Warehouse automation is the process of automating the movement of warehouse inventory and warehouse processes to increase their efficiency with minimal human assistance. As a part of warehouse automation solutions, businesses eliminate labor-intensive duties, including strenuous and repetitive physical work. Employees can employ the latest technologies to make work processes faster and easier. Warehouse automation solutions can help managers improve overall productivity, safety, and accuracy. There are various types of warehouse automation solutions, including:
- Goods-to-Person Technologies
This kind of automation technology involves machines and robots bringing the goods/materials to employees for assembly, packaging, or shipping. Goods-to-person (GTP) technologies may involve the use of cranes, vehicles, drones, conveyor belts, or production lines to transport materials. There may be automated storage and retrieval systems that use carousels to transport items around the warehouse.
- Pick-to-Light Systems
Pick-to-light systems involve the use of LED lights and barcodes to help employees find items or materials. Instead of the traditional labeling system, these kinds of automated systems help automate the manual work done by employees to improve their efficiency.
- Voice-Picking Systems
These systems allow employees to communicate with each other through headsets. And as such, it helps employees identify any potential issue and use the headsets to communicate with their team if the need arises. For instance, if an employee notices a defective product, they can immediately use this system to let the team know about the problem.
- Collaborative mobile robots
Collaborative mobile robots work along with employees to help improve accuracy in production lines and identify any defects. They can analyze the products and shipping contents for any defects. They also help employees with the picking process and optimize the picking routes depending on work priorities. Offering high productivity, scalability, and reliability, collaborative mobile robots reduce the commute time for employees between different areas of the warehouse.
Warehouse automation can improve productivity and employee satisfaction by reduction of human labor. It should be emphasized that warehouse automation solutions may reduce the costs of human labor, but they do not eliminate the need for employees. There is a good chance that companies might not be able to significantly reduce the number of staff in their warehouses after automation. Instead, they might relocate a large number of staff from physical labor jobs to maintenance positions. There are several benefits of automating your warehouse processes, including:
- Greater Employee Satisfaction
Since automation reduces the physical work of employees, they feel more satisfied with their jobs. They are given maintenance and organizational roles and tasks, allowing them to learn and grow within the company. They also have higher energy levels because most of the heavy-lifting is done by machines. And as such, their overall work satisfaction increases, and they feel more motivated to work every day.
- Improved Accuracy
It is proven that machines can perform tasks accurately for a longer period of time. For instance, the transportation of items through conveyor belts is faster and more efficient than an employee manually. The product reaches the destination safely and intact without any damage. Automation of inventory ensures that there is greater precision and control over the product. Reduction of human errors leads to fewer losses and waste, which is ultimately beneficial for the warehouse.
- Safety of Employees
Since automation reduces the number of employees involved in doing the actual physical labor and heavy lifting, it is effective in reducing the number of accidents and injuries while lifting and transporting products and materials. With automation, employees get the tools to use machines that do the heavy lifting and transportation of items. And as such, this process reduces employees’ workloads and improves their safety. Additionally, warehouse managers should hold some training sessions for employees to learn how to avoid any injuries while using the machines.
- Cost Savings
Automation of warehouse processes improves productivity, reduces labor costs, optimizes product handling and storage, eliminates product loss, waste and minimizes human error. This leads to improved performance and better cost savings. The traditional warehouse processes are quite expensive because they require multiple employees to work for long hours. While the initial installation of automation systems may be a little high, the management of those systems reduces the overall operational costs in the long run. Machines can long for longer hours consistently, while in the case of manual labor, productivity and efficiency will decrease with time. And as such, warehouse automation decreases the dependence on physical labor and improves the flexibility in your operational time.
- Real-Time Tracking
The automation of inventory allows for real-time tracking and recording of the movement of your inventory. Tracking inventory movements manually is a long, strenuous process prone to human error. It does not have the potential to record high-velocity inventory movement continuously. With the help of automation, you get to know exactly the number of products you have and their location. Therefore, warehouse automation gives you complete control over the products.
- Better Scalability
One of the major advantages of warehouse automation technologies is their capacity to scale up and scale down warehouse operations depending on consumer demand. For instance, in the case of the holiday season, you do not need to hire large numbers of temporary staff; instead, you can just adjust the schedules and programs of the machines to allow greater input and output. And your employees can focus on providing customers with the best experience during holidays. Similarly, when the pandemic came through, businesses that had automated warehouse procedures could manage the pandemic more efficiently. They quickly adapted to the new protocols of employee safety, sanitation, and social distancing measures and continued their normal operational procedures. On the other hand, warehouses that relied heavily on physical labor had to significantly reduce their production because of new social distancing and quarantine measures.
There is an immediate need for warehouses to automate their processes in order to survive in such challenging and unprecedented times when customer demands and governmental regulations are changing every day. Warehouse automation solutions will make your normal operations and procedures more efficient, robust, and cost-effective.