Most businesses know that automation improves operational efficiency and reduces overall costs. It is no less true for warehouses and distribution centers handling high volumes of inventory.
In addition to significantly reducing long-term costs, automation of your warehouse helps optimize and strategically organize your operations. Incorporating automation technologies allows your business to become more proactive rather than reactive. At top-performing operations, automated warehouse equipment and software are linked to achieving the highest possible productivity. All in all, warehouse automation means combining mechanics and software to make your operations perform smarter, use less space, and produce more with fewer resources.
Automating a warehouse, particularly a warehouse once operated entirely manually, is a serious undertaking, but one that pays off in dividends when automation is evaluated, analyzed, and planned. Although automation offers a good return on investment, it is typically more costly to implement. There is a cost in terms of time and capital investment.
So, when is the appropriate time to automate a warehouse? How do I know if you are ready to deploy automation? Though there’s no single criterion to guide the way, five common signs strongly imply a business is ready for warehouse automation.
1. Current procedures consume far too much time and resources
In a given shift, warehouse workers can only accomplish so much. It’s probably time to automate warehouse processes if they take too long and consume too many man-hours. Automated systems are not only faster and more precise than manual labor, but they also ensure efficiency. Workers can focus on higher-level business processes that drive greater business value once freed from repetitive and time-consuming manual processes.
2. Order fulfillment and inventory levels are both inaccurate
If a company is having trouble keeping accurate inventory levels, it’s time to invest in a warehouse management system. Whether a product is seasonal or ongoing, these systems maintain complete and accurate overall inventory control. Automated systems also ensure that orders are filled correctly, reducing product damage. Because workers don’t have to manually move products as much, there are fewer chances of damaged or misplaced items. Workers also benefit from a safer working environment with less physical labor. Picking, lifting, and moving heavy loads are all handled by automated systems in various temperatures and environments.
3. Customers aren’t happy
If customers are frequently dissatisfied with fulfillment, this is a sign that a company should invest in warehouse optimization. Warehouse Optimization automates processes, allowing orders to be picked, fulfilled, and shipped faster and more accurately than manual methods.
4. Orders are difficult to deliver on time
If a company is having trouble getting orders out on time, automation may be the answer. Warehouse Optimization establishes efficient picking processes, routes, and sequences to improve warehouse management and performance. The process of staged orders sitting around waiting to be picked up is also eliminated with automation. Businesses can use automation to implement just-in-time order fulfillment, which involves preparing orders on the fly as the delivery vehicle arrives on site. This frees up warehouse space, keeps inventory moving smoothly, and ensures that orders are delivered as soon as possible.
5. Legacy systems necessitate excessive maintenance
If a company uses outdated technology to manage warehouse processes, it is good not to operate at peak efficiency. Legacy solutions, on the other hand, typically necessitate more maintenance and support to remain operational. Because they are based on cloud technologies, most automation solutions now offer scalability and a relatively simple setup, as well as the ability to self-update.
Automation isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for everything. Automation and mechanization are expensive, especially upfront, but they can pay off handsomely if properly designed and implemented. The key to managing the solutions that best meet your needs is balancing people, processes, and technology. You’ll see immediate cost savings and be able to better serve a larger area.