What is a Smart Warehouse?

As an eCommerce business, you’ve probably wondered what a smart warehouse is. Or, even before talking about a smart warehouse, you’ve probably found yourself googling: “What is a data warehouse”? They’re similar concepts, so let’s examine what they both mean.

Think of a smart warehouse as more than just a place to store things; it’s an advanced centre where tech meets human expertise to make packing and sending orders more efficient.

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Unlike traditional warehouses, where you need to rely on manual labour and systems, smart warehouses use warehouse management software to automate inventory control and how you pack and send orders.

Smart warehouse technology works seamlessly together to track inventory as and when it changes, optimise picking procedures, and provide key insights on how everything is running for warehouse managers.

Imagine being able to monitor your inventory levels, track every item’s movement within the warehouse, and make data-driven decisions instantly. That’s the immense potential of a smart warehouse.

A data warehouse is similar, but instead of holding and monitoring physical stock, you practice data orchestration – i.e., you hold data about your organisation in multiple systems across your company. You may want to consider using both to streamline how you run your eCommerce business.

What are the main aspects of a Smart Warehouse?

Smart warehouses use a combination of technologies to ensure everything runs as it should. They redefine the traditional concept of the “warehouse”. Right now, corporate giants like Amazon are using smart warehouses, but in the future, we’ll see a shift to smaller businesses taking advantage of this tech, too. Let’s take a look at what makes these warehouses tick.

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

At the core of every smart warehouse is a Warehouse Management System (WMS). Think of the WMS as the coordinator. It will manage all your eCommerce inventory and process all orders to improve your workflow. This automation of tasks takes a lot of the administrative work out of running a warehouse.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)

You no longer need to rely on manual labour for storage and retrieval. Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) use robotics to store and retrieve your products quickly and accurately to maximise the space you have. This automation speeds up operations and improves how accurate your inventory is and how productive you are.

Collaborative robots

In a smart warehouse, robots act as trusted teammates alongside your employees. Collaborative robots, also known as Cobots, work alongside humans seamlessly and fit easily into your daily workflow. These machines will easily handle all your repetitive tasks, allowing your employees to take on more difficult responsibilities, improving the efficiency of your warehouse and the safety of your workplace.

Advanced tools

In a typical smart warehouse, you’ll likely see the following warehouse technology tools being used:

  • 5G Technology – The high-speed data transfer capabilities of 5G technology allow you to monitor your inventory in real time to respond quickly to changing demands.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) –  IoT devices help you collect and exchange real-time data. This provides valuable insights into your inventory levels and equipment performance.
  • Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs) – AGVs operate independently, making material handling seamless within the warehouse.
  • Automated Inventory Control – By utilising digital and RFID tags, precise inventory tracking is possible. This helps to eliminate any discrepancies in your stock levels.
  • Warehouse Management Systems – Acting as the central hub of a smart warehouse, WMS software oversees all your operations to help you continuously improve how your warehouse functions.

6 ways a Smart Warehouse can improve your eCommerce business

With eCommerce being so competitive, it’s crucial to stay ahead of the curve and make yourself stand out against the other businesses out there.

A smart warehouse can be a strategic investment to make your business run smoothly. Here are the six ways that adopting a smart warehouse could help improve your eCommerce business.

1. Fulfil orders with ease

With a smart warehouse, you don’t need to worry about inefficiencies in fulfilling orders. Using automated systems that combine robotics and AI can help streamline the entire order fulfilment process – from when an order is processed to when it is eventually shipped to the customer.

2. Improve the accuracy of your inventory

As an eCommerce business, you understand the importance of managing your inventory correctly. Smart warehouses use advanced tech like IoT sensors and RFID tags to help you get real-time visibility on your inventory levels. You can track precisely when your stock moves to prevent stockouts and replenish your inventory when necessary.

3. Optimise how you use your storage space

Space is a precious commodity in a warehouse. You must maximise your storage space to operate as best as possible. Smart warehouses use automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) to maximise your available space. They will work to stack goods vertically to make sure you’re using every inch of available space. This increases your storage capacity without needing to pay for more square footage.

4. Manage your returns quickly

Returns are inevitable when running an eCommerce business, but they shouldn’t strain your operations. Smart warehouses work by improving the returns management processes. They automate inspection, sorting, and restocking so your employees don’t have to spend hours reviewing returns.

All your returns are quickly processed and made available for resale, helping you keep your cash flow consistent.

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5. Make data-driven decisions

eCommerce businesses thrive when they use the data available to them. Smart warehouses put data first, storing and then using analytics to give you insights to help you make better decisions.

You can analyse data on critical aspects like your order volumes or customer preferences. With this, you can improve your product placement online and how you price your items.

This data-driven approach improves how your business operates and enhances how satisfied your customers are, now and in the future.

6. Become scalable and adaptable

As you scale and grow your business, your warehouse needs to adapt. Luckily, smart warehouses can scale and adapt to your needs, allowing you to expand your operations to meet demand as it grows.

Whether adding new product lines, entering new markets, or accommodating any seasonal fluctuations, smart warehouses provide the flexibility and agility you need to scale your business.

Embrace the future of eCommerce operations with Smart Warehouses

Online shopping is a fast-paced world. Customer expectations are always changing, and competition is fierce. It’s crucial to stay one step ahead to succeed, and using a smart warehouse can be one of the ways to improve your eCommerce business.

Gone are the days when we were limited by manual labour and traditional warehouse management systems. With smart warehouses powered by robotics, AI-driven technologies and advanced analytics, your eCommerce business can achieve unprecedented efficiency, accuracy, and scalability.