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  November 27th, 2023 | Written by

Leveraging Warehouse Simulation for Faster and Accurate Operations

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As decision-makers cope with fluctuating variables, many use warehouse digital twins for better preparedness. This warehouse simulation method involves creating highly detailed digitized versions of buildings, equipment or even entire supply chains.

People can then look forward to warehouse simulation benefits ranging from improved predictions to better space utilization. Creating digital twins takes time and financial investment, but these advanced tools allow users to maintain competitiveness in fast-changing landscapes.

Reduce Equipment Failures With Warehouse Digital Twins

Everything from overly heavy loads to corrosion can cause warehouse equipment to fail. The associated downtime is often prohibitively costly. However, digital twins can increase people’s awareness of parts, activities and other aspects that may lead to future machine malfunctions.

People can build equipment-based warehouse digital twins for fixed or moving components and then run simulations to see which elements cause the most stress on the machinery. Alternatively, this approach could show what people should do to ensure the equipment lasts at least as long as its expected life span.

A digital twin could also help people make comparisons between different equipment models. Does a newer conveyor belt break down less often than one three years older? If so, how do the parts differ between the two? Studying the variables could increase equipment reliability or help people decide when to upgrade a warehouse’s machines. 

Let Warehouse Simulation Tools Highlight Bottlenecks

Modern warehouses are busy places, and slowdowns could cause ripple effects across operations. However, increased visibility is among the often-cited warehouse simulation benefits executives love. They can create digital twins to show baseline performance in the facility, making it easier to spot deviations. 

When leaders see something different from the norm, they can analyze the digital twin’s data to understand the cause and its effects. Which areas of the warehouse get the most traffic throughout the day? What are the most common picking locations? If one production line gets backed up, how does that problem affect the facility’s other workflows?

The answers to these questions are not always immediately obvious. However, noticing the issues and identifying solutions is often easier with digital twins. Warehouse simulation products can also show whether training improvements would bring the desired gains to relieve bottlenecks.

Sometimes, slowdowns occur because of physical issues, such as too many staff members working in a confined area and causing delays. However, non-optimized processes can also cause them. Once a simulation shows the cause, people can start working on practical solutions. 

Choose the Best Ways to Use Space

Whether people are having new warehouses built or altering the current layout of an existing facility, digital twins enable individuals to see the options without making changes in the real world.

For example, warehouses generally use combinations of three different aisle widths. Those categorized as very narrow start at 72 inches wide, although the widest options are at least 156 inches. The significant variation between the options makes it more challenging to see which aisle widths are best for particular spaces. 

However, individuals taking advantage of warehouse simulation benefits can test numerous configurations before finalizing decisions. Such an approach is also convenient when planning to invest in new fixed equipment or warehouse robots. Can the facility safely accommodate more assets without disrupting traffic flows?

Depending on a digital twin for space-planning reasons can also help people make better choices about the necessary equipment. Most modern warehouse ceilings are up to 40 feet high. Taller heights require specialized equipment, such as high-reach forklifts. 

Learn the Effects of Time in Transit

What happens in a warehouse is only part of the story. Inappropriate travel conditions could mean perishable goods arrive in unsellable condition. Even if a warehouse’s managers had no influence or control over what occurred, they could still receive the blame. 

Warehouse digital twins can remove much of the uncertainty about what happens once products begin traveling to their destinations. In one case, researchers tracked 47 container loads of citrus fruits during a 30-day journey. They wanted to learn how time affected the consumables’ arrival condition and whether the fruits traveled in conditions outside their optimal temperature ranges. Digital twins revealed the best ways to extend shelf life, showing the best environments. 

Decision-makers could also take a similar approach to see which packaging materials withstand road jostles, rough handling and other likely outcomes of goods traveling long distances. People increasingly choose to ship goods in sustainable, sturdy containers. However, it’s best to test the options in a simulator before purchasing possibilities that may not be as good as they first seemed. 

Become Proactive About Disruptions

As supply chain specialists hear about warehouse simulation benefits and use cases, many become excited about how digital platforms could help them anticipate and respond to disruptions. The alternative typically involves reacting to issues once they’ve happened. 

Warehouse digital twins are especially beneficial for companies with sprawling supply chains extending to multiple countries. Automotive brand Ford requires 35 billion components to make 6 million vehicles annually. Things get even more complex since Ford relies on 1,400 suppliers linked to 4,400 manufacturing sites. A simulation could show the likely consequences of severe weather, labor strikes or any other event that could lengthen the time required to receive goods. 

Reliable data about shipping time frames also improves customer satisfaction. Many people willingly pay more if merchants guarantee they’ll get their goods in one or two days. It’s less appealing if shippers provide larger ranges, such as 7-10 business days.

Warehouse simulation tools allow users to see if everything’s on schedule or remain flexible when uncontrollable circumstances arrive. Although logistics managers cannot manipulate a storm’s impact, a digital twin allows them to route goods to avoid inclement weather.

Anticipate Warehouse Simulation Benefits

These offers can become excellent long-term investments for those willing to learn how to use them and customize the features to their precise needs. 

However, since most users cannot develop digital twins for all warehouse assets, they should prioritize those most likely to give them the biggest payoffs over time. As leaders see the possibilities and workflow enhancements, they’ll be more open to expanding how the warehouse uses digital simulations. 

Setting specific goals will also help digital twin projects stay on track for success. What are the facility’s biggest current challenges? Which workflows do employees report as being most time-consuming or error-prone? The answers to these questions can illuminate appropriate use cases, giving leaders the confidence to pursue them and set examples for others.