The chaos of logistics
The constant change in the business and technological landscape is forcibly dragging us towards an increasingly complex and critical logistics activity in all the actors of the value chain. The singularisation of production and the transformation of the concept of sales into that of services are here to stay, and warehousing processes must be up to the task.
We all know that the success of Amazon or AliExpress is their complex logistics system based on AI algorithms, robotic warehouses or last mile delivery drones. However, in heavy industry we are light years away from managing logistics with such efficiency. A steel coil manufacturer, for example, has 100% automated rolling lines, which include the most advanced technologies for process control. However, once the product is finished, an operator is playing with his fingers, tying up a twenty-tonne bundle to move it with a crane (whose most innovative resource is a remote control) and place it wherever he can think of in the warehouse.
Today, the digitisation of heavy goods warehouses is not a chimera; the technologies that can help us to transform them are already mature. If IIoT systems are implemented to monitor packages and the equipment that handles them, AI algorithms are included in the Management Systems (WMS) aimed at optimising all the resources involved and the movements of cranes and internal transport systems (AGVs) are automated, the result is a warehouse with a degree of autonomy that has nothing to envy a vending machine.
Just as in the past, the use of overhead cranes and SGAs became the standard, today, real-time monitoring of activity,, automation of decision making and and autonomous manipulatorshave to be a “minimum” in the warehouses of any company that manufactures, moves or consumes heavy products.
The digitisation of these warehouses not only implies savings in direct costs, but companies will be able to guarantee a better service to customers, increase the speed of delivery cycles, avoid dispatch errors, damage to products and transport equipment and, very importantly, eliminate a critical source of accidents at work.
In such an immediate future that it is almost a present, all the management and processes of a heavy goods warehouse will be carried out autonomously. In a word, it will be the standard required to be competitive in the sector. From this point on, companies involved in heavy goods logistics, whether they are port operators, intermodal managers, etc., will be differentiated by the knowledge they extract from the information gathered in “digitalised” operations and by their values or social commitments.