What is Warehouse Automation and Its Benefits?
Many logistics and supply chain stakeholders have turned to warehouse automation as a solution to labor and efficiency problems. This article discusses some of the automation options available for warehouses, as well as the benefits of these technologies.
With online sales soaring over the course of the last few years following the start of the pandemic, E-Commerce companies are searching for ways to optimize their warehouses without staff burnout with the amount of labor needed only increasing. The answer? Warehouse automation.
What exactly is warehouse automation? You may be imagining a fully robotic system where humans are an afterthought. Not quite. Just as it sounds, companies use manufactured robots, sensors, and other AI equipment to fulfill time-consuming tasks that would have been completed by humans. The goal of warehouse automation is to increase efficiency and speed of fulfillment rather than having humans complete these tasks at a lesser rate. These robots are able to optimize warehouse space and company workflow. This creates more room for development in other areas where humans can be of more use. Warehouse automation takes time-consuming tasks and does them quickly and efficiently without monopolizing the time of manual workers.
Common Types of Warehouse Automation Fulfillment
There is more than one type of warehouse automation, and as you can guess, not all warehouses are the same. A few of the most common types are below:
In GTP automation, you will commonly see conveyors, vertical lifts, and carousels to possibly more than double the speed of fulfillment.
Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV)
In AGV automation, warehouses will use magnetic strips, wires, and/or sensors to navigate fixed paths through a warehouse. This type of automation is best for warehouses with an open floor plan and not too many nooks, crannies, and turns.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)
AMRs are very flexible and one of the more popular types of automation for warehouses. They use GPS systems to create efficient routes throughout the warehouse, as well as advanced laser guidance systems to detect obstacles. Think of a robotic vacuum that learns your house inside and out, except this robot will not be cleaning anything. They are safe to navigate complex warehouses and places with lots of human traffic, making them very user-friendly.
Voice Picking and Tasking, or pick-by-voice.
Using speech recognition software and mobile headsets with a voice-picking warehouse automation system can eliminate the need for holding devices like barcode scanners. With fewer products, this can not only improve safety but efficiency and room for error.
Automated Sortation Systems
Automation sortation systems can identify items on a conveyor system and divert them to a warehouse location using barcode scanners and sensors. This is particularly effective in receiving, picking, packing, and shipping for E-Commerce sites.
What are the Benefits?
Fewer Human Errors
With any manual project, errors are sure to occur. With warehouse automation, errors are not only few and far between, but they are much easier to find the source of the issue and correct it. Making the leap to a warehouse automation system can ease the anxiety of errors occurring daily. There is no more double and triple checking before sending an order out. Through automation, everything was pulled by its barcode or specific area. So, the only way it can be wrong is if the area was labeled incorrectly. Funnily enough, through a human input error.
With a warehouse automation system, you are investing in consistency. More than that, you are investing in time. As a warehouse manager, you now have time to do all of the things on your to-do list that is way too long. A focus shift will be the force that can drive growth in your warehouse and the company as a whole. You will be able to see results almost immediately. Typically once an automation system is fully integrated, which can take a few weeks, you will be able to see just how seamless warehouse tasks have become.
You’re not just investing in an automation system for a month or year to get you through a crazy season, you are investing in the longevity of that automation. The consistency that warehouse automation will give your company is worth the money. No more sleepless nights worrying about how you will staff a specific sale. Or how your employees could possibly get fulfill all of your orders within the promised turnaround time. Automated robots, sensors, and the like can work at all hours, where your employees will need to go home. This can be extremely helpful during sales and holiday weekends for E-Commerce sites.
It can obviously vary in terms of what you are actually spending on that investment. The upfront cost is a large investment, but you’ll notice that you get your money back in labor costs. Not only are there different types of warehouse management systems, but there are systems that are designed for specific warehouse types because, as you know, not all warehouses and companies are alike.
Not only do automation systems help with everyday tasks within the order fulfillment process, but most manage real-time inventory as well. You will no longer have to constantly check item after item for the correct numbers. Warehouse automation will do that for you. So, gone are the days of dragging a pen and clipboard around with you to make sure specific items are correct; warehouse automation will do it for you and have the receipts to back up the numbers.
Fewer workplace injuries
Not every item is easy to get to when you have to fit in as much inventory as possible. With robots doing the heavy lifting, it eliminates the constant worry for warehouse managers regarding injuries in the warehouse. Employees will not have to get on ladders as much or worry about items that are hard to get to.
Warehouse automation has many benefits. Taking the plunge into the automation world could help with significant growth in your company. Now that you know the most popular types of automation, as well as the most sought-after benefits, you can look into what type of system will work best in your warehouse.
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