Mobile Productivity

Robotics, Mobile Technologies Improving Supply Chain Efficiency

Robotics is improving supply chain efficiency at more than one third of companies, according to Retail Dive. Warehouse robotics is particularly important, as it enables companies to meet the needs of their growing e-commerce businesses.

Robotics is a key feature of the new Amazon, Inc. fulfillment centers, allowing the company to cut the time it takes to move goods from hours to mere minutes. Other companies are retrofitting existing warehouses with robotics that can quickly load and unload pallets, pick different parts, like fasteners, tools and other small items from bins, and perform other functions much more quickly than humans. Robots in warehouses move along pre-programmed routes to transport inventory from the receiving area to the proper space in the warehouse, then retrieve individual items to fulfill orders. According to Tech Insider, in some instances, retail robots can improve warehouse efficiency by as much as 800 percent. Though there are still duties that workers can perform just as well, the trend toward robotics is undeniable. Retail Dive reports that the percentage of surveyed companies using robotics to improve supply chain efficiencies is expected to more than double within the next 10 years.

Though the effect robotics is having on supply chain efficiencies cannot be understated, other automation trends are improving supply chain efficiencies as well.

Mobile Technology Keeps the Supply Chain Moving

According to Inbound Logistics, mobile technologies are essential for managing supply chain efficiency on the go. Ruggedized mobile devices, including the recently introduced Samsung Galaxy S7 active, are designed for use in factories and other harsh environments, enabling workers in distribution centers and warehouses to perform mobile activities while in the field. Many companies are using smartmobile phones in combination with other connected technologies, like bar code scanners and mobile smart printers, replacing older legacy technologies.

Outside the warehouses themselves, mobile devices provide real-time tracking and traffic information so consumers and distributors know where their packages are. Smart traffic apps help route truck drivers around traffic congestion to improve delivery times.

Wearable technologies will also further enhance supply chain efficiency, as reported by Supply Chain 24/7. Wearables are expected to help improve safety and communication, as well as productivity. Productivity enhancements could increase by as much as 30 percent, while the devices will also contribute to safety by helping to monitor worker stress levels and warning workers when they come too close to dangerous areas. Smart watches are a particularly important development for workers, enabling them to access text messages, emails and calendar updates without having to stop what they’re doing to reach for their phones. Workers can also use pedometer apps to track their steps and change supply locations accordingly to minimize movement and increase efficiency.

Wage Hikes Drive Increased Automation

According to Fortune, distribution centers will be increasing their reliance on robotics and other automation as the push for higher minimum wages continues in many areas. Distribution centers can’t simply be moved to areas with cheaper labor, as many of those areas don’t have the necessary transportation infrastructure to make relocation economically feasible. Therefore, many distributors are instead increasing their reliance on automation.

As robotics and other technology improve supply chain efficiency, warehouses must adapt to these new technology trends or risk being left behind.

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 active provides military-grade durability and all-day battery life that is ideal for use in manufacturing or other tough and dirty work environments.

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Phil Britt

Phil Britt is an experienced journalist who has covered various aspects of retail and business, including technology, multichannel strategies, collections, payments and supply chain issues for various national publications and websites for more than 20 years. He closely follows developments in the digital economy and the shifts in retail strategies as millennial purchasing power and influence supplant that of baby boomers.

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