Warehouse Management

5 Warehouse Trends for 2024: Automation, Robotics & RFID

By Danielle Allen
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Technology is ever-evolving, and the same can be said for warehouse technologies. Only a few years ago, warehouses were still relying heavily on manual processes, whereas now, we’re seeing new warehouse technology trends emerge and grow year-on-year. 


In this article, we will explore the five main warehouse trends expected to grow during 2024, including the adoption of technology such as robotics, wearable technology and AI.


1. Warehouse robotics and automation


Robots have been implemented in warehouses for many years. But the form they've taken has evolved over the years, with new types of robotics being introduced every year. The capabilities of robotics in warehouses continue to expand, making them more capable than ever.  


What is warehouse robotics and automation?


When you hear warehouse robotics, some people imagine big robot arms lifting heavy items, stationary and completing one task repeatedly. Whilst articulated robotic arms have revolutionised warehouses, more and more types of robots are being introduced, and we expect this to continue in 2024. 


The future of robotics in warehouses refers to the applications of robots to automate various tasks such as picking and packing, inventory management and transportation. 


There are many types of robotics in warehouses used for automation, such as: 

  • Automated guided vehicles (AGVs)
  • Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS)
  • Collaborative robots 
  • Articulated robotic arms
  • Goods to person (G2P)
  • Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)
  • Aerial Drones


How can robots be used to automate warehouses?


The various types of robotics are each designed with a specific task in mind, like the automated storage and retrieval systems that quickly collect items and deliver them to a packer. 


A robotics main purpose is to automate a task. Automating warehouse tasks has many benefits, including reduced errors resulting in improved accuracy and increased operational efficiency.


Amazon Proteus is an excellent example of how warehouse robotics could look in 2024. Proteus was Amazon's first fully autonomous mobile robot, capable of manoeuvring around the warehouse and employees. Taking advantage of its automated guidance system, Proteus can be implemented in any area of the warehouse. 


Uses of robotics in warehouses to automate tasks: 

  • Picking items for transportation
  • Transporting products across a warehouse to a desired location
  • Sorting of items
  • Packaging of items


How will the application of warehouse robotics change in 2024?


Data shows that the warehouse robotics market size is set to see a 16.13% growth in 2024 and beyond as more warehouses invest and expand their robotics capability. 


As innovations in robotic guidance systems occur, the capability of more warehouses introducing this technology will become more likely. Staying ahead in 2024 will include the adoption of robotics into your warehouse to improve processes. 


Whilst previously, robots might’ve been separated or limited to a defined area in a warehouse, this could change to allow robots to work in all areas and become more integrated with employees in the warehouse. 


2. Wearable technology for warehouse management


What is wearable warehouse technology? 


Wearable warehouse technology can come in various forms, from wrist-worn scanners, voice-control headsets, smart glasses, and exoskeletons. Wearable technology is already widely used in other sectors, such as for sports performance. However, there are also devices designed to aid warehouse operatives to be more efficient, accurate and safer in the workplace.


How is wearable technology used in warehouses? 


There are two main types of wearable technology used in warehouses: the first for picking and the second for health and safety, both of which offer benefits to the worker and the warehouse. 


Picking Wearables


Wearables such as wrist-worn scanners, voice-control headsets and smart glasses all assist the operative by removing the need to carry a device or pick list and increase efficiency as they guide the operative straight to the location of goods in the warehouse. 


They further benefit the warehouse and business by increasing the worker's speed and accuracy, resulting in fewer picking errors and lost stock or revenue.


Health and Safety Wearables


Exoskeletons and smart glasses can offer assistance to the operative by minimising the risk of harm while performing their work; for example, smart glasses can issue instructions to the operative, while exoskeletons support the operative's back and spine during any lifting activities, therefore reducing the risk of injury or accident. 


In turn, these health and safety wearables reduce the amount of time and money lost by the business due to injury to staff members and the resulting time off.

