Today’s technology has improved automation, so it’s no longer only available to enterprise-level businesses and big brands. Now, automation is affordable and scalable, making it accessible to businesses of varying sizes. Some smaller companies may not realize that automated processes are available to them. The warehouse is one of the best areas of a business to implement automated processes.
What Is Warehouse Automation?
The goal of warehouse automation is to take repetitive, tedious manual tasks within a warehouse setting and automate them. According to one study, the adoption rate of warehouse automation was only 8% in 2019, but it’s expected to be approximately 45% by 2030. The automation process is designed to make manual work less labor-intensive to reduce labor costs, increase accuracy and productivity, and improve safety. Warehouse automation solutions were created to make various warehouse processes quicker.
Key Benefits of Warehouse Automation
1. Fewer Human Errors
People are likely to make errors at some point. Errors cause delays that ultimately lead to dissatisfied customers. However, by utilizing the correct warehouse automation solution, companies can reduce the potential for errors. Warehouse automation is beneficial because it helps prevent human errors in the warehouse that cost the company time and money, thus, increasing warehouse efficiency and accuracy.
2. Reduced Operational Costs
Warehouse automation systems are expensive, but the benefits often pay off quickly. Warehouse automation solutions cut labor and operational costs. Businesses can reap the benefits of a fast ROI offered by warehouse automation through multiple saving points like:
- Reducing the necessity for manual work, which lowers management and HR costs
- Achieving higher performance
- Optimizing product handling and storage expenses
- Minimizing errors in inventory
- Eliminating the risks of mishandling products
3. Improve Warehouse Productivity
Warehouse tasks tend to require hours of work and be repetitive. Warehouse automation solutions help to lighten the workers’ workload. Automation can eliminate the need to manually measure pallets or packages, cart heavy loads through the warehouse, and spend hours receiving and storing products. Instead, the people in the warehouse can complete less exhausting, more productive tasks. This not only increases warehouse productivity but also there is the potential to increase staff retention rates.
4. Eliminate Safety Risks
Warehouse automation helps to enhance warehouse safety. Warehouse operations are often risky procedures. It’s a high-traffic environment with high racks, heavy pallets, and, often, heavy machinery like forklifts or scissor lifts. Warehouse automation solutions can automate tasks that could otherwise be risky, making the warehouse safer for workers. Additionally, warehouse automation brings the products to the worker rather than the other way around, reducing human traffic throughout the warehouse facility. This will minimize product damage issues and improve overall safety.
5. Reduce Processing Time
Warehouse automation solutions reduce processing time. Humans aren’t as accurate or as relentlessly fast as a robot would be in the environment. Automated processes can save warehouse workers hours of work, making automation solutions a worthwhile investment for warehouses of varying sizes.
6. Optimize Space
Warehouses tend to feel cavernous, but truthfully, many are smaller than people realize. Warehouse automation solutions enable companies to benefit from every inch of space within the warehouse. Drones, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), automated guided vehicles (AGVs), and other automated processes enable the use of more vertical space, allowing for more narrow aisles. Because automated processes need less space to handle daily tasks, this allows more room to be monetized.
7. Increase Customer Satisfaction
The goal of any business is a good customer service rating. A satisfied customer is often a repeat customer. Warehouse automation solutions help companies to achieve customer satisfaction goals. Part of the way automation processes help to increase customer satisfaction is by improving accuracy and reducing shipping times. This means orders are fulfilled more quickly and efficiently, boosting customer approval and retention ratings.
Categories of Warehouse Automation
The level of warehouse automation that businesses choose to implement ranges from very simple to complex processes. Basic warehouse automation solutions use planning, vehicles, and machinery to reduce the number of repetitive tasks workers must complete. Advanced systems can include robotics and artificial intelligence.
- Basic warehouse automation: These simple technologies assist people with tasks to help minimize manual labor. For example, conveyors or carousels move inventory so that people can complete other tasks.
- Warehouse system automation: These systems use software, data analytics, machine learning, and robotics to automate specific procedures and tasks. For example, a warehouse management system has users pick similar items for all of the day’s orders at one time, so they aren’t crossing back and forth across the warehouse multiple times each day.
- Mechanized warehouse automation: Robotic equipment and systems assist people with warehouse tasks and procedures in this kind of automation. One example is shelf loader robots that lift racks of products and transport them to a human picker to sort.
- Advanced warehouse automation: This category combines mechanized warehouse robotics and automation systems that replace labor-intensive workflows. An example is using a fleet of robotic forklifts using advanced AI, cameras, and sensors to navigate through the warehouse, and using an online tracking portal to monitor the location of each forklift.
Types of Warehouse Automation Technology
Many types of warehouse automation exist because a wide range of warehouse systems and technology are available. Warehouse automation’s goal is minimizing manual tasks and speeding up processes from shipping to receiving.
Warehouse automation technology includes:
- Goods-to-Person (GTP): Goods-to-person is one of the most popular methods of fulfillment for reducing congestion and increasing efficiency. This includes conveyors, carousels, and vertical lift systems. These can double or triple warehouse speed when appropriately utilized.
- Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS): AS/RS is GTP technology that includes automated systems and equipment such as material-carrying vehicles, tote shuttles, and mini-loaders to store and retrieve materials or products. High-volume warehouses tend to use AS/RS systems when space is limited.
- Automated Sortation Systems: Sortation identifies things on the conveyor and sends them to the appropriate warehouse location using RFID, barcode scanners, and sensors. These systems are used for order fulfillment tasks such as receiving, picking, packing, and shipping.
These are not all warehouse automation technologies but they are three of the most popular.
Warehouse Automation Improves Speed, Safety and Customer Satisfaction
Warehouse automation solutions vary from simple conveyors to complex artificial intelligence. Warehouse automation solutions help to increase efficiency and productivity in the warehouse industry by automating repetitive tasks to free workers to work in other areas.