The concept of automating a warehouse has been in place for several years. There is an increased demand for an automated warehouse in recent years due to various reasons. The costs of land and labor have gone up, companies are handling huge deliveries, and consumer expectations are high.
The advancement in technology is has revealed the importance of having a cost-effective warehouse. It helps businesses to meet the demand of the supply chain and eliminate manual processes. Therefore, implementing an automation system in a warehouse is no longer a purview of big players like Amazon, Alibaba, or Ikea. It is also essential for smaller companies.
What to Automate In a Warehouse
Two processes can be automated in your warehouse. They include
- Decision-Making. It involves the computerization of all decisions pertaining to the storage space, collection process, and automatic optimization of the resource.
- Movement of Goods. Automation of machinery that moves goods from one area to another.
Types of Warehouse Automation
Barcode Labels and Scanning. A warehouse should have accurate documentation, for it helps the management to track inventory. Thus, barcodes labels and scanning will help you can minimize mistakes and improve efficiency as you manage your warehouse.
Computerization of the Picking Process. Collection of items from the warehouse can consume a significant amount of time and can have errors, especially when it is done manually. However, the process can take place seamlessly when you install integrated shelving systems or use robots.
Vehicles that are Guided Automatically (AGVs). Every warehouse should have tools such as forklifts. You can increase efficiency by having self-driving pallets and forklifts. Having these AGVs that are not supervised or guided will improve the movement of goods, even in congested environments. They have the capacity to navigate around the building without drivers or supervisors.
Computerization of the Back Office. Having a warehouse that is automated is advantageous because you can access data simultaneously from the management system of warehouses (WMS). It also eliminates risks like double entries that can disrupt the supply chain processes. Thus, automating your inventory and back-office will help these departments to work as a team to ensure that the warehouse data is synchronized.
Inventory automation. It has a higher potential of cutting down errors that originates from data entry and transcription. The manual process can disrupt operations and contribute to an inconsistent inventory process.
Benefits of Automating a Warehouse
- Reduced Operating Expenses.
Automation eliminates the use of manual labor in warehouse operations. Take, for example, Alibaba's smart warehouse, where there are 60 robots that assist with the movement of goods. This has reduced the number of employees operating the warehouse by 70%. Additionally, automation eliminates overtime during peak periods to sustain demand since machines can work throughout the season at no extra expense.
Further, it reduces processing costs and time since the robust integration and barcode scanning improve the collection and packing of the items in the warehouse. This improves productivity and processing costs since less time is spent on unnecessary administrative processes.
- Enhances Efficiency and Accuracy
Automating a warehouse involves the use of barcode scanners to scan items and their locations, thus spontaneously updating the inventory. It reduces mispicks, which are common when an employee enters barcode numbers manually in the system. The warehouse management system notifies the supervisor when a wrong item is scanned or picked from the warehouse.
Therefore, an incorrect item can't be shipped to the customer. Scanning products improves the goods-in process, for it synchronizes them with the purchase orders, thus improving the put-away time. It minimizes the errors that can result from double data entry. Automation links several departments like sales order management systems and accounts data. This ensures that your finances, inventory, and orders are all automatically updated.
Automation assists you to expand the storage space without building another structure. It improves inventory control and increases productivity, thus organizing your deliveries. You can save space by creating more racks upwards, thus eliminating the need for increasing your footprint.
Secondly, you can automate the collection and movement of goods in the store by having robot carousels and automated lifts. When an item is removed from the warehouse, it is automatically replaced from the stock lifts, thus enabling the logistics teams to track every item in the warehouse no matter its size.
- Improves Security and Safety
Having a warehouse management system requires all employees operating the premises to enter any transactions using their profile. This requirement creates an audit trail that ties each activity to a specific individual. Thus automation improves accountability, which reduces pilferage. Secondly, automation segregates high-value items from hazardous materials in the warehouse. Therefore when accidents happen, you can use the automated system to minimize damages. It also increases the morale of the floor managers since they know where each item is located, and if it goes missing, they can be able to track it. It minimizes the access of reports and analysis by unauthorized persons, which can cause leakage of company secrets and loss of competitive advantage. Further, a seamless operation increases productivity and eliminates the risk of using questionable equipment or improper lifting of the items that cause injury and death.
To Sum It Up
Warehouse automation systems are essential for it improves the movement of goods. Thus, a well-designed warehouse management platform improves both the profitability and success of your business. It reduces costs since it cut down the number of workers need to operate a warehouse, increases efficiency by reducing mispicks or wrong entry of barcodes.
Computerization improves security as well as the safety of your warehouse because each transaction is entered into the system using a unique staff number, thus creating an audit trail. Computerizing your warehouse will save space since shelves can be designed upwards to accommodate more goods. You can use guided forklifts to collect items from the higher shelves. These initiatives will increase efficiency because you will be able to make deliveries very quickly, thus meeting customers' expectations.