The logistics business has transformed a lot as automation and management software options have taken huge steps forward in the past several years. With this in mind, executives at warehouses not only across the U.S. but around the world have to look at how times have changed and whether their companies' operations have changed with them. If those businesses determine they need to step things up to meet the emerging norms seen industrywide, researching the best warehouse management systems is often a good jumping-off point.
Numerous recent polls show that warehouse spending is on the rise on most fronts, but companies now seem to have a particular focus on boosting their investments in new technology that helps them achieve greater efficiency, according to Mike Levans, group editorial director for Peerless Media. This is due in large part to the e-commerce boom seen in recent years. At this point nearly 60 percent of companies now say they're ready to invest in information technology. That's up from less than half just a year ago.
"The findings couldn't be clearer," Peerless Media editor at large Roberto Michel told Levans. "Spending is up, quite noticeably in IT, while 54 percent of respondents told us they expect to be spending more on materials handling systems and related technology over the next two years – and all aimed to help overcome e-commerce pressures."
New tech becomes available all the time
However, as these investment choices are made, it's worth noting that some may be hesitant to make a major decision because of how many emerging types of warehouse tech that feed data back to WMS systems are now available. For instance, new "pick by voice" technology can be used to audibly guide pickers through warehouses to the exact items they're supposed to ship out, and do so with the most efficient route possible, according to Modern Materials Handling. When navigating warehouses that can cover acres, having the ability to get to any one location quickly and easily is vital. Some estimates show that this tech improves worker productivity by as much as 50 percent.
New "put to light" technology will allow both wearables and nodes mounted on warehouse shelving to light up in certain colors when pickers approach the areas where their items are stored. This improves efficiency by as much as 15 percent. And when combining the two technologies, the ability to quickly and easily find items for shipping increases further.
Non-IT upgrades to make
It's also worth noting that not every step to improve warehouse efficiency – both in terms of actually speeding up the shipping process and cost effectiveness – requires a high-tech solution. For instance, warehouses that upgrade their lighting systems to LED, a technology that has been around for decades, will typically save a lot of money on electricity each month, according to Logistics Management.
LEDs take far less energy to power than fluorescents. They also last far longer than traditional bulbs. With LEDs, there's also no degradation of light quality, which leads to fewer mistakes and potentially a safer work environment.
In general, it's a good idea for logistics executives to take a top-down view of their operations and examine the many ways in which they can save time, energy and money. That, in turn, will help them become more adaptable to the changing landscape and make better decisions going forward as well.