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Industry 4.0 and distribution centers
As DCs evolve into an increasingly crucial element of the supply chain, they need to adapt to new expectations for quickly handling an ever-more diverse set of goods—all while performing additional value-added tasks not traditionally associated with warehouses. Current and emerging Industry 4.0 technologies can enable greater operational flexibility, reduce operational costs, drive more modular and adaptable automation, and promote business growth. The transition toward Industry 4.0 technologies in distribution centers will drive changes throughout the DC, from reconfiguring the workforce to managing, analyzing, securing, and acting upon data. As DCs look to implement Industry 4.0 technologies, they can:
• Assess current needs within the supply chain to determine when and where Industry 4.0 – driven automation can help, and where it may be worth waiting. Consider which technologies are already available to significantly reduce costs and risk, and which investments may be worth waiting to make at a later time, when technological advancements may result in significant improvements over current capabilities.
• Develop a talent strategy to address new talent needs created by Industry 4.0 – driven technologies, and continuously assess the organization’s evolving needs to proactively prepare for talent gaps that may exist in the future, particularly those focused on maintaining and managing Industry 4.0–enabled assets.46 This can also help DCs evaluate what can be done today to find talent that can both support and be ready for an increased level of automation.
• Monitor emerging trends that might influence supply chain requirements or demands on DC functionality, examine new opportunities to improve distribution operations, and gather competitive intelligence to benchmark performance and monitor potential market threats. This will enable effective planning and decision making in a field that will be evolving at a rapid pace in the next decade.
• Plan for data management, reliability, and security in an increasingly complex system. Data management systems are a major part of the implementation and functioning of Industry 4.0 technologies and should be considered critical to the success of the endeavor. The ability to gather, analyze, act upon, and safeguard information is crucial to the Industry 4.0–driven DC.
The impact of Industry 4.0 technologies on distribution centers can enable more effective facilities. It is critical for leaders to proactively evaluate the impact of distribution trends along with the potential benefits of using Industry 4.0 technologies, as this can allow executives to plan effectively to meet the business’s future objectives in a field that will be rapidly changing over the next decade.