Much talk has already been generated about digital transformations and wireless connectivity. This is very evident in the current digital-first world, where technological innovations in the form of gadgets and tools are used in various imaginative ways to bring brands and consumers together. Such transformation permeated many industry verticals including the supply chain and industrial warehouse operations.
But it may be a little known fact that the logistics and supply chain sector may be the pioneers in the use of wireless technologies. Long before the advent of smartphones and other Internet-enabled devices, warehouses and logistics companies have already been using RF and satellite technologies for transmitting the information as well as the tracking and monitoring of items as they move along the supply chain.
The growing popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the very practical advantages they can provide the supply chain triggers an even more intensive demand for better wireless connectivity in logistics facilities and industrial warehouses. Innovations like the use IoT Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) make it easier and more cost-effective for logistics and supply chain operations and management to track down goods and assets. Such systems make use of any connected devices instead of using standalone trackers, which are more expensive and limited in use.
Early adopters of these technologies among the biggest names in the logistics arena have reported an optimum and high-performing supply chain, with as much as 79% enjoying above-average revenue growth. The window of opportunity is still open for other players in the logistics arena, and they should start with boosting and improving the wireless platforms in their industrial warehouses.
Wireless Connectivity Trends for Warehouse Operations
There are new and innovative products and solutions that are intended to boost the productivity of warehouse operations. These products are intended to streamline the workflows, reduce the risk of errors, and improve efficiency through automation. Most, if not all, of these solutions, rely on good wireless connectivity, so it is a must for warehouse managers to get their wireless backbone in place before they can adopt these new trends. Some of these include:
- Location-Based Services (LBS)
Location-Based Services of LBS provides an automated way for warehouse management systems to track down items, devices, and assets. Harnessing geolocation and geo-fencing technologies makes it easier for warehouse personnel to locate these items anywhere within the logistics facility, offices or warehouses. Such solutions also minimize the threat of theft and pilferage.
- Sensor Solutions for Big Data Analytics
Wireless tools like ESL and IoT devices are equipped with a wide variety of sensors that can be used for various information-gathering applications. The data these sensors collect are varied, ranging from temperature and humidity information to real-time inventory numbers. Through wireless connectivity, warehouse management systems integrated with Big Data Analytics can gain insight from the information these sensors generate, allowing warehouse managers to implement informed decisions that can improve warehouse performance.
- Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) with LED Indicators
ESL solutions are proving to be a great alternative to the manually-driven and paper-based sticker labels, allowing better accuracy in inventories and higher efficiencies in warehouse operations. There are many ESL products and options available, and one that is ideal for industrial warehouse applications are ESLs with built-in light indicators. This allows warehouse personnel to easily locate products, particularly in huge warehouses with multiple inventories. These ESL devices are wirelessly connected to a central management system, like the ESL solutions from SOLUM that feature both a 2.4GHz and 900MHz RF system for more efficient operations.
- Interactive Displays
Warehouse systems can now be equipped with interactive displays like the ESL devices that feature button solutions. Connected wirelessly to a central system, warehouse staff can use these buttons and interactive displays to flip through multiple pages to get the information they need. These buttons can also be used for system alerts or to call the attention of specific warehouse staff.
- Smart Item Labels
Electronic labels are produced small and thin enough to be used as smart item labels. These wirelessly connected labels can be attached to individual items or assets, which warehouse personnel can use to get real-time information directly from the label. These labels also make inventory management much more convenient. They can also be equipped with RFID and geofencing features to prevent pilferage and theft.
- Assisted Reality Smart Glasses
Wouldn’t it be nice to make use of the cool gadgets only seen in science fiction movies and TV series? Like the eyeglasses or goggles that have internal displays that show information in real-time from a central computer. Such devices are actually in existence now. Warehouse management can take advantage of IoT-enabled wearables like the assisted reality smart glasses, which warehouse personnel can use to automate their inventory workflows. This would make their daily functions much more efficient, more intuitive and less prone to errors.
There are still many trends and innovations in warehouse operations like those described above that harness the power of wireless connectivity. Again, it is important that warehouse facilities have a robust and efficient wireless connectivity platform to enable their operations to enjoy the benefits of such technological advancements.
