The rapid growth of e-commerce and the shortage of labour are putting pressure on warehouses. According to supply chain expert Keith Fisher, the solution to this issue could be ‘dark warehouses’.
A dark warehouse is an autonomous one that does not require workers and saves energy as it does not need heating or lighting. Fisher, writing for Manufacturing.net, says:
“The trend toward dark warehouses is primarily driven by two factors – advances in automation and a decline in available workers.”
It will be many years before most warehouses convert to dark warehouses. Warehouse operators are focusing on automating strenuous sections of the warehouse where staff turnover is high. This includes unloading goods at the receiving dock, which is open to the weather. This is high-intensity, manual work, with workers often feeling too warm on hot days and very cold in the winter. Robotic unloaders can automatically lift goods from vehicles and containers, freeing up human workers.
In other areas of the warehouse, automation can assist, rather than replace, humans. The warehouse equipment producer will continue to develop efficient picking trolleys for workers to use, but sensors and audio systems attached to trolleys can guide order pickers to precise item locations.
Warehouse management software is the key to warehouse efficiency by coordinating customer order fulfilment processes – receiving goods, optimising storage space and order picking, packing, and delivery.
The dark warehouse may be the long-term future for fulfilment centres, but most warehouses are using automation to help human workers be more productive, not eliminate them.Get a free quote