Sunday, November 08, 2020

The Future of Artificial Intelligence and Warehouse Logistics

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the science of programming machines to be aware of their real or virtual environments and to be deliberate and react to situations the way that a person would.  AI helps distributors expand their business by increasing revenues, logistics, and customer service.  With machines and humanity working together, companies, customers, and personnel can all triumph.

Here we will look at ways that AI can improve the production, efficiency, and safety of your warehouse.  AI provides two common groupings for supply chain manufactured goods:  Augmentation and automation.  Augmentation is when AI assists human beings in their day to day tasks, and automation is when AI functions without human interaction.

Augmented Warehouse

You have most likely heard of virtual reality in the gaming and entertainment industry that immerses a person in a virtual world.  Augmented reality (AR) is like virtual reality except that in AR, the person, in your case, your employee, is not immersed in a virtual world, but rather, it alters what the person sees in his or her reality.  

Are you confused?  No need to be.  Let’s look at some ways that AR applies to everyday tasks in your warehouse for increased safety, knowledge, and protection.

An augmented warehouse system offers an opportunity for AR to make us faster, safer, and smarter.  Yes, there is even an app for that, where a handheld device, like a smartphone, can be used with an application to help locate products in the warehouse, pick a product, and even update inventory numbers by scanning a barcode.

Here are examples that have been analyzed and are functional and available for use now in your warehouse.

  • Safety and Quality
    • Video and its recordings can allow for a safer and higher quality workplace.
      • A supervisor can see if an employee appears fatigued and doesn’t pull defective materials accurately. 
      • Use a recorded video to investigate a safety incident. 
      • Instead of a supervisor having to follow an employee, which may not always be conducive to the environment, observe an employee remotely to analyze, document, and improve processes.
      • If an employee encounters difficulty in the warehouse with processes, they could transmit a video to their supervisor for assistance.
      • The use of video and recordings could monitor employees to identify opportunities for training.
  • Order Picking
    • AR uses “smart glasses” technology, which are digital glasses (like you see with virtual reality) that collect data from external and internal sources to provide information to the user.
    • Rather than traditional paper lists, an employee wears a pair of smart glasses.  Smart glasses display a file in the employees’ visual field of the product needed for an order.
    • AR technology can also verify that employees pick the correct product by using optical readers to scan bar codes and assists the employee in more efficient picking with greater accuracy.
    • With smart glasses, picked items become automatically counted in your inventory.
  • Equipment Repair
    • AR technology enhances a trained employee’s knowledge base when repairing any equipment, from a conveyor to even heavy machinery.
      • Trained employees wear a pair of smart glasses.
      • Call an expert who can see, through technology, what the on-site worker sees, enabling the expert to walk the on-site employee through the repair process.
      • A trained employee could even access electronic manuals virtually through the smart glasses.
      • This technology allows a trained employee to perform hands-on repairs with increased skills and knowledge.

Automated Warehouses

Warehouse automation systems offer an opportunity to uncover routine and repetitive tasks in the warehouse and discover ways to automate those tasks.  There are four layers to automating your warehouse:

  • Basic automation uses software applications, scanners, and printed reports.
  • System automation uses barcodes with wireless barcode scanners to input and track data System automation digitizes inventory data and integrates that data into your software environment.
  • Mechanized automation refers to the use of robotic systems in the warehouse (e.g., conveyors)
  • Advanced automation examples include automatic sorters, robotic picking, and palletizers (a machine that provides automated methods for loading cases of goods or products onto a pallet).


  • Robotic Arms are a type of pick-and-place robot.  The robotic arms are machines with multi-jointed limbs that can turn, move, lift, and maneuver products in warehouses.  
    • Robotic arms can function for picking, packing, receiving, storing, and even palletizing products.
  • Collaborative Robots (“CoBots”) are mobile robots programmed to help people to perform a variety of tasks throughout the warehouse.
    • Can follow human pickers and act as storage bins for picked orders
    • Can direct workflow and transport of loads to other warehouse locations
    • CoBots have sensors that allow them to distinguish between boxes and obstacles.
  • Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGV)
    • Using an AGV in the warehouse industry is full of promises to save money and time and improves safety by reducing accidents. 
    • An AGV is a portable robotic vehicle that navigates without a driver throughout the warehouse via floor wires, magnets, lasers, or cameras. Their unique job is to move product throughout your facility.
    • Examples of an AGV include forklifts, pallet trucks, and stackers.
  • Aerial Drones have astounding potential for the logistics industry.
    • Drones use optical systems and learning technology to navigate warehouses from above.
    • Drones can give operators a vision field of dangerous and hard to see places making it safer for personnel.
    • Drones help to optimize the warehouse inventory processes.
    • Drones are currently augmentation robots requiring human assistance.

In logistics, data is collected in massive amounts each second across the globe.  Artificial intelligence transforms data to assist you with your decision process for developing new or improved methods throughout your industry and facility for better efficiency, safety, and increased customer service.

