Modern Retail

Smart Shelving: The Future of Smart Warehouses?

Shelving in retail

This post first featured in the Modern Retail Guide to Fulfilment November 2019. To read the full ebook click here, or scroll to the end of the page to view on page-turning software.

The evolution of the warehouse continues to be influenced heavily by Internet of Things (IoT), helping to streamline fulfilment processes and simplify more complex requirements. As the need for more varied and faster delivery grows, the number of smart warehouses in the UK is expected to skyrocket.

To remain competitive in a continuously evolving market, the world of retail fulfilment is using more automation, increasing efficiency, reducing costs and helping to collect data.

This use of technology is being widely supported, with 75% of decision makers aiming to implement more technology and have a smart warehouse system by 2020.

Combining smart warehouses and IoT, the challenges often associated with eCommerce can be overcome, helping to track products’ whereabouts throughout the supply chain. Smart shelving is one of the leading technologies which is capturing people’s attention in the world of retail and fulfilment.

What is smart shelving?

Smart shelving senses weight and pressure placed on the surface of shelves, sharing this information with software and warehouse management systems. This can easily be combined with radio-frequency identification (RFID) or barcodes, meaning inventory is kept up to date, with systems keeping track of when they are received, stored, picked, or shipped.

Integrating smart shelving 

Creating a transparent fulfilment chain, smart shelving can work alongside existing processes. Smart shelving can be integrated with wearable devices which tell staff the location of products to be picked, or even share this information with picking robots.

Smart shelving can also flag potential errors. As an example, a notification could be sent to a picker who may have taken the wrong item. This can be measured using RFID tagging, or by it being highlighted that the correct shelf did not record a reduced weight load. By having this extra level of error checking, mistakes, and the costs associated with them, can be avoided.

Smart shelving is also able to track stock levels, notifying teams when they are running low, or even automatically re-ordering products if programmed to do so. In addition to this, they can weigh items on shelving, estimating shipping costs and sending this information to customers and retailers.

Being able to track the removal of products and link to warehouse management systems, smart shelving can collect data, highlighting trends, patterns and consumer purchasing behaviours. This can then be fed back to retail decision makers, working to facilitate data-led choices which benefit both retailers and suppliers.

As the capability for automation continues to grow, integration plays a vital part in recording data and acting on this information. Smart shelving is proving to be one of the pioneering technologies in smart warehouses, working to keep track of inventory, reduce the likelihood of human error, save time and streamline processes.

Read the full Modern Retail Guide to Fulfilment November 2019 below.

Holly Worthington

Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail's Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today's ever-changing market.