With the advent of always-on e-commerce, the demand for faster responses, and the need to manage more SKUs with fewer errors, warehouses need to scale up and meet the standards of an intelligent, efficient, and automated warehouse. Looking ahead to the next 2 to 10 years, a predicted surge in the preference for digital transformation will bring fundamental changes to the way warehouses operate. Accordingly, the adoption of disruptive warehouse digitalization will reach its apex.

Download Free Guide: 7 Technologies That Will Change the Warehouse

According to a survey presented by the MHI Annual Industry Report, as many as 80% of respondents believe the digital supply chain will be the industry’s dominant model within the next five years. For 20%, it is already the dominant model.

There are 7 aspects of the digital warehouse, in particular, that look towards the future. These very aspects are now on their way to making warehouse digitalization a reality.

Here is how promising the future of warehousing may be. Six years from now, this is what the adoption rates of the 7 aspects of warehouse technology will look like:

The Future of Warehouse Technology

Adoption of the digital warehouse.

1. Real-Time Data Gathering and Increased Interconnectivity

The warehouse and supply chain systems of the future will be anything but opaque. Blockchain has the potential to play a pivotal role in achieving transparency at every level. This technology offers the power to distribute information fast and securely, thus making real-time data exchange for warehouses efficient and transparent.

Blockchain is incomplete without a key technology: the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is an ecosystem of sensory devices (e.g., for location, humidity, and temperature) interconnected across digital networks. These devices can collect and transmit data in real-time without human intervention. To understand how to deploy IoT successfully, you can read this article.

“The Statista Research Department predicts that the global market for Internet of Things (IoT) will grow to around 1.6 trillion by 2025.”


Together, these technologies bring real-time visibility and seamless collaboration among processes and chain partners, resulting in highly evolved, efficient, and effective operating models.

2. Warehouse Mobility Solutions

The transition from fixed desktop workstations to smartphones and mobile devices is a major step in gaining warehouse efficiency. Today, devices and apps substantially reduce walking time and allow warehouse employees to work and access data on the go within as well as outside of the warehouse.

Smartphones are not only liberating warehouse clerks from deskbound activities but also adding new dimensions of capability to standard workstations. Today’s warehouse mobile solutions can deliver excellent operational efficiency and computational power that warehouse operators need.

A warehouse manager managing using a smart phone.

The advantages of imaging (pictures & video), tracking, cloud integration, video-conferencing, voice/face recognition, and even personal assistants open new frontiers for transformations that these technologies can bring to warehousing operations.

The more we look towards the future, the more that mobility proves to be of the essence. Warehouse mobility is one of the most secure areas to invest in so long as it is well-planned and strategically aligned with operational needs.

Warehouse Efficiency Ebook

3. Autonomous Guided Vehicles

Although not yet widely adopted, AGVs (Autonomous Guided Vehicles), as potential substitutes for the forklift, promise to revolutionize the way cargo is transported inside and outside the warehouse.

According to Mordor Intelligence, the global automated guided vehicle market was worth USD 2.41 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 14.18 billion by 2026.

Drone technology is also set to disrupt the warehousing industry. Drones are safe and economical when locating cargo, conducting inventory, cycle counting, and performing stock-taking operations.

A drone with sensors, cameras, barcode scanners, or RFID technology can reach even the innermost spaces within a warehouse. These can complete checks and manage inventory in less than one-third of the time needed to do it manually.

Use of drone in a warehouse.

AGVs are also capable of moving goods in the warehouse, speeding up the picking process, and contributing to inventory management operations. The good news is that if you are looking for warehouse management for small businesses, AGVs can be as handy for those as they can be for large enterprises. This is one reason why AGVs are certainly a part of the future.

According to Gartner, drones will grow from 989,000 in 2019 to over 13 million units in 2029 worldwide.


4. Smart Analytics and Machine Learning

Warehouses are expected to play a key role in increasing customer satisfaction, effectively predicting product demand, and better using the resources. As a result, the demand for forecasting and accurate decision-making is rising.

An increasing number of warehouse managers are keen to interpret data trends to anticipate stocks and optimize warehouse capacity and asset utilization.

This is where predictive analytics comes in. Predictive analytics use statistical techniques such as predictive modeling, big data, and data mining to analyze historical trends and make predictions about the future.

Predictive analytics, together with artificial intelligence (AI), can be very effective for recommending optimized inventory levels, replenishing inventory, increasing operational efficiency, and optimizing warehouses.

The global market for predictive analytics is expected to reach USD 35.45 billion by 2027. This is proof enough that not only warehousing but also all sorts of industries find smart analytics and machine learning worth investing in.

5. The People-Technology Connection

One of the striking features of a digitized modern warehouse is the interconnection between people and warehouse technology. This is enabled by wearables. Such technology provides warehouse clerks and managers access to a wide spectrum of information in real-time, irrespective of their location, environment, and physical constraints.

Wearables are small computers that can be strapped to the wrist, head, or any part of the body. Devices such as smart glasses, augmented reality, and voice-enabled devices are becoming more popular by the day to achieve effective interaction with systems.

The result will be a better flow of information, greater visibility, decreased error rates, superior safety, and increased service levels at lower operating costs.

Wearables can help optimize efficiency in processes such as order pickingreceiving, handling, high-value asset handling, cycle counting, safety, and workforce training, to name only a few.

6. Automation and Robotics

Warehouse automation is a present reality and certainly a part of the future digital transformation. Automation and robotics can simplify the performance of manual tasks, with much less time and cost (cumulative) and increased efficiency.

Use of robotics in an automated warehouse.

Robotics are expected to become more human-like in memory, sensing, skill, and affinity for learning without being programmed for particular skills (AI).

A survey conducted in 2020 by MHI to gather insight into the technology innovation taking place across the supply chain industry concluded that 67% of respondents believe that robotics and automation can potentially disrupt the industry or create a competitive advantage.

Automation is one indispensable aspect without which warehouses are unlikely to survive.

7. Real-Time Inventory Management

The highly successful state of commerce is exerting heavy pressure on warehouse managers to improve inventory management. They need more visibility and control over inventory. Automatic identification systems such as smart sensors, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), GPS, etc., not only provide end-to-end visibility of inventory but also operational intelligence through the data that these sensors collect in the process.

This helps optimize inventory management and make the warehouse safer while increasing visibility.

As many as 75% of the respondents to the MHI report are likely to adopt these systems in less than two years. With the increasing number of smaller orders and the omnichannel trade, real-time inventory management systems will become a staple of the future warehouse.

For a visual explanation of the warehouse technologies above, watch this video: https://youtu.be/u7yMcO6qStQ

Warehouse digitalization is a reality that the warehousing industry must accept to sustain and thrive amidst increasing competition and market pressures. The smart warehouse, which appears only as a disruptive force now, will likely become the norm within the next ten years.

To learn more about the technologies that will impact warehousing operations, download our Warehouse Digitalization guide.

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