robotics automatic warehouse solutions

The robots are coming… to your warehouse

An explosion of growth in recent years has led companies to turn to advanced automatic and robotics solutions – particularly those that enable them to profitably respond to omnichannel fulfilment strategies and customer choices.

If there’s one area in business where we really can get a little peek into the future, it’s warehouse automation.

An explosion of growth in recent years has led companies to turn to advanced automatic and robotics solutions – particularly those that enable them to profitably respond to omnichannel fulfilment strategies and customer choices.

This could mean leveraging automaton and robotics to address the major costs of labour, time and warehouse real estate. Sortation systems, conveyors/AGVs, RFID solutions and WMS and WCS systems are just a few of the systems seeing dramatic change.

The rise in robot workers

It sounds like something out of Blade Runner, but the truth is, many companies are now making sizeable investments in robotics for their warehouses and distribution centres.

Storage and handling activities such as loading, unloading, putaway and retrieval are being handled by vision and computer-guided robots. And in distribution centres, autonomous robots travel along storage racks and up and down aisles to stack and retrieve cases, interacting with other robots carrying out simpler fulfilment tasks.

Using drones for better efficiency

We’re also seeing major organisations investing in camera-mounted drones in the warehouse to take inventory. Using drones really is the way forward in advanced warehouse automation, helping improve efficiencies in supply chains that are already struggling to contain costs and fulfil orders faster.

In Australia and internationally, we’re observing strong interest from e-commerce businesses in leveraging automation and robotics, with market leader Amazon leading the way.

Warehouse automation: what are the benefits?

As warehouses address a range of challenges, there are many benefits of investing in advanced automation, including:

  1. Robotics’ faster return on investment.
  2. Lower labour costs via implementing robotics.
  3. Safe-guarding against labour shortages with Automation.
  4. Reduce workplace accident risks and claims
  5. Maximising use of warehouse space.

How to develop your automation strategy

When developing your automation strategy, it’s important to factor in your overall business objectives as well as the specific challenges your organisation is facing. We’ve seen firsthand some companies who’ve invested in automation but didn’t get a great ROI, due to changes in the business environment and acquisitions – so careful planning is everything.

Automation is a major investment and organisations should start with a comprehensive up-front analysis of their processes, current technologies and people. This will ensure you make strategic and sound decisions on the best solution for your organisation’s specific needs, based on accurate data and facts.

This research and assessment should include:

  1. Identifying your strategic goals.
  2. Assessing the maturity of warehouse operations, processes, current automation, technology and labour management practices.
  3. A comprehensive operations profile, identifying distribution cost per unit (CPU) and overall cost-to-serve.
  4. Assessing individual process performance and efficiency as an industry-standard measurement to benchmark your operations, performance and costs.
  5. Determining where automation should be strategically implemented to achieve corporate goals.
  6. Leveraging optimisation and simulation technology to analyse warehouse performance by identifying trade-offs on enhancing current processes, in contrast to making a new investment then proving its ROI.
  7. Developing a logistics operating model aligned with your long-term goals, growth plans and upcoming initiatives.

Taking a team approach

It’s important that your assessment involves a cross-functional team, with representatives from management and finance, warehouse engineers and human resources. This structured approach allows organisations to implement advanced logistics that incorporate process improvements and the best automation deployment for each phase.

Carrying out this detailed assessment is essential when a distribution centre needs to expand, consolidate space or relocate.

Identifying the right automation strategy

While there is every reason to be enthusiastic about the dramatic uptake and potential of automation to improve warehouse and distribution centre performance, each organisation needs to carefully assess where automation and robotics may be a fit for their operations.

This is particularly true for organisations with complex distribution requirements.

The real challenge for all companies, irrespective of their industry, is to identify the level of automation that is best suited and achieves the highest level of payback for the organisation.

Investing time to analyse, carry out due diligence and select technologies that align with the current and future needs of the business, will improve your warehouse’s operational performance and ensure alignment with your organisation’s strategy and goals.

Supply chain and logistics management consultants are available at New World Business Solutions to provide you with expert assistance. Contact us today:

Phone: 02 9401 9152

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