The meteoric rise of on-line shopping has brought unprecedented demand for both warehouse space and vastly improved picking and distribution efficiency. The industry, however, is struggling to keep up with these demands in the face of supply chain stoppages, 24/7 urgency on orders, and labour retention.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a potential solution. Despite its complexity and high installation costs, AI’s Machine Learning (ML) functionality provides it with the tools to streamline and speed up warehouse processes.
ML has made it possible for AI to analyse data obtained via the so-called Internet of All Things, then use what it has learned to develop ever more efficient processes within the warehouse environment. There are four critical areas in which AI can bring enormous benefit, to look fully at the benefits we created a white paper.
Success in eCommerce requires fast, accurate picking and an efficient delivery and returns process. This requires delivery-driven intralogistics, synchronisation between picking and sorting, reduced shelf visits, and consolidated deliveries to save transportation fuel and time.
Using predictive management, AI can bring about these improvements by:
- Analysing stock flow to place popular items in the best shelf positions to reduce walking and picking times
- Maintenance of required stock levels via automated stock flow analysis
- Automated quality control using scanning to identify defects and overrun expiration dates
- Real-time environmental monitoring to ensure warehouse temperature, humidity and light levels are at optimum levels for both the product and staff and functioning at an economically and environmentally efficient level.
AI can carry out repetitive and hazardous tasks without experiencing fatigue, which can reduce speed, accuracy and efficiency, and compromise workforce safety. A further benefit is the absence of downtime due to working hours restrictions or labour shortage issues.
Employee safety requires well-maintained machinery and equipment, however, maintenance accounts for between 15% to 60% of warehouse costs. With predictive maintenance (PdM) using data analytics and AI models you it can predict and prevent hazards caused by equipment failure by monitoring machine conditions instead of their faults.
Using mixed reality (MR), a meld of virtual and actual monitoring, AI can provide both routine and predictive maintenance which will reduce downtime due to mechanical and other failures. Analysis of component lifecycles enables AI’s predictive maintenance functions to foresee mechanical failures and safety hazards, as well as order parts ahead of their replacement date.
A well-trained workforce is a safer one. Human-computer interaction research has shown that MR can also be used for training which contributes to improved problem-solving and enhanced design, assembly, and quality control skills.
Accuracy and Control
Real-time data detection within AI is being used to improve and control accuracy by data detection with quality control actions for monitoring and managing stock levels including preventing over-stocking and identification for automatic reorder.
Machine sensing will enable end-to-end product tracking using cameras that detect the movement and position of cargo and computer vision will aid drones to navigate cycles through the warehouse by scanning items without the need for human intervention.
A major controversy around AI stems from the concern that it will replace the human workforce. However, the two can work together. Tedious and repetitive jobs can lead to boredom, fatigue and errors. Not so for AI, which can fulfil these roles while humans concentrate on more fulfilling and challenging tasks such as customer service and operational analysis, thereby increasing employee engagement, motivation and staff retention rates.
By the end of 2021 there were three million industrial robots working worldwide. Robotics are the ultimate power pickers and packers, able overcome the limitations of human performance, making them an essential asset to intralogistics.
Kardex has a white paper that goes into details on our understanding our customer’s unique challenges. We continue to work on a state-of-the-art product portfolio and customise intralogiestics solutions to fit specific needs. We are at the forefront of innovation, especially in modern approaches to technological advancements like A!.