What is Industry 4.0 technology? 

Industry 4.0 refers to the “smart” and connected production systems that are designed to sense, predict, and interact with the physical world, to make decisions that support production in real-time. In warehousing it can increase productivity, energy efficiency, and sustainability. 

Integrating 4.0 technologies and designing your next warehouse facility. 

 Keep these principles in mind. 

We are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution. Things are changing and it’s going fast! Faster than ever. To increase productivity, reduce costs, accelerate mass personalization, we are seeing the global supply chain warehouses shifting towards the promises of industry 4.0-including the internet of things (IoT), cloud computing and artificial intelligence. 

  • So how do you adopt and integrate these tech-focused changes efficiently? 
  •  How do integrate industry 4.0 so warehouses flow?  
  • How do you continue to design with human workers and keep their needs front and center? 

Here are the proposed principles that will keep your design grounded so your operation is an industry benchmark. 

When implementing industry 4.0 technologies and designing your facility, bear in mind these principles: Balance data and materials, make work joyful with beautiful workspaces, enabling operational vision and achieve true machine collaboration through open architecture. It’s time for organizations and warehouses to move beyond the information age into the imagination age. 

Balance Digital Transformation with the Material Demands of a Warehouse  

Digitization and the integration of new technology can increase throughput and save time when implemented in the proper manner. Smart software can lead to close-loop feedback, where systems communicate and coordinate specific tasks without the need of human interaction.  

Machine-to machine communication and AI models can help warehouses operate efficiently and take proactive actions like proactive maintenance or cybersecurity measures. But it’s important to remember that with the addition of automated systems and machine learning, there are potential pitfalls in thinking that smart software will solve all challenges necessary to boost warehouse productivity. 

In the most advanced warehouse facilities, you need to first understand the materials that are being handled. It’s important to know and define the variations of the materials. Are they just variations in size?  Or are they also variations in quality? It is critical to know and then define it automation can handle that variance. If it can’t you have two choices: 

  1. To handle the materials manually. 
  1. Put the materials in a tray, tote, or other fixture device. 

Striking the proper balance between the value of data and the value of materials to be handled is essential for planning the most productive floor layout. From a system thinking perspective the data and materials are critical I/O to consider from day one in your planning and within the system itself your people are most critical. 

Visualize and Create Spaces that Inspire Warehouse Workers 

The pandemic revolutionized the work setting. For months, millions of workers performed their jobs remotely out of necessity, but warehouse workers needed to work in person to keep the economy going in 2020. These workers were essential: anyone who ordered from Amazon and received their Prime order the next day knows without these workers that could not have happened. 

While many are returning to offices, at least to some extent, the rules are changing and amid the revolution in work settings and spaces resulting from the pandemic we must put a new focus on warehouse workers, who never left the building. 

We are facing a labor shortage and relying more heavily on warehouse workers. By 2030, the National Association of Manufacturers predicts a gap of more than two million workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1.9 million active warehouse workers in September 2023, up from 1.6 million in the category in early 2020. Even with automation increases in warehouses, there continues to be a demand for more workers. 

As Gen Z workforce expands, they will makeup one quarter of the global workforce by 2025 according to McKinsey & Company they come to expect interactive, tech-first work environments. Although roles may change, workers will remain essential drivers of operations in future facilities. 

Design Command Centers in a Way Where All Stakeholders Can Visualize an Operation 

Advanced smart facilities are changing in the way administrators monitor their operations, and it will look starkly different a decade from today. Like a traffic control center, future-forward warehouses have a command center space with multiple live monitors and machine diagnostics systems to ensure up time and throughput. Solutions providers like Ahearn & Soper Inc and Provision WMS are already integrating automation control centers into warehouses to promote “future-proofing your warehouse”. 

Many WMS solutions now leverage visualization that provides a new level of operational oversight that can lead to greater productivity and efficiency. 

Put Connections and Collaboration Top of Mind in Your Warehouse Design 

Industry 4.0 warehouses function as cohesive, complex systems that include workers and a multitude of physical and digital assets connected to the internet of things (IoT). Digital systems in a open architecture warehouse can communicate with one another and efficiently adjust their operations using smart software like Provision WMS. 

The smart software powering the receiving, storage, picking, packing, and shipping can adjust operations at the machine or line level based on real-time analytics of the process. But optimal efficiency can only be achieved if all systems within a warehouse space are integrated into a single software like Provision WMS. This will lead to a launch that quickly meets throughput expectations, reduces operational costs, and increases competitive advantages in a rapidly evolving industry. 

Put your people first, from here design and build your future warehouse that elevates Industry 4.0 and carry the supply chain forward. Contact an expert here. 

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