3. RFID warehouse management system


What is warehouse RFID?


RFID, or radio frequency identification, uses radiofrequency signals to transmit information on an item's location. Using RFID scanners, items in a warehouse can be automatically scanned and tracked as they move in, out or through a warehouse. 


Unlike barcode scanning, RFID tags don’t need to be manually scanned one at a time. Automating this process and allowing the RFID reader to scan items anywhere in the warehouse can save time on tedious tasks. 


Not to mention reducing errors such as workers forgetting to scan or scanning items multiple times by accident.  


How does RFID work in a warehouse?


RFID tags can be applied to entire pallets or individual items for more detailed tracking. There are four main areas where RFID technology can be utilised to improve inventory tracking. 


Products in: As a pallet is unloaded and moved into the warehouse, the pallet will move through an RFID scanner. This scanner will read the pallet tag, which contains all the information about the items. It will then update the inventory tracking system in real-time with the provided information.


Inventory tracking: Scanners placed throughout the warehouse can read the RFID tags in the warehouse at any time. This process will provide real-time updates to the inventory stored within the warehouse. This can help identify any discrepancies from the inventory tracking system, considering any items that may have been lost, stolen or removed incorrectly from the warehouse. 


Position and transportation: The inventory tracking system can even provide further information on where best to store new pallets based on current inventory locations within the warehouse. 


Products out: Once an item has been picked, as the pallet is moved out of the warehouse and through the RFID reader, it can perform checks to ensure the right items are picked and accurate. Once past the scanner, it will update the inventory tracking system to ensure all inventory levels are up to date. 


RFID tags can be applied to entire pallets or even to individual items for more detailed tracking. 


RFID warehouse management systems in 2024


We can expect to see continued adoption of RFID scanners in warehouses in 2024. An RFID warehouse needs to be laid out correctly, it’s likely this technology will be implemented into new warehouses rather than retrofitted to existing warehouses. 


Warehouses that do implement this technology will see numerous benefits. Most notable is increased inventory efficiency. RFID scanners remove the need for workers to scan items with a barcode scanner manually. This time-consuming process requires workers to constantly scan items as they are picked and packed. 


Additionally, this offers reduced errors, a common issue within warehouses is workers making mistakes when picking inventory. Accidentally scanning items twice, not at all or scanning the wrong item is a common occurrence. 


4. Warehouse Sustainability


What is warehouse sustainability?


Warehouse sustainability is the aim to reduce the environmental impact that warehouses have on the environment. 


In our June 2023 blog, ‘Reducing the Fulfilment Industry’s Carbon Footprint’ we discussed how the Transport and Storage industry produces both direct and indirect carbon emissions and that since 2005, the industry has already reduced its emissions by 44.7%. Supply Chain Expert Ian Hart went on to explore how warehouses could reduce power usage and shipping emissions, which could significantly contribute to warehouses being more sustainable.


The shifting focus for warehouses to be more sustainable


From 2023 and onwards, the UK’s EPR laws (Extended Producer Responsibility) will be taking effect. This environmental policy requires producers to be liable for the costs of waste for their packaging. 


CO2 AI software allows companies to quantify their emissions based on their business activities. It also offers potential solutions to mitigate the impact of their emissions. 


It is also becoming widely considered standard practice for businesses to have Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) impact statements and strategies, which should include the measures they intend to take, to impact climate change positively. Partners, clients and consumers will be more interested in seeing these policies from their providers in 2024.


How can warehouses be more sustainable in 2024? 


Sustainability in warehouses can be achieved through many avenues, all of which can significantly contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions, reduction of waste and overall environmental impact. The main ways warehouses can do this are: 


Renewable Energy: Many large warehouses have begun to generate their own electricity through installing solar panels onto their large roofs in an effort to reduce their use of fossil fuels and adopt renewable energy sources.


Logistics Planning: If you run your own fleet, you can be more conscious about your route planning to ensure no excess mileage is planned. If you use third-party logistics, choosing an environmentally conscious partner can also help towards being more sustainable. 


