The Demand for Warehousing Facilities in East Africa
East Africa has seen an increase in demand for modern warehousing facilities due to increased business opportunities in the East Africa region and due to the change of behaviour of consumers, during Covid-19, to online shopping. This has brought about an increase in eCommerce businesses and as a result, in the need for warehousing in East Africa.
In October Africa Logistics Properties opened a warehousing facility for SMEs in Kenya. This is the start of their intention to build modern A Grade warehousing in Africa.
The first warehouse project covers 50,000 square metres and is already 75% full.
The second project is massive at 92,000 square metres. It covers more than 19 hectares of land and is made up of seven phases. Phase 1 is intended for SMEs looking for warehousing that is a minimum of 490 square metres. The rest of the phases will be for bigger companies, both local and international, who are looking to run their logistics according to international standards.
The focus is on industrial and retail warehousing, commodity warehousing, cold storage and e-Commerce.
Africa Logistics Properties is also offering its services to companies owning land in the Eastern part of the African region. These companies either have existing warehouses in need of upgrading or are needing to build new state-of-the-art warehousing facilities.
Their vision for 10 years down the line, is to develop Small and Medium Enterprise parks, Industrial and Technology parks and Industrial Manufacturing Clusters.
It is excellent to see this type of activity and growth in Africa in 2020.
Artificial intelligence (AI) in warehousing and logistics
In today’s digital age, few technologies have been more talked about in a good and a bad light than artificial intelligence. There are many sectors that can benefit significantly from the use of AI in one form or another, one such is the warehousing sector. In this article, we will examine how artificial intelligence is used in warehousing, and what the benefits of AI are.
What defines artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence is, in essence, computer-simulated human-like intelligence which allows for complex problem-solving abilities i.e., the ability to take in information, analyse any given piece of information and make intelligent rational decisions with a focused end goal in mind.
The true strength of AI
The greatest strength of AI lies in its ability to take vast amounts of data, recognise patterns, make informed decisions, and adapt and improve its performance based on experience. AI systems are designed to understand, learn from, and respond to their environment, enabling them to perform complex tasks, automate processes, and provide intelligent solutions.
How is artificial intelligence (AI) used in warehousing?
AI is currently used in warehousing in three primary ways these can be broken down into the following.
1. To create predicted demand forecasts
AI is used to forecast demand for stock within the warehouse. This is achieved by the AI using historical data and algorithms to analyse large volumes of data for trends, and correlations. This allows the AI to make accurate demand forecasts for items and can be taken one step further by analysing seasonal trends, and consumer buying behaviour for deeper connections to determine future demand.
2. To improve inventory management
Expanding on forecasting demand, AI can be used to manage inventory levels. For example, AI can make suggestions on exactly which items to stock up on, and at which dates to stock up based on the initial forecast demand and live data. This helps reduce out-of-stock events and allows the warehouse to optimise its inventory for events such as seasonal buying changes. Essentially there is less uncertainty involved when restocking the warehouse.
3. To optimise transport logistics
AI algorithms optimise logistics operations by analysing various parameters such as order volume, delivery locations, traffic conditions, and transportation constraints. By considering these factors, AI-powered systems can generate optimal delivery routes, minimise transportation costs, and improve delivery timeframes.
This streamlines logistics operations and enhances customer satisfaction.
Transport optimisation normally takes place on routes to and from the warehouse, however, if your warehouse takes advantage of automated guided vehicles or AGVs, AI can also be used to optimise the paths these robots take within the warehouse, to ensure the fastest route is taken.
The use of AI in warehousing and logistics has become increasingly popular and beneficial. We can forecast demand for stock, improve inventory management, and optimise transport logistics. These applications help reduce out-of-stock events, optimise inventory, generate optimal delivery routes, minimise transportation costs, and improve delivery timeframes. As technology continues to advance, more AI applications will likely be implemented in the warehousing sector, leading to even greater efficiency and customer satisfaction.
Best practices for warehouse safety and security
For any successful supply chain operation, the safety and security of your warehouse solution is a vital area worth having a closer look at. It is important that you establish a safe and secure working environment to protect the assets within your warehouse, and your employees from potential hazards. In this article, we are going to discuss the best practices for warehouse safety and security and detail why each is important to consider.
Safety and security training
The very first step in this process should be maintaining a regular training program with your employees. This training phase should cover safety protocols such as the proper way to use equipment, emergency procedures, and materials handling techniques, in addition, security training should focus on procedures to secure the facility, identifying and reporting suspicious behaviour, and the identification of vulnerable areas of the facility.
The implementation of safety procedures and safety equipment
Workplace accidents and injuries can be minimised in your warehouse by ensuring that employees are equipped with the correct safety equipment. For example, your employee’s safety equipment can include protective gear such as safety glasses, hard hats, and high-visibility vests.
For machinery, particularly in a warehouse where heavy machinery is commonplace, it is important to establish a procedure as to how employees must conduct themselves in and around the machinery to ensure the safety of those using the equipment and those working near the machinery itself.
