A Fully Automated Supply Chain
The rise of automation all over the world is something we cannot ignore. We see it everywhere, even in our personal lives, from the Amazon Echo, smart home thermostats, and mobile apps that streamline day to day activities. Behind the scenes, the manufacturers and distributors that bring these products to you rely on automation to optimize their operations. Automation has made it possible for such operations to increase efficiency, make the transportation of goods safer and decrease their environmental impact.
Automation also creates the potential for these companies to work around some major issues facing the modern supply chain today such as traffic congestion and driver shortages. Congestion on the roads has been a growing concern over the years for both the general population as well as those within the transportation-of-goods industry. This problem has directed industry leaders and technology innovators to look for new ways to move goods around the world. Underground tunnels, drones, and self-driving cars have found their way into the transportation of humans and their general use continues to rise. Some of these technologies have begun to enter the supply chain as well. Manufacturing and distribution warehouse have also seen an increase in the number of autonomous robots inside their facilities.
In manufacturing and distribution warehouses, time is money and disruptions can cost you thousands. This is why these kinds of facilities take advantage of automation to save them time and money. Autonomous vehicles don’t have to be exclusive to the transport of people and goods outside the warehouse. For larger operations where product has to be transported between different areas of a large facility, autonomous forklifts have been utilized to manage this laborious work and combined with technologies such as RFID readers, they can accurately pinpoint the location of a product and keep records of its movement throughout the operation. This is similar to autonomous picking robots that can maneuver through a warehouse, pick product, and bring it to where it needs to be, eliminating a lot of unnecessary walking. To keep track of all this inventory, many operations implement autonomous systems that, paired with the RFID reading robots, constantly keep track of inventory levels. This reduces the need for inventory counts which can slow down warehouse operations.
Self-driving vehicle technology continues to become more and more advanced with new and improved safety features being tested and implemented constantly. With the mass adoption of self-driving vehicles, congestion can be reduced, fuel efficiency can be increased, and companies that are going through driver shortages can see relief. Driverless vehicles will also have the capability to drive more continuously without making stops that may be necessary with a human behind the wheel.
Drones have made strides by leaps and bounds in recent times. Moving from a fun toy to fly around your backyard, to having the potential to carry passengers above the gridlock of today’s modern cities as a flying taxi. Companies such as Amazon and UPS have already begun the process of implementing autonomous drones that can take data, entered by either someone at a distribution facility or on the courier trucks themselves, and deliver product directly to the consumers' doorsteps saving time and money and decreasing carbon emissions. Drones can also improve the customer experience, as orders can be delivered from distribution centers in 30 minutes. This is even more important as we are becoming more favourable to online shopping for day to day goods.
Automation has taken huge strides and is still contributing to massive innovations, but it is also something that needs more testing and real-world experience. However, with the number of unmanned equipment already in use today, there is no denying that automation will be a big part of our personal and professional future.