What Impact Will AI Have on Warehouses?

Artificial intelligence can drastically improve efficiency – so what kind of impact can we expect on an industry based on efficiency?

By: Brian Gaysunas

Warehouses have the potential to be completely transformed through the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI). Warehouses today are drastically different from 50 years ago through the introduction of machinery that automate parts of the process. We’re likely to see a similar leap in warehouse productivity in the next 10 years through AI. AI can automate even more of a warehouse’s processes – tracking inventory, improving robots, and looking for ways to reduce waste and increase efficiency.


Improved organization

AI will make warehouses more organized than ever before. Shifts and duties of workers can be redrafted for efficiency by AI. Any number of workers can be tracked through different shifts with ease because AI can be in charge of scheduling. This means that every worker will know what duties to perform and when, which can have a major impact on the organization and productivity of a warehouse.


Warehouses will also see improvements in organization through automated inventory tracking through AI. Any inventory that comes in or goes out of a warehouse can be tracked automatically through AI. This can be even further improved by allowing AI to make automatic purchases – any time inventory dips below a certain threshold, AI can make a purchase to bring inventory back to an optimal level.


When a machine is doing this work, it takes away the major stresses of having enough inventory and making sure workers are in the right place. Supervisors and managers will have time to do other work within the warehouse and reap the benefits of a more organized facility.


Deep learning

At the very core of AI research is the drive to increase efficiency. After thorough training, AI can begin to exceed humans’ abilities through deep learning. When applied to warehouses, deep learning can reduce waste and increase efficiency by tracking the processes and constantly looking for new, more efficient solutions. These increases in efficiency can yield increased revenue for a business, which can lead to increased pay for its workers.


Improved communication

Warehouse management systems (WMS) are becoming more informed than ever before by AI. Much like the improved organization within warehouses through AI, the introduction of AI to WMS can improve communication inside and outside of the warehouse. This means that all functions of a warehouse will become informed by one another. Real-time statistics and communication between departments can entirely change what warehouses look like. The pioneer warehousing and distribution company, Amazon, has already seen major success through the automation of certain areas of warehouses. As AI becomes more readily available and easier to implement, production rates and distribution times will improve across all companies.


Improved warehouse robots

Warehouse robots are already widespread, but through AI, robots are becoming even smarter. The Orb is among the most ambitious projects in combining existing robots with artificial intelligence. The Orb mixes human control with automated software to cut time spent sorting products, scanning barcodes, and entering data. The Orb even allows for remote operation, meaning warehouses might even be influenced by the trend of work-from-home opportunities. The combination of robotics and AI is exciting and unpredictable – no one knows exactly what is possible yet.


Voice recognition

Warehouses, specifically for picking, can also be improved through voice recognition technology. Picking is a time-sensitive position that requires precision, which means it has a lot to gain from voice recognition. If picking becomes a system of specifying a part number and a quantity, the process can become more simple and efficient. Voice recognition technology can allow people to communicate with the technology – something that will need to happen as technology becomes more integrated into warehouses and factories.


Warehouses are about to see major changes through artificial intelligence. Since AI can be applied to so many different functions of warehouses, organization, productivity, and communication will become better than ever before. With how important efficiency is to the success of warehouses, the impact of AI is likely greater than we can even anticipate.