Warehouse Automation: Is It Right for Your Operations?

Managing a warehouse is a complex undertaking involving implementing new technology, managing employees and inventory, adopting emerging trends in omnichannel retailing, and dealing with complicated global supply chains while trying to meet today’s expedient delivery expectations. At the end of the day, warehouse management needs to solve these and other challenges in the most efficient and cost-effective ways possible.

Some of these challenges can be addressed by automating certain processes in a warehouse’s day-to-day operations. In this guide, learn more about warehouse automation, the common challenges that affect warehouse operations, and the benefits of introducing more robotics and automated processes in your facility.

Isle Dabeau DC20

What Is Warehouse Automation?

Warehouse automation uses technology designed to help a warehouse perform at a higher level of productivity with less effort and fewer mistakes. There are two facets of warehouse automation: process automation and physical automation.

Process automation, which is also known as system automation, brings manual processes, such as inventory data collection, into the digital age by integrating data into a warehouse’s existing software system. Process automation relies on a system of barcoding and wireless scanners to input and track data, which is then transmitted via wireless signal to a centralized repository where the information is stored for future use.

Physical automation in a warehouse involves the use of robots and robotic systems. Examples can include driverless automated guided vehicles, autonomous mobile robots and goods-to-person technology. Of the two types of automation, physical automation is the more expensive to employ.

 

What Common Challenges Affect Traditional Warehouse Operations?

A warehouse is a challenging environment because there is always a driving need to maximize productivity and reduce costs simultaneously. Making these objectives even harder are common warehouses issues, such as:

  • High employee turnover rates and staff shortages
  • Faulty inventory numbers
  • Picking errors and mislabeling of inventory
  • KPI performance and goals
  • New growth targets
  • Maintaining or upgrading old equipment and technology

Warehouse automation is one of the easiest and most effective ways to address these problems. It can also help improve the overall accuracy and performance of a warehouse.

What Are the Benefits of Automating Warehouse Operations?

When a warehouse operates inefficiently, everything is affected negatively—from the cost of running the business to the delivery timetable. By the same token, when warehouse performance improves, the benefits range from lowering costs to offering faster delivery times.

By automating certain processes in a warehouse, you reduce errors. In turn, this instantly helps lower operating costs and improves your reputation. Productivity and efficiency are maximized, and you can manage inventory with greater ease and accuracy.

Automation also makes for a safer environment by ensuring all equipment and technology are up to date and operating at peak performance. Further, it takes a lot of the stress off your employees. Having the latest systems available streamlines operations, making goals easier to accomplish. With automation, your employees will be happier and more satisfied, making it easier to retain top talent. Plus, implementing automated processes reduces a warehouse’s energy consumption, which is key to lowering costs and waste—and ultimately facilitating a more sustainable warehouse operation.