Storage safety and worst-case scenario policies.]
Safety procedures for storage should be an extremely important factor to consider in your warehouse, especially if your warehouse stores potentially hazardous goods such as flammable materials or substances.
The last thing you want is a warehouse fire destroying the assets within your warehouse and placing your employees in danger. Therefore, it’s important to not only have the correct storage procedures in place for these types of goods but to also have safety equipment to deal with emergencies such as fire extinguishers and an air-tight policy for what to do in that situation.
Regular safety inspections
Regular safety inspections should be conducted to identify potential hazards and areas for improvement. These inspections can be done by a dedicated safety team or by assigning the responsibility to warehouse supervisors. Any active hazards should be addressed immediately to prevent accidents and ensure workplace safety.
Theft prevention and restricted zones
Ensuring the security of the assets stored within the warehouse should be given top priority. To safeguard against theft, there are a few strategies that can be implemented. Firstly, certain areas can be restricted to only necessary employees. This can be achieved through the use of key cards or by allowing access only to employees with the correct ID badge. Secondly, the installation of surveillance cameras can help to monitor the warehouse for any potential theft.
Effective communication between management and employees is essential for maintaining a safe and secure warehouse environment. This includes regular safety meetings, open communication channels, and encouraging employees to report any safety or security concerns to management to address these matters in the future.
In conclusion, warehouse safety and security should be a top priority for any supply chain operation. By implementing these best practices, companies can prevent accidents and injuries, protect valuable assets, and improve overall warehouse efficiency.
Alternative energy solutions for distribution centres (DCs) in energy-starved South Africa
Loadshedding in South Africa has been devastating for both private citizens and businesses alike and the negative effects can’t be understated. This creates a logistics headache for distribution centres wishing to keep the lights on and operating as normal.
Distribution centres can range from average energy consumption rates for normal distribution centres to a high energy consumption rate for distribution centres that require refrigeration or other specialised storage requirements.
This creates such an issue because according to Meteor Space, the average non-refrigerated warehouse consumes 6.1 kilowatt-hours (kWh), and according to ASIdoors this figure jumps to 25 kWh per square foot of refrigeration per year in the case of refrigerated distribution centres. In this article, we will look at what measure’s distribution centres can take to keep the lights on and keep business flowing within their walls.
The energy solution will depend on a few important factors
Before choosing what type of solution fits your DCs best, it’s important to consider following four elements and take them into account when looking at power solutions.
- Your rate of power consumption.
- The size of your DCs.
- The location of DCs.
- The type of DCs.
This list will help us determine, what size and type of backup power solution your distribution centres will require and if your warehouse has the size to make certain systems viable such as solar which work well over a large surface area.
Finally, the specific type of DC will allow us to determine whether generators are a viable solution i.e., if your DC has special storage conditions such as refrigeration which will require a higher maximum power output.
Main backup power options for distribution centres
Generators – traditionally – have the advantage of a higher maximum power output over an option such as inverters. The downside of this however is that the cost viability of using generators as a backup system is largely linked to the price of the fuel they use to run.
While useful in the context of distribution centres which require larger quantities of electricity, generators can be extremely loud and in addition, they must be run in a well-ventilated area due to the fumes they emit.
Solar energy and batteries
Solar is one of the ideal energy alternatives for distribution centres, this is because of the open and unobstructed nature of most distribution warehouse rooftops providing a large surface area for solar panels to be placed.
Additionally, solar systems have another advantage which is their ability to generate their own electricity, which in times of stable power supply can be used in place of, or to supplement the draw of power from the national grid – effectively lowering operating costs.
While the upfront costs of installing solar systems and batteries are generally higher than a generator solution, the long-term benefits of lowering operating costs are a factor to consider with this backup solution.
While inverters cannot output the large quantity of electricity that generators can and don’t have the self-generating advantages of solar energy, they can be used in areas generators cannot, such as indoor areas as inverters don’t generate fumes.
Additionally, inverters can be used in combination with solar panels, where the solar panels charge the inverter instead of the inverter being charged through the grid for later use.
These systems are normally referred to as hybrid systems functioning by charging off the mains as well as a solar source.
Inverters also have the benefit of having a quick switch over time meaning a short downtime between the time the electricity goes off and the time it takes the inverter to restore the flow of electricity.
In the context of distribution centres this not only prevents systems from needing to perform a full restart as power is restored in as quickly as 300 milliseconds.
Inverters also assist in preventing power surges from reaching and damaging the main systems within the distribution centres as power can be fed through the inverters batteries rather than directly from the grid to the various devices within the distribution warehouse effectively creating a barrier between surges and your devices.
Each of these solutions has different benefits and downsides however choosing the right one for your distribution warehouse is vital given the unreliable state of the electrical grid in South Africa. The long-term power savings for your distribution centre are also important to consider, as options such as solar can significantly lower operational costs.
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