Increased connectivity is everywhere, as tech companies make everything from heating systems to refrigerators internet-ready. While many of these products do not directly pertain to the work done in warehouses and factories around the world, the number of connected devices will soon have a major impact on their operations as well. As such, it might be wise for executives to start integrating devices able to connect to the Internet of Things into their planning in the near future.

Billions of IoT-enabled devices will be in circulation within the next several years, and the impact they will have on how companies handle and distribute orders is likely to be significant, according to Ian Jindal, the editor-in-chief of InternetRetailing. While connected TVs and refrigerators are still the first products many people think of when they consider their IoT options, as time goes on and the technology advances, it will be a lot more than just electronics that are connected.

What will it look like?
In the near future, simple sensors will track almost everything in a warehouse or factory to create a real-time picture of every step of an order and the delivery process, the report said. This means that pallets or even individual boxes may have actively trackable radio frequency identification tags. Meanwhile, the robotics expected to become more common in the years to come will likely play a huge role in IoT visibility as well. And the good news for everyone involved is that this will not only help expedite the order and shipping processes, saving time for warehouse operators, but also give people a crystal-clear picture of their orders in transit.

Getting it right
With this in mind, it's important for executives to make decisions about how they will start the transition to a more connected, IoT-ready facility and integrate their current warehouse management systems, according to RTInsights. In theory, this can start with point-of-sale devices that allow retail operations to more seamlessly report changes in inventory. It may also include efforts adopting systems that change temperature, lighting and other factors within a warehouse or factory to cut costs whenever possible.

As a consequence of the coming changes to the warehousing industry as a whole, the global market for IoT in warehouse management is expected to reach more than $19 billion through the end of 2025, according to Research and Markets. That makes a compound annual growth rate of 27.3 percent over the eight-year period.

As a consequence of these coming changes, the first decision to make for many companies should involve the warehouse management systems they use already. While those that have been upgraded in the past few years may be built to handle the increased flow of data the IoT brings, some legacy systems may not. As such, it's important to consider the capabilities of a new system versus the costs of sticking with an older one. This type of cost-benefit analysis will go a long way toward informing the right time for any company to step into the next generation of warehouse visibility.