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Building information modelling is a game changer
Information-rich 3D models of storage facilities enables retailers to optimize the capacity of both storage facilities and workforce.
Ecommerce is driving the need for efficient use of storage facilities such as distribution centers, fulfillment centers, and dark stores. With shrinking order sizes, demand for ultrafast fulfillment, proliferation of stock-keeping units (SKUs), and workforce shortages, operating these facilities efficiently has become complex and expensive, putting pressure on retailers to optimize the capacity of both storage and workforce. This is compounded by business imperatives such as revamping of supply chain nodes, new acquisitions, and also remodeling of retail stores aligned to seasons, marketing demands, or change in business model.
Lack of access to comprehensive and accurate data on building layouts, utilized storage capacity, and workforce productivity results in poor storage capacity visibility, suboptimal fulfillment velocity, inefficient operations, low productivity, and inconsistent incentives for the workforce.
By using building information modeling (BIM), retailers can generate information-rich 3D models of storage facilities that will enable them to optimize layouts, streamline operations, optimize capacity management, improve labor productivity, and reduce operational costs.
AI-ML powered BIM framework for smarter 3D models
An AI-powered BIM framework can automate the modeling process and handle large amount of data, enabling better and faster 3D model creation.
Current methods for creating BIM models require extensive manual work, which are tedious, time-consuming, costly, and prone to errors. An AI-ML powered approach can address these challenges by automating the BIM process, consuming huge amount of data at once, avoiding errors, reducing time and costs, thereby enabling better and faster 3D model creation.
The BIM process consists of four phases: scanning of the facility, 3D modeling, system configuration, and solution adoption (Figure 1).
Figure 1: AI-powered BIM modeling framework
The above framework can be customized as per business requirements. For example, a leading automotive aftermarket parts retailer improved the operational efficiency of their distribution center by accurately capturing information about their storage facilities using BIM. The cost of BIM depends on the purpose, size, and complexity of the mapping facility, devices used for capturing spatial data, software used for modeling and configuration, and other operational costs involved. High-level collaboration of different stakeholders is vital to the success of the modeling process. SMEs of various operational areas can enable the modeling team to extract data with high accuracy and in configuring relevant systems. Any discrepancies can be identified by physically inspecting the facility at random and cross-checking with the virtual model of the warehouse. The different functional or operational KPIs should be continually monitored and performance ascertained before scaling the modeling process.
Business benefits are significant
An AI-ML-powered BIM strengthens business operations across the value chain.
The application of BIM ranges from planning and designing to entire facility lifecycle, which includes:
Space utilization: BIM models increase space visibility by providing accurate and complete dimensions of the facility and its volumetric capacities. This will be of immense help in situations where space is constrained.
Operational efficiency: Digital layouts can help plan DC operations like receiving, putaway, and picking, in both human and co-botic environment.
Dynamic inventory slotting: The 3D models can help operations managers stock and prioritize inventory based on customer demand. This helps reduce fulfillment time and optimize labor operations.
The road ahead
Retailers who understand the real potential of BIM can use it to digitalize their supply chains as well as serve their unique needs and maximize outcomes.
Remodeling, rebranding, or construction of stores with accurate dimensions and measurements can be used by designers and architects for digital transformation of stores. It can help in digital, virtual simulation of any facility changes or scenarios. For example, any scenario related to the facility can be simulated and the layout of the infrastructure can be reimagined to assess the risks involved before implementation. Retailers who understand the real potential of BIM can use it to serve their unique needs and maximize outcomes—improved storage space utilization, inventory availability, user experience, and workforce productivity, and also create digital twin of the facilities. All of this will enable organizations go a long way in their ambition to digitalize the supply chain.