Advanced technology and competition in logistics give pause to consider utilizing AI in your facility seriously.  Strategically, adding AI to your operations can increase your profits and create a safer work environment by optimizing internal material flows.

Post by Paul from

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Managing the Coronavirus Risk to the Supply Chain

Managing the Coronavirus Risk to the Supply Chain

A year ago, who could have predicted that every business would be affected by a novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? Unfortunately, we’ve all learned the truth of the matter. In the months since the disease was first classified as a pandemic, no industry in the country has been spared.

Troubles in Supply Chains 

Consumers across the country have been forced to change their buying habits. Some businesses have been forced to close, while others have faced unprecedented runs on essential products. Dramatic surges and dips in supply and demand are everywhere. It’s been hard on supply chains across the country and around the world.

Sourcing has become challenging, leading to shortages in product inventories. Supply networks are limited, and alternative routes and transportation options constrained. Stay-at-home guidelines or sickness are creating labor shortages. Smart business leaders have evaluated these conditions and decided to invest in resiliency.

Taking Stock, Making Change

These and other challenges have prompted leading warehouse and facility companies to take concrete steps to monitor and strengthen their supply chain operations. They are looking across their businesses to create new processes and systems, strengthen existing ones, and keep a watchful eye on supply chain best practices.

At the top of their priorities is the safety and health of employees. Leading companies are communicating clearly and often about risks to workers’ health and safety. When they can, they offer work-at-home or hybrid options to limit virus exposure.

Companies are making changes designed to boost their ability to anticipate and respond to new and emerging supply chain challenges. For many, the steps will become part of a more strategic investment in supply chain integrity. They include:

Building new teams to evaluate inventory risks and safety
Developing new or strengthened distribution monitoring processes and systems
Contacting suppliers more frequently to monitor risk to distribution and inventories
Identifying alternate supply sources
Making plans for critical suppliers when supply chain disruptions occur
Optimizing manufacturing and delivery capacity
Working with sales and operations teams to better pinpoint demand
Prioritizing supplies and inventory for potential demand spikes
Strengthening risk management plans
Balancing current inventory with future demand

COVID-19 continues to shake supply chains to their core, and some companies are already failing as a consequence. Those that succeed will be those who planned for these contingencies or adapted quickly to new transport, logistics, and storage solutions. A robust risk management plan that takes our new reality into account and an educated workforce can help your company come out stronger when we’re able to return to normal life.

Unfortunately, the global crisis isn’t over yet. But with the right choices and innovative solutions, we can work together through the challenge and meet a better, brighter future. 

[Based on blog post]

Friday, June 02, 2017

Reducing Food Waste Across The Supply Chain

Image Credit: Go Supply Chain.

One of the big issues when it comes to the transport of food is waste. Around a third of all food produced for consumption by humans is wasted and in 2012 costs regarding food waste in the EU alone were estimated at 143 billion euros.

There's obviously a huge business case for reducing food waste, but with one in nine people in the world suffering from chronic undernourishment (according to UN estimates) and enough food production to feed everyone, this is a huge humanitarian issue too.

Most of the information you will find on reducing food waste focuses specifically on the waste of food by consumers and in retail. There is nowhere near the same amount of information on food waste in the supply chain, yet significant reductions can be made here and it represents a massive opportunity for the companies involved to increase revenue.

There are several innovative ways of reducing food waste in the supply chain, such as biosensors. These detect substances such as pathogens and are capable of transmitting that information in a quantifiable manner. Technologies like this make it possible to monitor where problems are occurring and put in solutions to solve those problems.

Within the cocoa industry, solar driers (simple structures that are designed to dry the beans) are used at the farms to dry the beans within the correct moisture level for transport. This allows the farmer to see less beans rejected and a better price for his crop.

Focusing on cost isn't always the best solution. A case study showed Barleans managed to increase turnover of organic oils by 40% at the end of the 1990s. They did this by pressing the oil on demand resulting in a fresher product and delivering by express. This resulted in a lower shelf life, and competitors could not compete because their distribution process took too long.

Solving problems in the supply chain can increase revenue and also helps ensure that food is getting to hungry mouths. It's a win-win!

Written by Gavin Parnell at Go Supply Chain

Friday, February 24, 2017

Which is the right weighing scale is right to weigh pallets?


