Automation is a scary word. For individuals, it sounds like "displacement." It conjures up images of lost wages and a long, arduous job search to come. For organizations, it sounds like the end of business as usual.
In warehouse management, however, it should bring to mind pleasant images and bring about positive results: more effective processes, more satisfied customers, etc. For many organization and individuals, the first step in overcoming these fears is recognizing that warehouse automation almost never happens all at once. It's not an all or nothing endeavor, but a gradual process of optimization and resource allocation.
Equipment Depot's Definitive Guide to Warehouse Automation identifies four different levels of automation. "A warehouse," they note, "doesn't go from zero automation to fully automated overnight
Which level of automation have your warehouses reached?
1. Systems Automation
With systems automation in place, warehouses still rely mostly on human labor for picking, shelving, and other tasks. Typically, however, these processes are made more productive with the addition of a solution like a Warehouse Management System. Equipment Depot suggests investments in these helpful solutions will increase throughout the next year. More than half of the organizations they surveyed (55%) expect to investment in one during 2020. They'll reap benefits including more streamlined repeatable tasks and better visibility into inventory levels.
2. Mechanized Automation
Warehouses with mechanized automation take advantage of labor-reducing tools that provide for speedy horizontal motion. These include conveyor belts, stretch wrap applicators, and other picking equipment. In addition to expediting repetitive processes, these solutions can reduce (or even eliminate) product damage. In time, this will boost customer satisfaction.
Semi-automated warehouses rely on automated storage and retrieval systems (AR/RS) which can include racking systems, load-handling devices, and conveyor systems for moving goods to and from dock areas. Such warehouses also boost the efficacy of their WMS with the addition of Warehouse Control Software like RFID classification and automated vehicles.
4. Full and Sophisticated Automation
These are the world-class warehouses that include a complex, sophisticated network systems and solutions. In some instances, these even operate as true "lights out warehouses." These are warehouses that operate without a single human worker. Most, however, still leverage a combination of traditional labor and automation.
Are you ready to automate some or all of your warehouse management processes? If your processes are too labor-intensive or your resources are utilized ineffectively, the answer is probably yes. Reach out today to learn more about taking the right approach to automation in the warehouse. Our experts will ensure you address obstacles and optimize processes without disrupting everything you're already doing well.