Bringing Container Warehousing Into The 21st Century

Even as the world modernizes, the method of getting foods from A to B won’t. Shipping will remain the crown of world goods transit for years, but it arguably needs to do more to meet modern standards; the recent overspill of an APN England shipmaster, resulting in a $22m fine, is evidence of this. However, no matter how fine-tuned the ships get, they still find their goods in one place – the warehouse. Modernizing warehouse systems will put the entire shipping chain on a front foot in the modern world.


Movements inside the warehouse

Warehousing is an expensive business that consumes a huge amount of energy. According to a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Production Research, these numbers are huge and are a big barrier when it comes to finding positive environmental change and maintaining consumerism. One of the key areas in which improvements can be made is through warehouse machinery and plant vehicles. Some vehicles running on outdated tech and tires can significantly increase their emissions by working on these older parts. The bobcat, a warehousing mainstay, can avoid these issues through the simple use of bobcat rubber tracks instead of non-proprietary hardware or outdated and inefficient tracks. This is one example of many where minor changes can drastically reduce emissions.


Reducing ground fall

Improving the efficiency of human and vehicle movements around the warehouse is important. However, even more, effective is reducing those movements altogether. Amazon has made huge strides to reduce their efficiency by pushing money into software innovation. Today, their algorithm manages their warehousing operations to such an extent that every footstep is accounted for. This reduces emissions from all sources; employees, vehicles, deliveries, and everything in the chain for those individuals and parts of the warehouse’s machinery. Essentially, keeping as little movement inside will knock kilos off the total CO2 emission of any company throughout the year.


A smart future

The ultimate goal will, of course, be automation. Moving away from an algorithm directing human resources and into drones is the ultimate goal of Amazon, but it seems some way off. There is development on the horizon, however. Techpoint.africa has reported on Logistify, an Uganda-based AI firm that is aiming at lower capacity, high turnover warehouse operations. Using their tech, they are aiming to simulate the entire interface between warehouse, shipping, logistics, and everyone else in the chain – all with minimum human input. This both brings warehousing into the future and helps to eliminate yet more emissions; the founders of the start-up noted how much time and energy they wasted on meetings and journeys that were in error. Improving efficiency at the front end will improve it all the way down the procurement chain.

Ultimately, bringing shipping warehousing into the future will be done through sophisticated technology. Efficiency is key, both in making profits and in preventing emissions – a key target for most modern shipping companies to get ahead of their competition. Eventually, this will be managed by AI.

Sara Zipf graduated in marine biology before moving to work for a leading environmental NGO. For the past half-decade she's raised her two daughters and taken up her passion of writing.

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