Warehouse Automation

warehouse automationAn automated warehouse is a facility where all or some of the tasks related to storing, retrieving, and moving inventory are carried out by automated systems. Using automation can cut down on costs associated with running the warehouse in the long term, although such systems are costly to implement initially. It can also provide added security, by keeping human workers out of sensitive environments. Numerous companies offer systems for use in warehouse automation and can provide consulting services, helping companies determine and meet their needs.

In an automated warehouse, goods can be moved by people or robots, along with conveyors and overhead pulley systems. Commonly, objects in the warehouse are tagged to allow them to be located by computer, and the inventory is continuously updated as objects move in, out, and around the warehouse. Technology like radio frequency identification (RFID) can be very useful in an automated warehouse.

Benefits of an Automated Warehouse

While there are many benefits as a result of automated warehousing, below are the ones that we feel are most relevant to the majority of our clients.

Reduced Labor Costs
Typically, one of the most common and successful justifications for adding material handling automation us the reduction in labor costs.  It’s expensive to store, move and ship products with a totally manual system:  salaries, benefits, and injury potential are all significantly higher investments than conveyor, sortation and vertical storage systems.

automated roboticsIncreased Throughput
Doing more with less and faster has become a fact of line in the manufacturing and distribution worlds. Equipment like conveyor and robotics allow products and orders to flow though at higher speeds, and decrease the amount of touches. This means that the maximum amount of orders that can be fulfilled in a day increases. If demand for the product is currently not the limiting factor for the business, then more orders can be processed using automation.

Improved Quality
Warehouses and DC’s are busy, busy places with hundreds and thousands of SKU’s that need to be managed during the order process.  Automation can include elements of scanning and sorting and directed picking that is managed by and integrated into a WMS or a WES that can help increase order accuracy by removing a human element. This increase reduces the amount of product waste or inaccurate picks that lead to lost time in the return process, lost revenue to the return shipment process and the added time of having to return and re-pick the order correctly.  As a result, increasing the accuracy of orders with automated systems by just a few percentage points can mean a significant difference in operating costs, thus revenue.

Space Utilization
Real estate and rent are sky high with no signs of slowing down in most areas and it is virtually impossible to find a facility with enough space and also room for expansion as the company grows.  But why waste the time and resources knocking down wall and adding onto a locations just to continue to fill them with racking and storage shelves for employees to walk around picking from?

An automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) can not only save you tons of space, it can save you hours of pick time by bringing the goods to the person, not the other (more traditional) way around.   By utilizing the existing space and high ceilings commonly found in warehouses, VLM’s and vertical carousels are becoming popular automated solutions to save space, time and money.