Furthermore, additional warehousing partners such as hubs or regional warehouses can help you move and store stock in bulk across different regions to deliver locally and reduce excess carbon emissions.


Sustainable Packaging: Swapping packaging to more sustainable options such as eco-friendly, compostable or recycled materials is an appropriate measure to take towards becoming more sustainable. 


Reduced Packaging Waste: Some warehouses and retailers have introduced recycling programs with their customers, whereby consumers can return their packaging, such as plastic bags used to wrap clothing items so that they can either be appropriately recycled or reused rather than being thrown into household waste. 


5. AI in warehouse management


What is AI in warehouse management? 


AI has been a hot topic with the release of Chat GPT, Bard and other types of AI. Whilst these have been adopted by the wider population, could AI be implemented in warehouses too? 


AI in warehouse management refers to the use of AI algorithms to collect, analyse and make decisions based on these results. This allows AI to be used in many areas of a warehouse to improve and optimise processes. 


Furthermore, AI algorithms can use their analysis of historical data to predict future trends, such as demand forecasting or supply chain issues. Avoiding unexpected issues or demands that would have previously slowed down or halted warehouse operations. 


How can AI be used in warehouse management?


Applications of AI can be vast, and algorithms are constantly under improvement and becoming smarter. In the future, we can expect their applications to expand from an already extensive list of use cases. AI can be applied to warehouses in multiple ways, but here are the main ones:


Demand forecasting: Taking historical data of a warehouse and market trends, AI can predict how demand will change in the future. Being able to increase stock levels to prepare for demand can allow warehouses to be ready in fluctuations and avoid waiting on stock deliveries. 


Optimised picking routes: Picking and packing is one of the key processes in a warehouse. Optimisation of picking routes has been an important process to improve the efficiency of the warehouse and get products to customers faster. AI can look at current picking routes and locations of products and use this data to create the most efficient picking routes for workers. 


Supply chain analysis: Predicting future disruption and trends in the supply chain based on previous data and current trends. Understanding and having control of a supply chain is invaluable to avoid stock issues and low inventory.  


Robotics: We’ve already touched on the implementation of robotics into warehouses and how they can be utilised. Robotics such as Amazon’s Sparrow use AI to detect and handle products. 


What will be the benefits of using AI in a warehouse? 


One of the primary motivations for implementing AI in warehouses is the increased efficiency and productivity of using the technology to improve systems and processes. Some of the benefits a business can hope to see from using AI in their warehouses are:

  • More accurate inventory tracking 
  • Improved shipping time
  • Being able to predict and prepare for future trends
  • Improved overall efficiency 
  • Savings in both time and money


Other warehouse trends for 2024


In addition to the trends we have explored, 2024 will see the adoption of other warehouse technologies, such as: 

  • The use of big data and data warehouses 
  • Computer vision in warehouses
  • Blockchain technology
  • Augmented reality
  • Machine learning
  • Collaborative robots


Be ready for 2024 with Mintsoft’s warehouse management system


Warehouse management software (WMS) that can work with and alongside your technologies and keep up with emerging warehouse trends is a great place to start when you’re looking to enhance your operations.


One key part of determining whether a WMS is able to keep up with the trends is the rate at which it is developed and updated by its software developers. At Mintsoft, our development team is dedicated to keeping Mintsoft up-to-date by adding new features such as Fulfilled by Amazon and Pallets and Cartons, popular integrations to add to the 150+ integrations already available and further functionality to its existing offering.


If you’d like to see Mintsoft in action, please book a demo with one of our product experts.


Danielle Allen
By Danielle Allen Digital Content Manager

Danielle is a content writer at Access Mintsoft with an abundance of experience in the new and emerging technologies sector. Dedicated to providing ecommerce retailers and 3PL’s informative and easy-to-understand content that engages and empowers readers to learn about all things ‘order fulfillment’.