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What Are the Components of a “Connected DC”?

What Are the Components of a “Connected DC”?

In the competitive e-commerce and omnichannel retail sectors, many warehouse and distribution center (DC) operators find themselves at a crossroads. The challenge is that most DCs rely on legacy processes, systems and technological infrastructures that don’t support the increasing demands of modern e-commerce. As they grapple with capacity and fulfillment constraints, they know that a digital transformation to more automated, connected processes is a crucial next step for long-term operational survival.

Whether you’re retrofitting existing facilities or building greenfield sites, connected technologies — which leverage sensors, operational data and advanced analytics software — provide the tools that can address a wide range of operational needs, including:

  • Real-time visibility into production status
  • Notifications and alerts of throughput bottlenecks
  • Condition-based maintenance models
  • Increased uptime, utilization and productivity

The Foundation of a Connected Warehouse

Building a connected DC infrastructure starts by connecting machine control systems to capture previously underutilized operational data. This first step provides access to performance dashboards that enable visibility to material handling equipment (MHE) and sub-system statuses, including:

  • Merge rates, lane flow balancing
  • Scanner read rates, recirculation
  • Downtime, throughput
  • Asset utilization
  • Trending graphs for intuitive system visualization

The next step is to install machine-level sensors on key MHE components that allow continuous monitoring of equipment health and performance trends. These sensors are used to capture specific data that would indicate the current condition of an asset:

  • Motor gearboxes — temperature and vibration
  • Power control panel — voltage, amperage and electricity consumed per case shipped
  • Facility temperature and humidity — facility baselines and weight-scale adjustment considerations

By collecting machine control data and combining it with machine-level sensor readings, operations can begin to extract real-time and historic insights into the performance and condition of connected MHE assets and sub-systems. The system is designed to detect equipment degradation and process inefficiencies to help DC operators identify fault conditions that could limit productivity or threaten uptime.

The Evolution of Enterprise Performance Management Software

For the past several years, Honeywell Intelligrated has helped its customers to make this important digital transformation and begin building connected warehouse infrastructures. Our Connected Assets offering enabled them to realize the potential of their unused operational data, but that was just the first step on a larger journey.

Today, Honeywell Forge software is building upon Connected Assets and evolving into a complete enterprise performance management (EPM) solution to provide a holistic, real-time picture of an organization’s entire operation. Built on a native edge-to-cloud platform, this robust EPM solution is designed to expand the scope of connected DC technologies and enable operators to gain full visibility into every connected asset, system or process.

By providing a system of record of the most current data inputs, EPM software eliminates the challenge of making operational decisions based upon days-old data. This platform will also provide notifications and recommended actions across key assets and essential operational activities, including:

  • Operational visualization across systems, rate and flow analytics, and notifications
  • Predictive maintenance, asset availability and health to enable just-in-time (JIT) maintenance

Contact our EPM software specialists to learn how to transform your operation into a connected warehouse that delivers operational and business excellence across the enterprise.

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