Imagine not just tracking the locations and quantities of parts and products you have in your warehouse and where they are, but what they are doing at any given moment.
According to an MIT Technology Review article, some cutting-edge manufacturers are using software and sensors to measure how long a particular part or material has been in production, how long manufacturing jobs should take, what causes items to become damaged or stronger during the manufacturing process, and many other important details. All of this information is then available to warehouse workers in real time on tablets.
This new technology has many applications for manufacturers. For example, a food producer could tell exactly when to take a certain dish out of the oven, what is the best temperature to set the oven at, how long to let the food cool, and many other factors in order to turn out the best possible products, in terms of taste, quality, and longevity.
The article notes that General Electric (which recently implemented what it calls “the industrial Internet” in one of its plants) is working on a way to use weather predictions to adjust the amount of moisture in the air during battery production. Humidity can affect battery quality, so it’s a valid concern on their part. Their sensors will soon allow them to maintain precise environmental conditions in their warehouse.
While “Internet” isn’t the best word to describe what GE and other manufacturers are using in their warehouses, it could be an apt label someday. What these companies have right now is an Intranet that only works within a contained space, not an interconnected system that works across multiple geographic regions. But that could be coming if manufacturers start inserting tracking devices into products to track their movements to destinations.
These are exciting changes. Technology is always transforming the way companies do business, and you need to be flexible and ready to take advantage of new, useful tools. You don’t have to start with the most expensive system. You can start with a warehouse management system that is affordable and that still meets your needs, and then see where the future takes you.