Demand for last-mile e-commerce delivery in densely populated urban locations is giving rise to multi-story warehouses. But taller warehouses come with spatial constraints and challenges.
Now, Silicon Valley-based Locix, a provider of spatial intelligence solutions, has developed a WiFi-based positioning system called SmartLPS, which can pinpoint the location of workers, inventory and equipment within 10 to 20 centimeters inside of multi-story warehouses to drive efficiency and reduce costs.
Locix’s SmartLPS is a full-stack solution and is integrated with the company’s intellectual property end-to-end. “We develop everything from silicon chips used in the trackers to the algorithms,” said Vikram Pavate, CEO of Locix in an interview with Connected Real Estate Magazine.
The solution solves the massive problem of spatial constraints in multi-story warehouses, says Pavate. While the demand for e-commerce space is expected to increase three times, the availability of space in urban locations is far less than what was available previously in traditional retail warehouses. This trend is putting pressure on innovators to develop spatial analysis tools that can provide the precise location of assets, according to Pavate.
“If you can locate activity precision, then the use cases become profound,” said Pavate.
Unlike traditional warehouses, Pavate says that multi-story centers have challenging navigational environments. Urban warehouses have to contend with spatial limitations such as significantly smaller front-loading areas and metal shelves stacked high in aisles widths that are between three to nine feet – much smaller in space than those found in traditional retail facilities. A need to meet very tight e-commerce delivery timelines further compounds these issues.
In partnership with Prologis, Locix’s tested its SmartLPS solution in a three month trial at MITSUI-SOKO Supply Chain Solutions (MSCS), a Prologis owned 67,250 square foot distribution center in Ichikawa, Japan.
Locix’s selected a testing site in Chiba located right outside of Tokyo- the world’s most urbanized city because it offered the ability to test in a highly modern urbanized location.
“The Chiba location amplified all of the significant issues related to multi-story warehouses such as constraint of space, lack of labor, demographic issues, and transportation network challenges,” said Pavate.
SmartLPS was able to locate the positioning of workers, forklifts, and other assets within 10-20 centimeters and captured more than 5 million locations tracking nearly 40 million square feet of movement within the warehouse.
A significant spatial challenge in multi-story warehouses is knowing when and where to place high-frequency items or those that are purchased more often in easily accessible locations. Through real-time visibility of assets and workers, warehouse owners and tenants can meet short delivery times for high demand goods.
Pavate says warehouse and distribution center owners and tenants can drive efficiencies by accurately predicting how many workers, forklifts, and other assets are needed. Spatial analytics tools enable warehouse owners and tenants to save labor costs by identifying more efficient routes, thus reducing the number of workers required to complete activities and boosting productivity. Optimizing for space also reduces transportation and real estate costs by enabling owners to use smaller spaces more efficiently.
“By integrating our WMS (warehouse management system) data into the Logix platform, we now have a single interface to monitor worker and asset utilization, track distance traveled and picking efficiency, view and adjust inventory placement, and optimize our assets and scheduling,” said Takeharu Haga, Senior Vice President, MITSUI-SOKO Supply Chain Solutions, a Prologis tenant.
SmartLPS uses a patented WiFi-based Local Positioning System (LPS) platform to collect spatial and sensor data from workers and assets without the need for extensive installation and high infrastructure costs of competing wireless solutions.
“5G ill not give you the localization you need to pinpoint the exact location of people and things,” said Pavate. WiFi was also a preferred choice because it is already ubiquitously available in existing facilities, he added.
Locix’s investors include Prologis Ventures, the investment arm of Prologis, I.D. Ventures, University of Tokyo Edge Capital, Murata Manufacturing, NTT Docomo Ventures, Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, iRobot Corp. and others.
The SmartLPS will be available to end-users through the Locix Partner Network next month.
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