Warehouses have a significant role to play in making the global economy sustainable, and smart systems can help.
Let's start with warehouse lighting, which according to one study accounts for 36 percent of electricity use in non-refrigerated U.S. warehouses—the largest portion. A smart first step is to swap out legacy warehouse lighting, where it still exists, for LED lighting. LED lighting can be up to 80 percent more efficient than traditional lighting—even as LED light sources can last up to 25 times longer than conventional sources.
But the possibilities get even brighter, so to speak. When organizations deploy LEDs within the framework of a scalable smart lighting system, they gain impressive new efficiencies. Thanks to connected technology, such a system can slash energy usage through light-sensing, motion monitoring, and occupancy capabilities, to give just a few examples.
Occupancy sensors embedded in a smart lighting system installed in a warehouse's ceiling can continuously monitor for human presence throughout the lit environment. With the data streaming in from those sensors, the system can intelligently adjust from moment to moment, illuminating spaces only when necessary and leave them unilluminated, or less illuminated, when nobody’s there. The energy and cost savings from no longer lighting unoccupied stacks, corridors, and other zones can be significant—and added on top of the energy efficiency gained from the LED luminaires themselves.
The possibilities do not end here, however. Warehouse managers can scale up the energy savings by integrating a smart lighting system with other smart systems in their facilities. If smart lighting and HVAC, for example, can share data and commands on a common network, then the intelligence gathered via the lighting system’s occupancy sensors can streamline heating and cooling functions within the building, cranking them up or phasing them down as necessary. It makes as little sense to constantly heat or cool an underpopulated warehouse area as it does to keep it constantly lit.
Environmental sensing can also potentially assimilate into a scalable system. If your system can sense the morning sun beating down on the east side of your warehouse, it can lower the heating on that side of the facility while the sun warms it, then nudge the temperature upward again when the sun passes on. Similarly, louvered windows could be programmed to open or close automatically in response to sunlight conditions, using direct sunlight as a heat source or blocking sunlight to cool the space.
Functions like these represent just a fraction of what scalable systems can do to make warehouse operations more sustainable. Data collection and data analysis, for example, can go much further, providing input for artificial intelligence applications. Such applications can process enormous amounts of data and visualize them so facility managers can make informed decisions that promote sustainability. Armed with insight about their facility's occupancy patterns, energy use tendencies, inefficiencies, and so on, warehouse managers can plan accordingly, making changes where and how the data indicates.
Informed planning of this sort can make the difference in the creation of a sustainable enterprise. Data really does make the difference, in the warehouse/logistics sector as in others.