While sustainability and well-being are key considerations in supporting a more engaged workforce, it takes more than a well-designed building to make a logistics facility successful. The necessary cultural and leadership changes need to be made, as well as ensuring that employees have the right technology, tools, and services to help them conduct their work efficiently and productively.
Automation is a key topic within the logistics sector and the fastest growing automation solutions are more flexible, more mobile, and less tied to the physical building characteristics than ever before. However, the building still needs to support this new technology. While most modern warehouses are built to a set standard, technology can be introduced in stages to improve existing processes, rather than superseding them.
Warehouses are typically void of natural light, and therefore they require a lot of help from the lighting infrastructure to create a well-lit environment for employees. Companies can take their lighting infrastructure a step further to factor in new well-being agendas by linking artificial lighting with the natural light cycles of daylight. Not only can circadian lighting improve the well-being of employees, it also ensures optimum lighting conditions while minimizing energy consumption.
The existing lighting infrastructure in many warehouses can be upgraded to be IoT (Internet of Things) enabled, which means companies can distribute smart technology throughout the entire facility. Using a standard protocol, such as BACnet—commonly used in HVAC systems, BMS, and automation systems—can enable synergies in a building by allowing a direct connection between different systems that can share data or control to improve overall performance and efficiency.
Companies who are at the beginning of the smart infrastructure journey in their warehouse facilities might start with a solid basis of cost-effective energy-saving lighting, to which they can then add cloud connectivity for energy reporting and remote management; then they can unlock the value beyond illumination through data-enabled applications and APIs. The use of smart systems and LED connected lighting with embedded IoT sensors is clearly an idea whose time has come in the logistics arena.
Warehouse space is projected to increase in demand over the coming years. According to Knight Frank, 40 million square feet of new warehouse space is scheduled to be completed in 2021, compared to just 20 million square feet in 2020. As the need for more warehouse and logistics facilities increase, scalability will become more critical. This is when a digital infrastructure really shows its strengths, as different facilities can communicate and create more efficient and productive systems for the business. Companies can start with a small upgrade to just one small area of one warehouse, then they can scale up to the entire facility, and then eventually expand to all sites.
With smart systems and services in place in the connected warehouse, the focus can be on the people – their safety, their well-being and their productivity. As the gap closes between knowledge workers and logistic workers, innovation in technology will be the common denominator that binds us together.