Now more than ever, Internet connectivity is paramount to modern warehouse operations. Best practices dictate that to optimize a warehouse, you must integrate modern technology. There are a myriad of tools to choose from, and they can help offset the labor shortage, reduce errors, enhance shipping, and generally streamline your supply chain management. As the technology increases in sophistication and enhances efficiencies, they are commonly faced with one big hurdle: a lack of robust Internet connectivity to support them.
Take robots, for instance. As they move around the warehousing floor, they depend on high-speed Internet to direct them. If you have self-driving lift trucks, they need to use GPS in a similar fashion. Robots require a variety of sensors and visual data to operate, which means they depend on reliable Internet connectivity to provide it to them. All the newer technology offers undeniable benefits, but all of it is only as good as the Internet connectivity they have available to them.
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is first buying the technology before ensuring their Internet connectivity can support its operation. A basic system that provides enough bandwidth for phones and email isn’t going to cut it. The issue is compounded by the fact that many warehouses are in rural areas of the country where the infrastructure is not in place to support a robust Internet. In urban areas, the challenge leans toward heavy demand on power grids.
Solving the problem can range from simple and affordable to complex and expensive. In the case of the latter, an Internet provider may need to install fiber optic cable lines, antennas, and server rooms. This is often out of reach for many company’s budgets.
Alternatives include installing private networks that run on 5G technology. This is a faster and more stable alternative to traditional Wi-Fi and can serve as a good first step on the road to a more permanent, robust solution. They are good enough to protect systems against increasingly severe weather events, allowing the technology to continue to run and operations to stay steady.
While 5G can offer a solution for some operations, not all automation is programmed to work with it. If your robots come programmed for Wi-Fi, and you don’t have a good enough network, then you might have to consider 5G. Adapting the machines to 5G is another costly and time-consuming process. And some managers or IT departments around the country aren’t as comfortable or up-to-speed on 5G as they are Wi-Fi.
Supply chain management is evolving at warp speed thanks to the development of tools to make it more efficient than ever. But that doesn’t mean everyone is ready. Sometimes, you must make a choice: throw everything at it in the interest of supporting the newest tools available or wait until Internet comes to you. In the meantime, ensuring your IT department is deeply entwined in the buying process is essential. Otherwise, you could be looking at bright, shiny new robots that go nowhere.