6 ways AI is transforming warehouse operations

Barcelona, January 18, 2023.Warehouse and Logistics News magazine has published the keys for warehouses to take advantage of artificial intelligence:

1. The power of data

Many of the benefits of AI are related to the use of data. Every day warehouse operations create piles of data: customer orders, inventory statistics and delivery schedules. AI applications can offer insights into the current situation by recognising patterns of activity where productivity can be improved.

2. Inventory control

One of the most obvious benefits of AI is to gain better visibility and control over inventory. Digital cameras are routinely used to monitor stock levels and provide alerts for restocking. Managers can use data to improve inventory management by redesigning layouts, improving walking routes and speeding up replenishment.

3. Communications

Sending data and instructions via humans can result in miscommunication and mistakes. Manual record keeping is prone to human error – automating transactions with embedded rules produces fewer mistakes and speeds up processing. Wireless technologies have revolutionised internal communications by providing system monitoring and control at speed. AI ensures there is only one source of information to drive decision-making.

4. Better productivity

AI will not eliminate human labour from the warehouse but it can help make tasks easier and speed up operations. Machines work 24/7 and are always on. Humans need holiday breaks and sick leave. Automated AI-driven solutions will likely replace some workers, bring down resource costs and assist with labour shortages.

5. Improved Workplace Safety

AI solutions can monitor work patterns and predict areas where accidents are likely to happen by constantly analysing activities and assessing a risk score to them. This prompts action to improve warehouse layouts to reduce future accidents and thus avoid loss of life. Warehouse accidents are a major cause of concern and expense.

6. More effective contingency planning

Supply chain disruptions are constant challenges. We will continue to face challenges that can’t be predicted. AI can help supply chain businesses prepare contingency plans and map scenarios to manage their warehouse operations and inventory in difficult times.

There are still some challenges

The widespread use of AI applications in warehousing is still not there. Research and development are continuing but it is costly. Only large organisations can afford the investment required to design their own AI solutions. Mid-size companies and smaller companies are likely to opt for third-party software-as-a-service solutions (SaaS) that include AI technology.

There is integration required in the implementation process. We need to manage the human interface. Managers must be able to monitor the data and even override AI decisions when necessary. There will still be human involvement in understanding issues that the AI-based solution cannot solve. AI and robotics improve productivity and release people from performing mundane and unfulfilling tasks. But there are still concerns that AI may result in job losses although other customer-facing jobs are being created that need the human touch.

There is no doubt that AI-driven automated solutions will expand and become more affordable in 2023. They will become a feature in distribution centres replacing manual systems that will no longer be practical or efficient enough to enable organisations to remain competitive.

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