Weighing pallets in factories and warehouses is an essential process for ensuring out-going shipments aren't overloaded.
But with so many pallet weighing scales available, deciding the type of pallet scale you need, be it a platform scale, u-frame, drive thru, weigh beams or pallet truck scale, can be a tough call.
Choosing what you need depends on your use and your requirements. Consider your specification - and the questions below - carefully to help you decide.
Before purchasing, consider the following:
·       What are you weighing? What does the capacity need to be?
·       What environment will the scale be based in?
·       Will a mobile aid the weighing process?
·       Do you have any other requirements?
Then consider the options below, and choose the one which is most appropriate to you.
The Platform Scale
Platform scales offer the most flexibility - weight wise - for weighing heavy loads. They tend to have a much higher capacity and are built for heavy use in industrial environments. Compared to pallet truck scales they are also more accurate.
Their large bases are useful for weighing a range of items, but the heavy weighing platform is difficult to move - so we recommend it stays in a fixed location. An annual service contract is recommended to ensure the scale stays accurate.
The Pallet Truck Scale
Choosing a pallet truck scale can speed up your weighing processes. The video below took Marsden Group’s (leading weighing scales manufacturer) newest platform scale and pallet truck scale and raced them to show how long weighing a pallet took with each solution::

Pallet truck scales combine a scale with a pump truck - therefore cutting down from both items to a single unit saves on factory traffic. Waterproof pallet trucks and versions fitted with a printer are also available. Plus, you can use Marsden pallet truck scales as standard pallet trucks when you don’t need it for weighing.
However, pallet trucks require charging as they are powered by rechargeable battery.
Weigh Beams
An alternative mobile option is a set of weigh beams - like Marsden’s new PB-1200-I-400.
Many weigh beams, including this new scale, are accurate to 0.1kg - making them the most accurate option for weighing pallets - and an added bonus is they can be easily stored away when not in use.
The biggest advantage for choosing weigh beams is probably that they can be positioned the desired distance apart for weighing pallets of any size. The beams can be positioned in relation to the load being weighed, meaning you can use them to weigh other large items, such as dolavs.
Because you’re likely to be moving the weigh beams about regularly, rather than sitting them permanently in a set location, a service contract is strongly recommended to keep them accurate.
The U frame Scale
U frame scales, like the I-400-equipped UF-1200-I-400-NA are portable and fitted with handles and wheels - making it an easy-to-use equivalent to platform scales.
Like weigh beams, u frame pallet scales are perfect for limited space environments - because you can store them away when not in use. But unlike weigh beams, these are one fixed unit meaning they’re a little easier to move around your premises - and provide more stability when placing a load on the scale.
The Drive Thru Scale
Drive thru scales are fitted with ramps so that they are easier to load than platform scales, and you can roll a pallet truck onto the scale when weighing pallets. This is ideal if you don’t have a forklift truck, which is what you would need to add a pallet to a standard platform scale.
As with platform scales, you will need to ensure space is made for drive thru scales as they are best kept in one fixed location. The scale can be moved by forktruck - but care is needed when moving/repositioning in this way.
However, drive thru scales tend to have a lower capacity - like the DT-I-400 has a 1500kg capacity, whereas the P-NA-I-400 (the platform scale equivalent) can hold weights up to 3000kg.

Disclaimer: I receive no compensation for running this article

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

What does the future have in store for the humble warehouse?

Guest blogger Rachel Stires
The warehouse of today is a far cry from its humble beginnings. What started as a way to prevent famine has now turned into a powerhouse that effects the entire supply chain. 

The warehouse has evolved drastically during its history, but one change that has been vital to its growth is the automation of various processes. When I say automation, I mean the usage of computers and machines to make up for what humans cannot do. 

Here’s how these processes have helped the warehouse, and what they mean for its future.

1.  Better inventory management and control: Back in the day, inventory was kept track of with the use of the pen and paper. While anybody can be thorough and efficient, human error is still inevitable and can lead to misrepresentation of inventory. This can result in a lot of things, such as orders or stock being misrepresented. By automating this process with computers such as barcode scanners, wireless, and mobile computers, we have been able to avoid mistakes like this. Not only that, but utilizing technology helps increase the flow of inventory, as well as the fill rate.

2.  Improved Productivity: People are great and while they get a lot done, computers help to improve productivity in all operations of the warehouse. Whether it’s inventory, where software can keep track of the flow of goods and the stock of the warehouse, or warehouse management, where software helps direct and support management and staff. In the past, we had to rely on people for all this, and it left room for human error and miscommunication. By incorporating technology, companies can ease the burden on their staff and improve satisfaction in the workplace. This also boosts employee motivation, which feeds directly back into productivity. By streamlining the system, you encourage employees to be a seamless part of it.

3.  Fully Automated Warehouses: In the future, we will see warehouses where almost every process can be automated, and in many ways the future has already arrived. Robots have become an integral part of major warehouses like those run by Amazon. They assist workers in picking items from inventory, and have helped make the process more efficient. In the future, these robots could assist or take over for humans in tasks that are too labor intensive or menial.  This could help enhance productivity, but many people are worried that it will lead to job loss. The future of the job market depends on the development of these robots.

There’s still a long road ahead for total warehouse automation, but the changes and advancements made so far have optimized processes and made it a lot easier on workers, management, and their customers. The future holds many opportunities to further streamline warehouses, but it’s still amazing to look back at all that has been achieved in the past years and just how far we have come with technology.

Rachel Stires is a media relations specialist for Versatile Mobile. In her free time she enjoys writing and keeping up with various industries, including logistics and aviation.”