As a warehouse manager, your aim is to maximize productivity and profits while best serving your customers. Warehouse technology is rapidly advancing and automation is more cost-effective than ever, making 2018 the perfect year to incorporate robotics into your warehouse operations. Here are five reasons why investing in warehouse automation can be a strategic business move.
1. Automating repetitive tasks
The original assembly lines at Ford Motor Company were notorious for mind-numbing, monotonous tasks as workers assembled the first vehicles. The beginning of the Industrial Revolution was characterized by dull and sometimes dangerous work as a manufacturer. However, vast improvements in robotics and machinery have replaced these repetitive jobs. As the warehouse industry continues to grow to meet the demands of an increasingly global customer base, automating picking strategies, inventory collection, and barcode scanning are becoming essential.
2. Protecting from human error
Unfortunately, humans are prone to mistakes. When something goes wrong in a fast-paced warehouse that is struggling to meet the demands of two-day or overnight shipping, even a small mistake can cost the company big money. Although automation isn’t perfect, it has a higher rate of accuracy than human employees. A shortage of skilled labor coupled with the expense of hiring and training a new workforce has pressured managers to seek out automation. Although the initial cost is high, the machines have an excellent ROI. Plus, they won’t leave your warehouse for a competitor’s. The most common human errors occur when documenting, shelving, or retrieving inventory, so automating these processes can vastly improve your warehouse’s efficiency.
3. Saving time
While forklifts continue to be a staple of warehouse operations, automated forklifts are becoming widely available. Unlike their more traditional counterparts, these self-guided forklifts and pallet carts rely on programmable digital pathways instead of human operators. The automated guided vehicles (AGVs) can save time and increase productivity. Since some AGVs can be leased or taken for a trial run, they don’t require as much up-front investment as other automation. Radio frequency identification technology (RFID) also saves time and labor by using wireless signals to track and locate inventory.
4. Providing real-time data
Without access to real-time data about incoming and outgoing inventory, employees may incorrectly count the number of items in stock or make other potentially catastrophic mistakes. Real-time data allows warehouse operations to run more smoothly and can help discover inefficiencies in picking or slotting strategies. Excess inventory wastes money and space, whereas a shortage of inventory causes delays and can anger customers. Today’s warehouse managers have the opportunity to automate replenishment, ensuring that items are available when needed but not overstocked.
5. Optimizing software systems
The age of automation is driven not only by machines but also by sophisticated systems that increase productivity. A wide variety of Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are available for purchase. The best software will depend on your business’s individual needs, but most systems will be capable of controlling the warehouse receiving, storing, and shipping strategies for maximum efficiency. Any automated machinery you buy for your warehouse will likely require integration with a WMS. The WMS guides and simplifies the transactions by efficiently managing inventory. Even if you decide to wait to incorporate automation into your warehouse, you should still consider investing in a WMS. The system can quickly train employees and help them discover the fastest, most efficient pick paths while providing real-time data about inventory.
KION North America is a member of the KION Group–a global leader in industrial trucks, related services and supply chain solutions. Our team is committed to helping you grow your warehousing operations with the best technology and forklifts available. Discover how our equipment can revolutionize your warehouse.