The modern warehouse has come a long way since its earliest iterations at the beginning of the industrial revolution, where massive storage facilities were needed to accommodate the mechanically produced goods of the era. While warehouse management practices and processes have evolved with the time, they’ll need to maintain their adaptability and versatility to accommodate the onset of Industry 4.0.
Looking Back at Industry 2.0
While Industry 1.0 introduced the concept of mechanical mass production to the world, it was Industry 2.0 that utilized the appropriate allocation of resources, such as manual labor. This new wave of functionality was spurred on by the use of electricity, which made operations far more efficient than the steam and water-driven hardware originally in use.
Succeeding in Industry 3.0
The third industrial revolution gained traction in the 21st century along with high-speed Internet access, mobile connectivity and renewable energy. Also known as Industry 3.0, this is a time that is full of creativity, innovation and ingenuity. Warehouses now offer more services than ever before, some of which are completely beyond the realm of inventory control and shipping logistics. Just like the revolutionary phases before it, however, Industry 3.0 is quickly giving way to the future and Industry 4.0.
Preparing for Industry 4.0
Now that we’re several years into the 21st century, manufacturers are looking at ways to streamline production, boost productivity and achieve greater profitability. They’re doing this by re-examining their storage methods and using new hardware to meet their needs. To satisfy supply chain demands, a distribution center must be able to efficiently manage stored items. Industrial automation, a trend that started with Industry 3.0, is expected to continue and gain even more momentum as we enter into Industry 4.0. The incorporation of the industrial Internet of Things is set to change the landscape and better control the automation process.
Considering Future Technologies
While the future of Industry 4.0 is bright enough on its own, there are numerous outside influences that could play a role in the future of warehousing. The prevalence of aerial drones, which are often used to survey job-sites from the air, can help with site location and possibly even transportation and shipping. Other technologies, such as 3D printing, can minimize the amount of necessary warehouse space by offering on-demand parts whenever they’re needed. One thing for certain, warehouses must adapt to new technologies to stay relevant, or risk going extinct.
Image by Axisadman (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 and GFDL