An explosion of growth in recent years has led companies to turn to advanced solutions for warehousing automation and robotics in warehousing – particularly solutions 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 warehousing automation.
This could mean leveraging automation and robotics to address the major costs of warehousing labour, time and warehouse real estate. Automated warehouse sortation systems, conveyors, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), RFID tracking solutions, and warehouse management system (WMS) and warehouse control system (WCS) are just a few of the systems seeing dramatic change.
The rise in robotics in warehousing
It sounds like something out of Blade Runner, but the truth is, many companies are now making sizeable investments in robotics in warehousing and distribution centres.
Warehousing storage and materials handling activities such as loading, unloading, putaway and pick and pack are being handled by computer-guided and vision guided robotics. And in distribution centres, autonomous robots travel along storage racks and up and down aisles to stack and retrieve cases, interacting with other warehouse robots carrying out simpler order fulfilment tasks.
Drones used in logistics for better efficiency
We’re also seeing major organisations investing in drones with cameras in the warehouse to take inventory. Using drones in warehousing really is the way forward in advanced warehouse automation, helping improve efficiencies in supply chains that are already struggling to contain operating costs and fulfil orders faster.
In Australia and internationally, we’re observing strong interest from e-commerce businesses in leveraging warehousing automation and robotics, with market leader Amazon leading the way.
Warehousing automation: what are the benefits?
As warehouses address a range of challenges, there are many benefits of investing in advanced warehousing automation, including:
- Robotics’ faster return on investment
- Lower warehousing labour costs via implementing robotics in warehousing
- Safe-guarding against labour shortages with warehousing automation
- Reduce workplace accident risks and claims
- Maximising use of warehouse space
How to develop your warehousing automation strategy
When developing your warehousing 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 warehousing automation but didn’t get a great ROI, due to changes in the business environment and acquisitions – so careful warehousing planning is everything.
Warehousing automation is a major investment and organisations should start with a comprehensive up-front analysis of their warehousing processes, current warehousing 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:
- Identifying your strategic goals.
- Assessing the maturity of warehousing operations, processes, current automation, technology and labour management practices.
- A comprehensive warehousing operations profile, identifying distribution cost per unit (CPU) and overall cost-to-serve.
- Assessing individual process performance and efficiency as an industry-standard measurement to benchmark your warehousing operations, performance and costs.
- Determining where warehousing automation should be strategically implemented to achieve corporate goals.
- Leveraging optimisation and simulation technology to analyse warehouse performance by identifying trade-offs on enhancing current warehousing processes, in contrast to making a new investment then proving its ROI.
- 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 solutions that incorporate process improvements and the best warehousing 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 warehousing automation strategy
While there is every reason to be enthusiastic about the dramatic uptake and potential of warehousing 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 warehousing 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 warehousing 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. Warehousing technologies can include JDA Warehouse Management System, SAP, OptiSlot DC and HighJump.
Supply chain and logistics management consultants are available at New World Business Solutions to provide you with expert assistance. Contact us today:
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