On the heels of historic growth, the materials handling industry is set for another strong year, even as the broader economy shows signs of softening. Although not known for rapid technology adoption, the industry seems to be gaining a firmer footing amid the digital transformation as a clearer picture of a path forward emerges.
A recent report forecasts the global next-gen supply chain market will more than double to $75 billion by 2030. Adoption will be particularly rapid, disruptive and beneficial in warehouses and DCs who face an existential threat to provide speedy and perfect orders. To create solutions, partnerships between disparate technology suppliers are driving innovation and value.
Adoption of mobile and collaborative robots, autonomous or semi-autonomous material handling equipment continues to grow. Along with significant innovation in forklift data capture, these assets are serving as early mappers of industrial space and activity. Digitization will significantly improve data collection and analysis – including previously untapped data streams like real-time location systems (RTLS), which could reshape how mobile equipment is managed as well as the design and optimization of processes.
The growing trend of micro-fulfillment could fundamentally change how we think about supply chains. Small and automated facilities close to customers are an enticing solution to last-mile challenges, but require enterprise-wide visibility and nimbleness.
Software of all kinds increasingly leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence to self-improve. It’s one thing to use this data to optimize the movement of goods, materials and assets, but it’s another to consider what a fully-automated facility could achieve when it is constantly teaching itself. The future is thrilling, but 2019 was no snooze. Here is a sampling of the biggest headlines and most telling developments of the year:
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