Optimizing warehouse automation with effective IT monitoring systems

Thailand's demand for warehouse space is expected to reach 5.8 million square meters in 2023, an increase of 7.0% when compared with 2022. The occupancy rate is at 86.0% and is expected to continue growing in 2024 as of the recovery of the manufacturing, export, and e-commerce sectors.

 

In the past few years, warehouses in Thailand have transitioned from labor-intensive to machine-assisted, and then to automated warehouses. The pivot to automation is to improve efficiency, accuracy, and reduce labor costs and importantly to increase competitiveness.

 

Warehouse automation systems have become a key part of modern warehouses, just like in production processes. From automated placement systems by robots to automatic picking, warehouses are moving towards full digitalization. Although automated warehouses are equipped with a wide range of information technology (IT), operational technology (OT), sensors, and software, they still face challenges in integrating these technologies to work at their full potential. Extensive IT monitoring can help   ensure that all automated processes, both new and old, are working properly without any defects.

 

The Key Elements of Warehouse Automation 

 

Warehouse automation consists of three main components:

 

First, Information technology (IT), these are standard network devices and systems, and include computers, servers, network devices, including switches, routers, firewalls, printers, etc.

 

Second, Warehouse management system (WMS), software that helps manage warehouses, inventory, supply chains, and warehouse control software.

 

And Third, Operational technology (OT) devices, such as hardware, software for monitoring and controlling industrial environments, including special devices such as PLCs (Programmable logic controllers), industrial computers, machines, robots, vehicles, SCADA systems, and DCS (Distributed Control Systems).

 

Even though they might be interconnected (think of a warehouse management system running on the IT network, for example), each area operates separately. When it comes to monitoring, this doesn’t help teams who are interested in ensuring that the warehouse as a whole is operating as it should. Therefore, manufacturers require a holistic overview of everything in their monitoring dashboards.

 

Making Holistic Monitoring a Reality

 

Just like in industrial settings, machines and motors play a vital role in automation of warehouses. Think of motors on conveyor belts or automatic picking robots. And – just as in manufacturing – monitoring the condition of these machines is key to prevent unnecessary downtime. Condition Monitoring, driven by Paessler PRTG, goes a long way here as  it measures data about the machines, usually using IIoT sensors, and then compares that data to historical trends and other data to predict when a machine will need to be serviced.

 

Automation in warehouses relies heavily on a network to communicate – and in modern warehouses, wireless networks are often used. And of course, ensuring these networks are operational is crucial for automation.

 

First and foremost, IT administrators can monitor the wireless networking infrastructure itself (such as routers, switches, end-points, and more) using common functionality like SNMP or REST APIs, and can monitor the connected devices. 

 

The overall goal is to bring all monitoring data into PRTG to get a single overview of everything. This way, IT teams can quickly see the health of their networks and the components that are crucial to automation processes in one place, as well as set up thresholds to trigger alerts and notifications when something fails. 

 

If you have warehouses in several locations, it's also important to consolidate the monitoring data from each of them into one dashboard, so that you can instantly see the health and status of each warehouse at a glance. This can be done with PRTG by installing remote probes at each location, which deliver the monitoring data to a centralized PRTG server. 

 

Paessler PRTG also simplifies  warehouse automation by providing real-time insights into the status of warehouseautomation systems enabling quicker identifaction and addressing of  issues.PRTG can monitor a wide range of devices and systems, including IT, OT, and network infrastructure. 

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