Warehouse logistics are changing. Here are some ideas for improving the distribution process. Many rely on advances in technology, and will require a financial investment. Consider them carefully and analyze your options based on ROI, and then take steps to keep up with the times and maximize your warehouse efficiency.

The winning equation in warehouses: improve accuracy, reduce overhead expenses, and expedite the delivery timeline. Can you have it all? You’ll need the right technology. Advances in warehouse automation technology are everywhere, with the warehousing automation market expected to grow to $120 billion in 2027. eCommerce vendors like Amazon have enormous market share, and are making a big impact on all aspects of the industry. What’s out there?

Predictive Analytics

Using predictive analytics helps you unlock insights into your customers’ wants, needs and preferences. While this may improve customer service, it can also have a huge impact on warehousing. When you can accurately anticipate customer buying habits, you can stock the right items and send low-traffic items to faraway storage corners. You can use this data to move highly popular items to easy-access locations, and to store those items often bought together in the same place.

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)

These self-driving vehicles simplify the picking process. They rely on special sensors to navigate the workplace, grabbing and transporting components automatically throughout factories. Connected to the warehouse operating system, they can start retrieving items the instant an order is placed. Sensors help them navigate and avoid collisions with obstacles, human or otherwise. They’re best suited for large operations sending large volumes of goods out the door all day long, freeing up their human colleagues for more critical tasks.

Automated forklifts are a sub-category of the AGV. They are large movable platforms programmed to automatically ascend and descend to grab product. They might take the product all the way to the loading dock, or maybe simply move product to ground level, where workers can send take over.

Reducing Packaging and Waste

Reducing packaging saves time and money. The cost for the packaging, the cost to break down packaging, the cost to dispose it: Why not make every effort to eliminate packaging? You may be able to switch to reusable industrial wire baskets or plastic pallet containers. Talk to your customers and suppliers: Many of them are probably on the same page, and would like to reduce both the cost and the environmental impact of excess packaging.

As a manager, you can design systems so your employees and your machinery both have the opportunity to work smarter, not harder, and get more done with the same resources.