You are now visiting our Global professional lighting website, visit your local website by going to the USA website
You are now visiting the Philips lighting website. A localized version is available for you.

A brand of


    The connected warehouse is digitalized

    Scalable systems and the warehouse of the future, part 1

    The warehouse is as old as human enterprise. As a technology, its basic function of storing and distributing objects and material has never changed.

    Today, warehouses are also an important, technologically sophisticated component of a system of commerce that spans the globe. The supply chains that drive the world economy require the support of a logistics sector that is highly precise and effective. Without the effective integration of warehousing and logistics, e-commerce would fail.

    Three dynamics are shaping the warehouse sector today:

    • Digitalization: the widespread adoption of a number of overlapping cutting-edge technologies, including AI, robotics, data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT)
    • Employee safety and well-being: the need to reduce or eliminate accidents and injuries, and to provide a productive and healthy working environment
    • Sustainability: the push to make operations “green,” with carbon neutrality as an important goal

    The pandemic strengthened these dynamics rather than blunting them. The shift to online purchasing boosted e-commerce, putting stress on supply chains and making the need for resilience, agility and digital transformation more important then ever. Health concerns forced worker safety and comfort to the top of the agenda. And the need for change has extended to a much more aggressive aproach to sustainable building renovations, especially in the commercial sector.

    Connected, scalable systems for lighting and other building resources offer the technology foundation that the warehouse sector needs to meet the challenges that these three major dynamics pose. In this series of three articles, we'll explore how they can do so, especially as businesses reopen and reimagine their operations in the wake of the pandemic. 

    The role of scalable systems in driving warehouse digital transformation

    The argument about digital transformation in the warehouse sector is over. Warehouse operators who don't embrace digitalization will risk competitive disadvantages in a sector where the most powerful players have already jumped on the digital train.

    Digital transformation can be hard to pull off in practice. The always-on nature of the contemporary logistics facility makes it hard to shut down for capital projects. So does the fact that warehouses often serve as nodes in a complex logistics network, a bottleneck or delay at any one point of which can have wide-ranging consequences.

    Then too, warehouses are relatively high-margin businesses  which are currently seeing a significant surge in demand. Given current circumstances, the idea of disruptively shifting technological gears can seem like a non-starter, no matter how important a technology upgrade may be in the long run. Better, perhaps, to proceed with business as usual as long as the surge persists.

    A crowded market for logistical solutions makes things that much harder. Which of technologies are really necessary for a warehouse's needs, and which are gimmicks that could create more problems than they solve, introducing complexity when the goal is simplicity?

    Scaling up into sophistication, with ease

    Enter scalable systems, connected lighting systems among them. Such systems let warehouse operators begin the digital transformation journey in a practical and fiscally viable manner, adding on solutions and capabilities whenever they're needed.

    Connected lighting systems can serve as a foundation for adding and distributing digital capabilities throughout a facility. Even before leveraging the system’s native connectivity, managed LED-based lighting offers important advantages over conventional lighting, including an enormous increase in energy efficiency.

    Software-based monitoring and control can engage lighting-related capabilities such as scene setting and dimming scheduling to boost energy efficiency up to 80% over conventional lighting. The ability to specifically target light levels in certain locations or to support specific workers or tasks can also help to avoid accidents and injuries.

    The next level of capability depends on integrating sensors into the working environment and collecting data on that environment and the activities within it. In an IoT-enabled smart system, collected data is typically stored in a data lake in the cloud and analyzed, processed, and visualized to support informed decision-making.

    In a warehouse environment, for example, sensor-based indoor location and space management solutions can give managers an accurate sense of who is using the various zones of a warehouse and how. Such knowledge can inform the creation of occupancy heatmaps that in turn drive layout optimization: elements can be reconfigured to knock precious seconds off of average order-picking times. Indoor navigation applications can also speed order-picking.

    Sensor-collected data can also improve periodic ABC analysis—the methodology that involves studying the relative positioning of a warehouse's contents to ensure that everything's where it should be from the standpoint of efficiency. (One global logistics company cut its time spent on ABC analysis by 25% using this sort of tech.) Data can also make it possible to route forklifts along vectors where there's no chance that they'll get in the way of workers on foot.

    Collecting environmental and system data over time can also support predictive maintenance and remote diagnostics. Predictive models can alerts facility managers before a breakdown occurs, allowing remediation while avoiding process stoppages.

    With a well-designed scalable system, new capabilities can be added to the system and turned on with little to no disruption. Software and firmware updates can be frictionlessly downloaded from the cloud, and sensors and other new hardware can be easily slotted in without cumbersome reinstallations or lengthy downtimes.

    Radical innovation as a service

    Providers like Signify offer smart systems on an as-a-service basis, meaning that the provider retains ownership of all hardware and software and contracts to perform all service work and upgrades. For the fees it pays, the warehouse operator gets the services and IoT capabilities it needs. Everything else is the provider's responsibility. The as-a-service model shifts capex costs into opex costs, often removing the financial barriers that make a renovation project cost-prohibitive.

    As digitalization, the driving force of the Fourth Industrial revolution, moves forward, opting in to the process is going to be less and less a choice and increasingly mandatory for maintaining competitive advantage. Future-proof scalable systems are making radical technical innovation available across the warehouse sector. With as-a-service offerings and other innovations, digitalization is becoming a manageable, incremental, low-risk, controllable process accessible to all.

    About the author

    Jonathan Weinert, IoT and Connected Lighting, Signify
    Award-winning writer Jonathan Weinert has been been researching and reporting on LED lighting, connected lighting, and the IoT since joining Signify in 2008. 

    Share this article

    What can Interact do for you?

    Follow us on: