Many people view automation of the warehouse as he simple application of packaging and storage software but the truth is that it entails more than that. It is a process which is guaranteed to reduce your operational costs greatly while improving production efficiency.

Automation of the warehouse revolves around finding suitable tasks that are time consuming and repetitive and identifying ways to automate them. This comprehensive article is meant to act as a guide to enlighten you on all the aspects of warehouse automation that you are supposed to be familiar with before automating your warehouse.

Why should you automate your warehouse?

The use of traditional, manual processes in the warehouse leads to delays and lots of human errors. The delays may cause stock-out conditions which might lead to loss of influential customers, excess inventory charges and tarnishing of one’s reputation.

Statistical evidence shows that over 60% of warehouse in the world are either not automated at all or practice automation on a small scale. Although the rate of return on investment with automation is low, it is worth a trail as you are assured of reduced labor demands, improved accuracy and efficiency.

How to prepare for automation

In order for your automation efforts to bear fruits you need to follow a few fundamental practices at your warehouse.

  • Motivation of employees as this extensive change at the work place can be met with some resistance.
  • Evaluating the warehouse structure to identify any need for physical improvements. Ensure there is plenty of storage capacity and dock area.
  • Identification of the most appropriate technology to meet your automation needs is crucial to the success of the process. Frequent evaluation and reporting of the installed systems is highly recommended in order to identify areas that need innovation.

Warehouse automated operations

There is a wide array of operations that can be automated at the warehouse and they include activities that are process-oriented, repetitive and prone to human error. Such operations include;

 

  • Picking automation

 

This is a repetitive and tedious task that was being done entirely by humans creating the possibility of human error. The use of cobots as well as shelving systems has enabled warehouse owners to automate the picking process. Cobots are capable of working alongside human beings in the work space.

 

  • Documentation automation

 

Proper documentation is required for the effective running of a warehouse in order to trace the movement of products in and out of the warehouse as well as management of the inventory.  It accrues various benefits to the warehouse such as identification of dock arrival schedule hence better planning, optimization of the traffic and digital tracking of stock out situations.

Automation of the documentation process is made possible by use of warehouse signs, rack labels as well as barcode labels. Application of the scanning technology speeds up documentation and saves huge amounts of man hours. Choosing the most suitable hardware system for scanning barcodes is influenced by factors like;

  • Durability requirements from the warehouse.
  • Scanning distance and speed intended.
  • Type of connection available; wired or wireless.
  • How compatible it is to the operating system software.

 

  • Automation of the back office

 

Use of the pen and paper methods always results in errors while doing data entry. An error in the inventory counts can create a huge stoppage in the supply chain of products. It is therefore of essence to always access to the exact numbers in real time.

Elements to consider while automating your warehouse

 

  • Travel time

 

It is recommended that you automate an optimal size of your warehouse as having a huge space doesn’t translate to better storage space but more travel time.

 

  • Product velocity

 

In order to save offloading and loading time, products should be stored in order of their velocity. The fast moving goods should be kept nearer to the shipping lanes.

 

  • Aisle width

 

Ensure that your warehouse has the appropriate aisle width for the automation system you intend to get. Nowadays automated vehicles for use at the warehouse are being designed to fit through just 5 feet.