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Today, warehousing involves a great
deal more than the stockpiling of foodstuffs. As civilization has developed,
warehousing has become broader, more diverse, more complex and with the rise in
the trend of internet, e-commerce, mobile communications and urbanization, a
revolution in retail has emerged as a result, changing the nature of the
warehouse. Many warehouses are switching off their lights and going dark. Dark
warehouse is a term that is used for warehouses that do not require lights for
regular/general operations. Such warehouses operate without any human
interventions with the help of technologies such as autonomous guided material
handling equipment, automatic identification and warehouse execution systems;
hence these are fully automated warehouses. Recently the trend of dark
warehouse is increasing among supermarkets and online retailers. Freezer
warehouses, cold storage and sectors such as pharmaceuticals and beverages where
sub-zero temperature conditions do exist; are the places that require humans to
work under adverse conditions, are highly suitable for the application of dark
warehousing. Dark warehouse application becomes easy for operations having low
variations. Advancement in technology has made it possible to utilize the
warehouse space properly by increasing the vertical storage capacity.
Technology such as Automatic retrieval systems, stacker cranes make it possible
to work in narrow aisles and stack palletized cased goods to and from the racks
up to height more than 100 feet of the ground. Fully automation will provide
error free operation, right alignment of goods along with optimum storage space
and zero waste because of proper material handling. Goods can be easily tracked
from point of origin to shipping point hence real-time inventory control.

Beside all the development in the
material handling technology in the last decade, implementation of dark
warehouse is facing many challenges. Main challenge in the widespread
adaptation is high initial investment cost primarily related with automation. Another
barrier to the wide adaptation is requirement of the flexibility for e-commerce
companies to handle large variety of products. Instead of adopting fully dark
warehouse facility companies may prefer zones of automation. It is also difficult
to completely remove the human interventions. For example, in the conventional
warehouse mislabeled or torn packages are send back to be repaired by workers;
that is not feasible in dark warehouses. 

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