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IoT for warehouse management

Guest blog | Written by David Madden, Founder of Container Exchanger, ExchangerHub

Today, it feels like just about everything we use is connected to the Internet. From small digital devices like thermostats to the cars we drive, these smart devices wirelessly transmit information to the cloud where it can be used by companies and consumers alike. But you can also use an IoT solution to improve your approach to warehouse management.

A warehouse is a massive space filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of individual products. As inventory continues to move in and out of the space, keeping track of all these items can prove challenging. But when you have dozens of smart devices reporting on and managing these goods on your behalf, you can easily manage your entire warehouse and keep track of individual items in real-time. Let’s take a closer look at.

1. Report on the condition and quality of goods

Some items are more fragile than others. If you’re in the business of managing temperature-sensitive products and fragile items, you never know when a handling error might damage one of your products. But with smart product sensors and thermostats, you can better manage how conditions are changing in your warehouse and whether your products are ready for shipment. If an incident changes the quality or integrity of one of your products, the sensor will alert you in real-time, so you can stop the problem before it gets worse.

You might realize that your warehouse freezer stopped working or one of your machines isn’t being as gentle with your products as you had hoped. This helps you stay on top of changes to the quality of your products.

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2. Real-Time location monitoring

Inventory management usually means tracking products as they move all over the country or the world. With so many moving parts to keep track of, some items may get lost in the shuffle, even when they’re being stored in your own warehouse. But when you connect each product to a location-tracking sensor, you don’t have to worry about some of your goods disappearing over time. If you find that one of your products isn’t where it should be, you can track its location in real-time to find out what happened. This helps you stay on top of inventory and transportation errors before they turn into a bigger headache down the line. If one of your customers discovers that they didn’t receive an order, you can get to the bottom of the situation in no time.

Cargo theft is estimated to be a $15 to $30 billion-dollar problem, with warehouses representing the target of choice for most criminals. These sites tend to be lacking when it comes to security, and some packages might be at risk. If someone tries to steal one of your items, you’ll still be able to track it.

3. Keeping up with changing inventory

Inventory levels are always changing when it comes to warehouse storage. Some products move faster than others, and your customers can change their buying habits on a dime. But instead of hoping for the best, you can use inventory monitors that will alert you if some of your inventory levels get too low or if you’re sitting on a large stockpile of unwanted items. As soon as you see the alert, you can place another order to make sure you can meet the needs of your customers.

SUEZ Recycling & recovery Belgium, known for its intelligent solutions for water and waste management, started using asset tracking solution Sensolus to track trailer usage at its waste management plants. The system uses remote sensors to relay information about each trailer, including its current location and how long it’s been in use. The company can use this information to better manage its assets and anticipate the needs of its customers. The system will automatically send out alerts if the company is running low on trailers, a trailer is being used to move hazardous waste, or if their assets have been in one location for too long. Users can even program the system to designate the severity of these alerts, so they can take immediate action if necessary.

The same technology can be applied to the e-commerce industry. As the owner of an online store, the last thing you want is one of your customers placing an order only to find out it’s out of stock. This leaves you in the awkward position of trying to fill the order without the proper items. While retail inventory is only accurate around 63 percent of the time, you can rise above the competition and make sure you always have enough inventory to meet the needs of your customers.

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4. Reduced Labor Costs

When you and your team have so many digital tools at your disposal, you don’t have to spend as much on labor. Your warehouse employees can quickly track and find products instead of searching for them on the shelf. Even the most organized warehouse can throw some employees for a loop, so having a digital backup of an item’s location can speed up the retrieval process.

Smart sensors will also alert you and your team when some of your products need special attention. This means you don’t have to pay your employees to manually inspect products for damage. Employees will only need to complete a certain action when it’s absolutely necessary. Your team can also use automation tools to complete a series of routine tasks like sorting, stacking and product retrieval in a fraction of the time it would take them to do the same task by hand.

5. Sharing information with customers

Collecting and managing all this information on your warehouse inventory is great for business, but you can also send this information along to your customers to keep them in the know. Your customers will want to see where their packages are in real-time so that they can plan their schedule accordingly. If a package is delayed, you can quickly pass this information along to your customers. This is especially crucial if you’re delivering to other businesses that may need to adjust their operations based on changes in delivery.

You can also report on the condition and temperature of your products in real-time, so your customers will always know that their packages will arrive on time and intact. Your customers may refuse to accept a delivery if certain items are damaged or warmer than usual. But you can make this process more transparent by passing this information along to your consumers.

Improve your business with IoT

The IoT revolution isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Companies and consumers can benefit from these tools as they track and manage orders in real-time. You can use smart digital tools to improve efficiency in your warehouse and keep your customers satisfied. Simplify your warehouse management process and invest in an IoT solution today.

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ExchangerHub is your destination for industrial and warehousing equipment, both new and used. They specialize in surplus materials including a large variety of bulk containers, Gaylord boxes, pallets, carts, warehouse racking, and storage solutions, and even scrap metals. ExchangerHub connects buyers and sellers in a marketplace loaded with products from across North America, Canada, and Mexico.