Warehousing Automation on overdrive as new wave of E-Commerce takes flight

Warehouse automation

The pandemic wreaked havoc on global supply chains within days it first struck. However, for the Indian supply chain, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, of course after the initial shock. The pain points of the Indian supply chain were highlighted and to some extent, fixed. One such pain point was warehousing, which went through a transformation as the pandemic boosted e-commerce demand. In this piece, we focus on how automation has been a game changer for the warehousing industry.

Like most of us, I was and still am, one among those who are borderline fixated on e-commerce pretty much since I discovered the magic of ordering online. And with COVID-19 in picture, my dependency on it intensified. During the pandemic, my online orders went left, right and centre – from groceries to medicines to electronics to clothes, and what not. But being a part of the online ordering flock also meant that, like most others, I was least bothered about what was happening in the background of this miracle called e-commerce.

However, once I got my hands dirty to know about the what, where, when, who, and why of supply chain operations, I was beyond intrigued! It was no less than an enchantment for me. But there have been two distinct areas that have caught my attention and excited me like dark matter excites astrophysicists! One of them is Smart Warehousing – the facets of warehouse automation and how it makes operations ‘smooth like butter’.

The image of India’s warehousing sector is primarily of labourers carrying back-breaking weight to and from storage units. But that has changed in the last decade. Modern-day warehouses are equipped with cutting edge technology solutions to increase efficiency and productivity. Warehouses now are huge swanky places with an equal number of, if not more, robots and human resources. Bar codes have been replaced with QR Codes. Data Analytics has become a necessity and predictive inventory planning is no longer an unachievable feat. The examples of how technology and automation have changed the face of Indian warehouses are endless.

Smart Warehousing give e-commerce companies a competitive advantage by incorporating various automated technologies, which enables goods to be received, sorted, organised, and prepped for shipment automatically.”

~ Khursheed Alam, Co-Founder, Atmos Systems

But one may ask: What has been the demand factor for these smart warehouses? The answer, my friends, lies in how this story originally started – E-commerce! The increasing inclination of consumers toward e-commerce and its sub-segments, along with the major shift in order fulfilment expectations, together have been major factors in increasing demand for smart, automated warehouses. Let us now dive into how the warehousing segment is leveraging automation and technology to fulfil the demand created by e-commerce.

Smart warehouses and e-commerce

E-commerce is not a new concept. It isn’t that old, but it has existed in the modern world for quite some time now. However, in the last few years, e-commerce has witnessed cut-throat competition, especially in the post-pandemic era. There is constant pressure on e-commerce companies for faster deliveries (in most cases, less than 3 days), high accuracy in order processing, maintaining appropriate inventory levels and not to forget, reducing shipping costs.

Reliably fast delivery is one of the essential needs in e-commerce. Before making final buying decisions, consumers will always consider delivery times. Automated solutions like AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) and AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) have seen the most significant boost to store and move products to and from fulfilment workstations, solving labour challenges and ensuring the safety of the workers.”

~ SPS Chauhan, Director – Asia & Middle East, Bastian Solutions

Digitization is happening throughout the supply chain and the Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the many tech buzzwords in the warehousing sector these days. To put forth simply, IoT collects and analyzes data to improve efficiency. IoT devices make warehouses more centralized as well as synchronized, thereby, reducing inefficiencies, and making them faster as well as cheaper.

This is an abridged version of the original story that was published in the April 2022 edition of the Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete article, click here.

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