Ecommerce is forever changing the way customers shop and the way businesses operate. More and more customers are shopping online and having orders shipped to a nearby store or more likely shipped directly to their homes. More importantly customers are expecting it to arrive quicker than ever before. This expectation of 2-day delivery is putting stress on businesses today and will continue to pressure businesses into changing the way they operate. Queue dark warehousing. Dark warehousing is a concept that is becoming more and more popular, although it comes at a price.
A dark warehouse is a fully-automated warehouse that operates without the use of human labor. You can simply turn the lights out and the operation will continue to run. The pressure on businesses for swift deliveries of online orders has influenced the deployment of automated guided vehicles, self-driving forklifts, conveyor belts, and automated palletizers throughout all warehouses in order to speed up operations. Add all of these up among other automated equipment and you have yourself a dark warehouse.
There are several advantages of a dark warehouse that entice business to automate their facilities. One advantage is eliminating putting employees in adverse working conditions. Robots and other automated tools will perform tasks in those conditions, such as freezing temperatures.
Dark warehouses are also extremely quick and efficient, providing less chance for error with automated machines. There are no shift changes, breaks or human error that need to be corrected. Dark warehouses operate 24/7 without stopping.
There are a few downfalls to implementing dark warehouses into your business. For one, they are not cheap. These warehouses are multi-million dollar facilities with high capital expenditures. Large, established companies are best suited for implementing these types of warehouses.
Dark warehouses are also not as flexible in operation for picking, packing, and shipping. These warehouses are very good in industries that have products similar in size and weight. The more variation there is in a dark warehouse, the more expense you incur with automation equipment for handling different sized products.
Moving to dark warehousing means some operations are having to alter the expertise of both managers and employees. Where warehouses with a manual focus require expertise in communication in a facility with many moving parts and a wide range of knowledge about different types of operator required equipment, dark warehouses require different skill sets. Technical software skills and program management becomes key.
Even warehouse businesses not moving fully to dark warehouses will see an increase in technology in their operations in order to meet demand and keep pace with competitors. In this case, learning how to integrate human-controlled machines into automated conveyor system and order retrieval technologies is key.
Dark warehousing is just one of several new movements in meeting the demand of customers in a digital world. As this demand isn’t likely to decrease soon, adjusting to trends and keeping a cutting-edge warehouse can go a long way in taking your business to new heights.