehouse will have enhanced capabilities to model, plan, and forecast scenarios. This will be based on analysing the ever-expanding data footprint consisting of historical information and what is currently being generated. Decision-makers must have complete visibility to get the insights essential to manage a future-proofed warehouse effectively.

Another essential part of the warehousing process is dealing with contracts and SLAs for suppliers. Available solutions help manufacturers deliver streamlined, managed, and optimised environments. For instance, being able to model the entire cost base for a contract, including all elements (spare parts, tools, transport, people, and sub-contractors), can guide operations towards profitability across the contract lifecycle.

Of course, all this must be done within an increasingly complex regulatory framework, especially when it comes to sensitive customer data. Furthermore, sophisticated resource planning ensures the warehouse can support a dynamic demand profile incorporating forecasting and long-range capacity planning.

Age of the robots

Recently, much attention has been paid to the value of robotisation and using artificial intelligence and machine learning as cost-saving practices. Yes, robots are far more efficient than humans in the warehouse. Simply put, they can virtually work around the clock. And unlike their human counterparts, robots do not get bored by performing the same tasks repeatedly.

Even so, the future warehouse will not be one that is entirely run by machines. Human resources will always fulfil a critical role in the value chain. Their insights and expertise are crucial to guiding how the systems must operate. Automation cannot work in a vacuum. There must be guidance, insights, and feedback based on the environment, the successes and failures, and external market forces.

This can only be done with human operators who give the intelligence essential to unlock the benefits of the warehouse enriched by data.

None of these changes and innovations will happen overnight. The process to change has begun, requiring only a consistent effort and a willingness to look beyond traditional practices and embrace new, advanced technologies to unlock business growth.

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@TechEconomyNG connects past-present-emerging technological impacts on Businesses, People and Cities. All Correspondence to: [email protected]

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