An Introduction to Warehouse Automation

A decade ago, warehouses were only considered intermediary locations for storing goods. Since then, warehouses have matured to incorporate additional business processes for improving efficiency and minimizing redundancy across their operations. The optimization of production, distribution, and technology usage has been critical in meeting evolving consumer demands. To sustain these complex needs, businesses are turning to automation to act as a backbone for their daily operations. In the modern supply chain, warehouse automation is no longer reserved for high velocity markets. E-commerce companies, manufacturers, logistics enterprises and retail outlets are embracing these warehouse changes to enhance their quality of operations and baseline efficiency. This reduction in logistics costs, human error and supply chain wastages allows smaller companies to stay competitive in growing markets.

Overall, automation is shifting the standard in traditional warehouse operations. With the evolution of warehousing systems and advanced technologies, companies are looking for new methods to maximize order accuracy through automated material handling equipment, conveyor lighting systems, and robotic tools. Given the chaos of warehousing automation, many organizations are investigating reliable trends for implementing the best business practices.

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Warehouse automation is an effective way to gain efficiencies, cut costs and scale operations.

Warehouse Automation comes in two parts:

Process automation

sometimes referred to as system automation, digitizes manual processes like inventory data collection and integrates that data into your software environment, such as your database or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. This type of automation runs on an ecosystem of barcoding and wireless barcode scanners to input and track data, which is then communicated via software to a centralized repository where the information is stored for future retrieval.

Physical automation

which includes various forms of mechanized automation, refers to the use of robots, robotic systems in warehouse. More costly to implement, physical automation provides a reasonable ROI for larger high-volume warehouse and distribution center (DC) operations. Such as goods-to-person (GTP) technology, driverless automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), those manufactured by Fetch Robotics.

Preparing For Automated Warehouse Robots

What is your ROI? The Top Benefits

Warehouse automation has several benefits that allow companies to improve their bottom-line. Consider the following improvements:

Integrated Supply Chain Systems through IT Infrastructure Automation

Shippers and Logistic Service Providers (LSPs) invest in best of breed supply chain execution systems to gain the latest functionalities and inject efficiencies into their operations. Over time that creates disparate systems and a complex IT ecosystem, driving costs on infrastructure, application maintenance and support. Ownership of on-premise solutions further increases the cost for shippers.

Technological developments in IT infrastructure automations is reducing IT overhead. Infrastructure automation makes server management, code deployment, quality assurances, and support easier at every level. Improved flexibility allows us to deploy code fixes across multiple instances in one shot and trigger regression scenarios across multiple applications irrespective of vendor solutions. If regression cases fail, bugs will be logged and alerted to their application systems. Unless regression tests pass, code will not be migrated to higher level environments, minimizing productive impacts. Automating entire supply chain processes is steadily become a reality for many businesses.

Benefits Of Warehouse Automation

Companies that introduce automation technologies in their warehouse often experience several of the following benefits

Lower Costs

Automation helps reduce overhead, driving cost savings associated with labor, equipment and maintenance, while also increasing throughput. It also pushes down spends for energy consumption, storage space and safety incidents.

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Workforce Productivity & Retention

Automation can raise the productivity of each worker without increasing your headcount, in turn increasing the throughput of each shift. By making the jobs of your warehouse team easier and safer, you create a more attractive place to work—an important factor in today’s market.

Healthier Inventory

Automating processes, such as data collection and inventory transactions, can help reduce lost inventory, shrinkage and misplacement while also pushing toward 99.999% accuracy. This level of inventory control means fewer shipping errors as well. It also contributes to reducing or eliminating the need for staging to support just-in-time (JIT) methodologies for order fulfillment.

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Sustainable “Green” Practices

Automation reduces the amount of energy required to run your facilities, lowering costs, waste and land use, and minimizing your facility’s impact on the environment. These benefits become especially impactful for refrigerated or temperature-controlled facilities or warehouses that handle hazardous waste.

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