Think You’re Ready for Warehouse Automation? Do This First.
by Frank Stuart, on Jan 6, 2023 1:29:00 PM
Where’s my hoverboard? You might remember memes poking fun at the Back to the Future prediction that hoverboards would be available by 2015. While that tidbit of science fiction didn't happen, much of what was fantasy is now a reality. We live in an age of incredible technological advancement where each of our phones has more computing power than it took to land astronauts on the moon.
So what is all that technology doing for your facility? That's where warehouse automation comes in. Automation has the potential to revolutionize your distribution center at every level. But it isn't an overnight fix. So read on to learn what to do before you invest in warehouse automation.
Automation Has Four Key Benefits
Every day, distribution centers are asked to do more with less. Micro-fulfillment is becoming the norm instead of the exception. And staffing grows more difficult by the day. Automation offers tools to keep your facility competitive by providing the following benefits:
- Increase efficiency. Automation allows you to maximize your staff, using their skills where they’re most needed instead of wasting talent on repetitive manual labor.
- Save money. Automated machinery is far less expensive to own and operate than employing a worker to do the same job. It is also more consistent in its work, providing more predictability in your process.
- Reduce downtime. Automation operates on a planned schedule. This way, your supply chain doesn’t slow due to human-generated bottlenecks like shift changes and lunch breaks.
- Improve data. Automation provides tremendous process data that allows you to continually optimize your intralogistics. This creates exponential savings down the line.
Start Your Preparation With Process Mapping
Okay, so you want to get started with automation. Where do you begin? The first step is to list all the processes that could benefit from automation. Then, prioritize that list. One of the beautiful things about adopting automation is you can do it incrementally.
In fact, you should focus your automation plan on one process at a time. With each new automation, you’ll have more data which may influence later decisions on how and what to automate.
So pick your highest priority process and map it out. You want a clear picture of each stage in that process from start to finish. Remember to examine what peripheral warehouse activities influence it. And gather input from every worker who touches that process.
Optimize Your Process Before You Automate
Once you have mapped your process from start to finish, examine it for ways to improve. Optimization is vital prior to any adoption of automation for two important reasons.
Do You Really Need to Automate This Process
Inefficient processes are expensive. They waste time and money more than anything else in your facility. But removing inefficiencies can solve most of these issues without additional capital expenditures. Ultimately, by optimizing an inefficient process, you may find automation is no longer needed.
Automation is Only as Efficient as Your Process
The really cool thing about automation is that it does what you program it to do. The really frustrating thing about automation is that it only does what you program it to do. So if your process is inefficient, automation will only continue that inefficiency. In which case, you won’t see your projected return on investment anytime soon.
Toyota Lean Management Takes the Guesswork Out of Optimization
'Optimization' is a simple word to describe a complicated task. So it makes sense that you might not know where to start. If you are looking for a partner to help you maximize your processes, check out Toyota Lean Management (TLM). This journey walks you through optimization from start to finish.
Pick a Reliable Automation Partner
Investing in warehouse automation isn't like buying a Roomba. Depending on the equipment you need, various institutional modifications will be required. Some of these are intuitive, like robust warehouse management software that supports automated equipment.
Others are less obvious. For example, some automated products use LIDAR technology to map your facility in real-time. This gives them incredible efficiency. But LIDAR requires a well-lit facility to operate. So you might have to make some adjustments to your warehouse lighting.
SST Makes Automation Easy
Work with a reliable automation partner to ensure you're getting the most from your equipment. You'll want to look for a partner with extensive expertise in the field who can provide a wide range of technologies and support to meet your facility's specific needs.
Southern States Toyotalift provides the full support of Toyota's globally recognized automation services. This allows them to support you through every stage of the automation process, beginning with the TLM journey. Get started with Toyota Lean Management by contacting us online or visiting one of our locations throughout Georgia and Florida.
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