Warehouse automation: Digital and physical
With rapid e-commerce, easing of FDI regulations and increasing technological adoption, the omnichannel and WMS market size in India is expected to grow to USD488 million by 2024 from USD231 million in 2019, at a CAGR of 16.2 per cent. With the demand for faster responses and the need to manage a larger number of stock keeping units (SKUs) with fewer errors, warehouses need to be intelligent, efficient and automated. While selecting an automated warehouse management system (WMS), the speed of sortation, throughput and various other factors should be factored in.
Predictive analytics, along with AI, is effective in suggesting optimised inventory levels, eliminating waste, replenishing inventory, and increasing operational efficiency as well. Further, by placing IoT sensors in critical equipment and machinery, numerous performance metrics can be monitored, enabling the prediction of breakdowns and any other possible maintenance issues, thereby avoiding disruptions. With more and more businesses adopting technology such as these, the Indian warehouse automation market is expected to reach USD512.2 million by 2026, registering a CAGR of 26.4 per cent during 2021–2026. Digital warehouses are also using blockchain technology, as it enables real-time data gathering and increased interconnectivity, making real-time data exchanges in warehouses more efficient and transparent. This further integrates with existing technologies of IoT, process automation, smart sensors, RFID, etc., delivering a huge quantity of high-quality data for predictive analysis.
While these are some popular and emerging trends from a software point of view, advancements in robotics, autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) and drones are automating various operations of warehouses. AGVs, such as forklifts, automated stackers, small rack-carrying robots, pallet trucks, etc., are popular as they provide time and labour efficiency. Further, these vehicles are programmed to execute numerous tasks through machine learning and deep learning, which is a safer alternative to material handling by personnel. The Indian AGV market size, which was valued at USD122.1 million in 2019, is projected to reach USD364.3 million by 2027, as AGV adoption continues.
Drones are also set to disrupt the warehousing industry. A drone equipped with sensors, cameras, barcode scanners or RFID technology can reach the deepest spaces within a warehouse. These are safe and economical for locating cargo, conducting inventory, cycle counting and conducting stock-taking exercises. With the Indian government promoting indigenous drone production and simplifying drone rules and approvals, drones are set to be ubiquitous and can be effectively used for better warehouse management.