Warehousing is a vital component of a supply chain, where the optimal planning of its workforce is a prerequisite towards achieving its global efficiency. A sequence of multiple processes is performed in a warehouse, starting from shipment arrivals and ending in shipment releases. These processes are usually constrained by space and workforce capacity.
Warehouse automation is the process of organizing and controlling everything within a warehouse, making sure it runs in the most optimal way possible. It includes rearranging the warehouse and its inventory, maintaining the appropriate equipment, managing new stock coming into the facility, picking, packing, shipping orders, tracking and improving overall warehouse performance, etc.
The most critical first step in optimizing your warehouse operations is to ensure that everything is properly organized. When do you know that it’s time to automate your warehouse? Here are some signs indicating that you are ready to automate your warehouse:
- Your current processes are too labor and time-intensive
- Order fulfillment is inaccurate, with high rates of order errors, returns, or delays
- Overstocking or running out of stock because inventory level counts are rarely correct
- Inefficient utilization of warehouse employees or increased headcount to check and recheck order accuracy
- You have paper-based processes
- Your legacy solution requires too much upkeep
- You are misplacing inventory or losing inventory after it is received
- There is low morale among warehouse workers and managers
- Your customers are unhappy
What are the benefits of warehouse automation? Warehouse automation is beneficial to businesses that want to reduce costs, streamline operations, grow, and improve the customer experience. Here are the key reasons why automating warehouses is compelling.
1. Efficiency gains
Automation streamlines manual tasks like resource planning and inventory data collection. Streamlining a variety of tasks improves efficiencies and overall warehouse performance and reduces errors inherent in manual processes. Physical automation technologies include everything from autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to driverless automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRs). Each type of automation offers a host of efficiency gains while vastly improving warehouse performance. Typically, artificial intelligence (AI) is used to input and track data, which is then stored for later reporting and analytics.
2. Increased productivity and reduced turnover
Employee turnover rates in warehouses are alarmingly high, averaging around 36%. Many mundane and repetitive manual tasks are eliminated by automation, both in terms of business processes and physical labor. It allows employees to focus on more difficult tasks, which improves job satisfaction and retention. Workers are more engaged and satisfied as a result of automation, but they can also devote more time to core business initiatives, planning, and expansion strategies. Automation makes tasks easier and safer to complete, resulting in increased overall productivity without additional staff.
3. Reduced cost and operating expenses
Warehouse automation solutions provide a quick return on investment, making them good for companies of all sizes. Automation also helps reduce overhead while increasing throughput by increasing productivity and efficiencies. Labor, equipment, maintenance, and management costs can be reduced by automating business and physical processes. Workers will also be responsible for fewer manual entries and processes, resulting in fewer errors. This results in significant cost savings. Finally, automation can help reduce routine operating costs such as energy use, storage space requirements, and money spent on safety incidents.
4. Improved customer experiences
There are fewer chances for error when operations are streamlined across the warehouse, which leads to happier customers and business partners. Customers and partners benefit from a better overall experience as inventory moves faster and more accurately. Improved customer satisfaction boosts sales and brand awareness. Warehouse optimization not only improves operations today but also prepares businesses for a future in which there is little room for error or inefficiency.
5. Better inventory management
Inventory and warehouse operations aren’t the only things that warehouse automation can help with. By reducing lost products, shrinkage, and misplacement aids in the creation of a healthier inventory. When it comes to inventory control, businesses have a granular management level, which means fewer fulfillment and shipping errors.
Material handling equipment such as barcode scanners and mobile devices can also benefit from automation solutions. It improves efficiency even more and contributes to better inventory control. It also means that businesses can reduce or eliminate staging in favor of just-in-time order fulfillment methodologies, resulting in even greater efficiencies.
6. Reduced environmental footprint
Automation of warehouses is also better for the environment. It aids in reducing energy consumption and costs, as well as the amount of waste produced. Better planning and streamlined processes can also help to reduce the amount of land used, as warehouses can better utilize space. Businesses that deal with temperature-controlled buildings or refrigeration and those that deal with hazardous waste will benefit greatly from automation.