Reasons For Warehouse Automation
There is an extensive list of reasons why warehouse or distribution centers should be automated. Just a small group of these reasons would be adequate enough to warrant any warehouse management staff to do warehouse automation. If the company needs to incur savings in the cost of manpower, which is usually a significant expense for any company, warehouse automation might be the best way to get it. From an operations viewpoint the company might also want to establish quicker cycle times in the assembly of orders for shipment to customers. This time savings could also be accompanied by improved accuracy in the picking and order fulfillment process. Squeezing down the time required to create an order with the correct products for shipping would allow for expedited delivery or same day of orders to customers. There would be less utilization of tracking and tracing, due to the improved speed and accuracy at which orders are readied and shipped to customers. The operation of the warehouse would have much less damaged stock, thanks to the careful handling of products by warehouse automation.
It has not been long ago that manual product picking was the order of the day. In fact there are a lot of companies that feel that manual picking is the best way to have the best control of the warehouse operation. It is felt that sending individual employees out in to warehouse with a list of products that make up an order keeps operations under control. There has to be a mindset shift for management of the distribution operation to effectively convert distribution from an manual operation to an automated one. Warehouse automation will change the way that employees work with and manage products, so management will need to change the way that the distribution center is managed. Warehouse automation eliminates the need for re-stocking and handling products, not only for order picking, but also for inventory control and counting. When the product stocking and order picking functions are completed with automation each employee is independent and self-sufficient in their daily tasks. Another reason for warehouse automation is the reduction of or elimination of employee injuries. There is less need for or use of employee drive vehicles to take palletized products to locations in the warehouse for stocking. There is less need for employees to manually stack and unstack products or pick up heavy objects. Automation does the heavy lifting.
The overall movement of products through the warehouse from receipt from manufacturers to order picking and shipment to customers is faster due to warehouse automation. The error rate while orders are picked will be extremely low with automation doing the product selection to fill orders. In an automated work station an employee has a short distance to maneuver to reach automatically picked products. The design of automation in the warehouse is such that the employees usually enjoy an ergonomically efficient work space. There is a maximization of creature comforts in the optimized work area. Packaging of orders that have small sized products is done so that the products are bagged together so that the customers can retrieve them with little chance of loss.
When products are received from manufacturers the product inventory is scanned into the active inventory. That means that products are immediately available to be picked for outgoing orders because the location in the warehouse is known by the warehouse management system. As those products enter inventory and are subsequently picked for shipment to customers, there is an excellent read on the inventory dynamics. The warehouse management system removes the products from inventory and collects all the statistics about the product movement. There can be actual historical trend analysis and seasonal ordering points based on “real” inventory fluctuations. Forecasting can be done to establish optimum inventory levels based on those historical trends. Actually inventory levels can be reduced because there is a well defined historical trend analysis that is available to tell management when to order for seasonal demands. Reduction of labor costs for managing inventory along with its companion higher operating cost will be just a distant memory. Shipping mistakes are no longer a part of usual business because of the accuracy of automation eliminating human errors. Poor and inaccurate invoicing is eliminated from operations so that cash flow is stabilized.
There are a raft of reasons to gain the efficiency of the automated warehouse. Such an effective operation requires less people to operate, gives an increase product flow, removes dangerous forklift operations, increase per employee productivity, requires less space to operate, yields the lowest life cycle cost of operation, much improved reliability, and greater customer satisfaction of the accuracy of orders delivered. There is a definite smoothness to the operation of an automated warehouse. Tasks that have to be done done are done in unison and in coordination with other tasks.
John Mitchell is President of Provision, Inc, an online publisher of information about the uses of automation in business. The company website,
http://www.provinc.net, allows companies to evaluate
Requests for quotes can be submitted to warehouse automation specialists.