While technology continues to revolutionise supply chains outside the warehouse, it also has a huge potential to impact what happens inside the warehouse. We are already beginning to see robotics and connectivity changing processes and increasing efficiencies.
Proliferation in industrial robotics
The International Federation of Robotics has stated that the supply of industrial robots will reach 400,000 units by the year end of 2018 and continue to grow by 15% per year. This means that the global supply of robots is increasing exponentially.
While the use of robotics in manufacturing processes is common across industry, mainstream use within the warehouse is not yet a common practice in Australia. Online retail giant Amazon has been identified as an operative leading the charge in this space, initially purchasing Kiva robotics in 2012. It has been estimated that there are now over 80,000 robots being used today in approximately 120 Amazon Fulfilment Centres across America.
Research from the DHL Innovation Centre foresees robots working in all aspects of the supply chain from national distribution facilities to mail sortation centres and local last mile delivery hubs. Key to their deployment will be decreases in investment as production efficiencies increase across the world.
Example: LOGOS facility for Asahi Beverages
The roll out of such technologies in Australia has been slow however Queensland can attest to a recent key example which is leading the way.
In 2017, Pan Asian logistics specialist, LOGOS, developed an 18,762sq m purpose built high bay warehouse distribution and office facility for Asahi Beverages which included the provision of circa 9,000sq m of state of the art automated warehousing systems.
Asahi Beverages, one of the leading beverage companies in Australia and New Zealand, selected the LOGOS Heathwood Logistics Estate in Brisbane to locate their Queensland Warehousing Operations. The Estate is positioned directly along the Logan Motorway, being the main arterial and distribution precinct for Queensland, linking up with the Ipswich Motorway, Centenary Highway and the Gateway Motorway.
The high bay area of the Asahi facility utilises an Automated Storage & Retrieval System (ASRS) and Storage and Retrieval Machines (SRMs) operating within racking aisles to carry out, put-away and retrieval tasks of pallets from the racking. The low bay area facilitates forklift movements, selective pallet racking, case picking, drive-in pallet racking, pallet conveyors and automated stretch wrappers.
LOGOS Joint Managing Director, Trent Iliffe said that they were pleased to partner with Asahi Beverages to deliver the state-of-the-art facility.
“We’re seeing a larger number of our customers across Australia and Asia moving to automated warehouse solutions and the Asahi Beverages facility has set the benchmark for the quality of facilities we can deliver,” he said.
Effects on the industrial industry
With the beginning of these technology advancements hitting the market, 10 year old warehousing could see much higher redundancy in a shorter period of time.
Increased racking automation will create a need for taller warehouse units as occupiers utilise the volumetric cube more efficiently.
With these new facilities now exceeding heights of 36 meters, buildings which were constructed in the early part of this century that are topping out at 7 meters will struggle to adapt to the supply chain requirements of modern warehousing.
All of this is made possible by the increased use of wireless data making the connectivity of a range of new devices possible. We will soon refer to this notion as The Internet of Things, which will see 50 billion previously idle devices all connected to the internet by 2020.
The extra connectivity to Internet of Things is likely to increase order picking and inventory density in a warehouse whilst reducing utility costs such as lighting and air-conditioning.
Warehouses will need to evolve to allow for data and artificial intelligence to integrate with stock supply demands.
The impacts of technology combined with changing consumer habits will in turn create a need to accelerate the roll out of robotic warehousing in Australia. Ever changing consumer habits and differing business models coupled with legacy supply chains, technology and penetration of online retail means that there is no ‘one size fits all’ model.
The evolution of warehousing will continue to be based around design and location requirements, with innovation being the major driving force behind business productivity and profitability.