From Forklifts to Shelves, IoE is “Lighting Up” Warehouses around the World
Connecting Dark Assets: An ongoing series on how the Internet of Everything is transforming the ways in which we live, work, play, and learn.
If you’re trying to run a business today, you are undoubtedly dealing with global manufacturing and distribution systems—and competitors from around the world. The Internet has given companies of all sizes access to a global marketplace, and that means competing in an environment where cost is king, and margins are razor-thin. No wonder manufacturers and distributors are trying to squeeze every bit of inefficiency out of every link in their supply chains.
Fortunately, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is here to light up “dark” supply chain assets by connecting them to data, things, and processes that multiply their value. As a matter of fact, Cisco Consulting Services’ research shows that IoE has the potential to create or migrate $2.7 trillion in value over 10 years’ time by improving supply chain and logistics efficiency and reducing waste.
Take, for example, the common forklift. It’s an ubiquitous feature of factories, warehouses, and loading docks everywhere—but not tremendously efficient when you factor in the time it takes for a driver to locate the correct pallet, and the damage that sometimes occurs while navigating stacked pallets through narrow warehouse aisles. But when IoE “lights up” this dark asset by giving it sensing capabilities and connecting it to the right data and software, the forklift becomes an auto-guided vehicle (AGV) that can find its own way through a massive warehouse. The AGV can go directly to the correct pallet of goods and deliver it at the right time to the right place. It will even plug itself into a charging station at the right time to ensure optimal battery life.
But it’s not just auto-guided forklifts that are transforming warehouse efficiency—sometimes it’s robot-guided shelves. Amazon is using small Kiva warehouse robots to move portable shelves from warehouse storage to an area around the perimeter where employees pick the correct items to fulfill customer orders. The company is planning to have 10,000 robots deployed in warehouses around the world by the end of the year, for even more efficient order fulfillment.
IoE has only begun to unleash innovation by lighting up “dark assets” all along the supply chain. In the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at everything from instant manufacturing to self-driving trucks. I can’t wait to see what’s next—what’s your prediction?