Advanced Wireless Connectivity Platform for Your Warehouse
The following provides some guidelines and considerations in implementing an advanced wireless connectivity system and platform in your industrial warehouse. As a general rule, focus on platforms that offer modular configurations, making it easy for you to customize and expand your warehouse operations as your business grows.
- Work with a Reliable Partner to Install Your Wireless Network
The performance of a good Wi-Fi network or Wireless LAN relies heavily on how well your wireless network architecture was designed, and how efficient and effective are the tools, devices and equipment that are installed in your network. It would be best to work with a good systems integrator or service provider that is knowledgeable in the latest wireless network systems, including 3G, 4G, or even 5G technologies, as well as innovative technologies like RFID and IoT.
- Evaluate Your Device and Installation Options
Before starting in your wireless network upgrade to boost the performance of your wireless connectivity, it would be a best practice to perform a comprehensive assessment first of the device, tools, and equipment in your warehouse that will make use of the wireless connection. These include mobile terminals, RFID readers, Electronic Shelf Labels, IoT devices, tablets, laptops, and smartphones. All these are tools that can improve the performance of your warehouse operations, so it is a must that they get good connectivity.
Knowing the devices and equipment that you will be using, as well as knowing the layout and location of these devices in your warehouse facility, your wireless technology partner can now have a better understanding of how many wireless access points are needed and where to strategically place these access points.
- Consider the Use of Multi RF Technologies
It would be to your best advantage to consider using multi RF technologies in your wireless network. Such technologies include the 2.4GHz and 900MHz dual RF technology that is used in innovative ESL solutions. Such systems are optimized for use in inventory management and warehouse environments. These makes are easier and convenient to switch between any of these RF options, depending on the tools and devices that you have deployed and implemented in your warehouse facility.
- Optimum Server Platform Configuration
The wireless environment in state-of-the-art warehouse facilities does not only rely on efficient access points and network switches. They also rely heavily on the efficient design and configuration of your server platforms. These servers are needed as your operating point where your warehouse management systems are launched from. These servers also house inventory management systems, IoT and ESL servers, and other applications in use in your warehouse.
There are server platform configurations that you can choose from, depending on how many warehouse facilities or logistics centers you have deployed. Servers can be installed locally in each location, or all these branches can be interconnected to a central server where all management and monitoring operations are launched from. You can also opt to launch your server platforms through a cloud environment, reducing the need for physical infrastructure and other management requirements.
- Central Monitoring and Real-Time Updates
Another consideration for wireless connectivity is how fast the data rate and performance of your network to allow for centralized monitoring as well as real-time updates of information. Devices like mobile stations, RFIDs, IoT equipment, and Electronic Shelf Labels need efficient transmission of data to and from central management to allow real-time updates of information. This makes warehouse operations like inventory tracking and management much more efficient, more accurate and less prone to errors.
There are other advances in wireless technologies that can be implemented within a warehouse facility environment. As a start, the solutions and considerations described above are enough for you to have an upgrade in your wireless network and improve the connectivity of your tools and devices for faster and more efficient use.
The Take Away
The digital age has ushered in an influx of really cool and awesome gadgetries, tools, and equipment that were only part of science fiction movies decades ago. These innovative technologies make it easier to perform functions that were previously manually-driven, manpower-resource heavy, inefficient while being cost-prohibitive. Now, workflows can be automated with higher levels of efficiencies, higher accuracies and fewer instances of risks and errors. On top of that, these innovations are very cost-effective, generating a positive impact on the bottom line.
An important and very integral part of these innovations involves wireless connectivity. WiFi systems have permeated a huge part of the daily operations of several industry verticals, and this includes the logistics and supply chain arena, particularly with regards to the wireless connectivity in their industrial warehouses. Many of these warehouses, which are early adopters in advancements on wireless connectivity, get to enjoy the huge benefits they can derive from technological innovations geared towards optimizing warehouse operations.
While many innovations are continuously introduced into the market, including tools, equipment, and gadgetries aimed towards warehouse operations, it is still important to take into consideration having a reliable wireless network backbone that ensures reliable connectivity for these devices.
Make your industrial warehouse more connected with the leading electronic shelf label provider today. Contact us today to learn more.