How to Start Warehouse Automation to Save Money and Operate More Efficiently
by Brian Reaves, on Oct 14, 2022 8:29:00 PM
When it comes to implementing warehouse automation, what's holding you back?
If you've been reluctant to pursue or implement automation in your warehouse, you're not alone.
It's only slowly catching on in the material handling industry.
Warehouse managers are rightly concerned about humans losing jobs, supply chain issues, and having to deal with warehouse robotics (something that sounds, quite frankly, foreign to most).
But, as we'll discuss below, the benefits are tremendous, and we want to make sure all of your concerns are addressed so you can make the right decision for your warehouse.
Our goal is to equip you to answer the following questions:
- What is warehouse automation?
- What are common misconceptions?
- What are the benefits?
- How can you begin to implement it?
- Who should you consult with to start your warehouse automation?
What is Warehouse Automation?
Simply put, warehouse automation is the process of replacing repetitive, tedious tasks with digital and physical automated systems.
You may already have software that's designed to automate your inventory or sales process, for example. If so, you're already using automation, which means taking the next step into things like automated guided vehicles isn’t such a big step.
What are Common Misconceptions About Warehouse Automation?
Before going any further, we want to clear up a few things.
First and foremost, we don’t ever want to encourage businesses to put automated systems over their employees.
If your fear is that people are being replaced by robots throughout the workforce, don’t worry.
When we suggest warehouse automation, it is not to encourage you to lay off employees and replace them with automated technology. In fact, one of the many benefits of warehouse automation is that we can remove employees from monotonous and dangerous tasks.
So, implementing automation actually helps real people to feel more fulfilled and, well, less like robots.
Another misconception is that choosing to automate is cripplingly expensive. Like a lot of things in this industry (think OEM parts or lithium-ion batteries), the initial investment may seem expensive, but it pays for itself over time and quickly leads to savings.
We also understand that the idea of working with warehouse robotics may sound intimidating. But you’ll soon find just how similar it is to any software or industrial equipment you've already been working with for years.
What are the Benefits of Warehouse Automation?
Keep and Grow Your Crew
As previously mentioned, automation is meant to supplement your existing crew. With the right technology and robotics, your team can spend their time on more value-adding tasks and less monotonous, repetitive ones.
You don’t need to get rid of anyone on your team because they now have the opportunity to be reassigned to working with the easy-to-use (and learn) automated technology or to more fulfilling work.
Reduce Labor Costs and Errors
Did you know that labor costs constitute, on average, 65% of most warehouse facilities’ operating budgets?
Although the initial cost of automation may be high, you’ll quickly start to save money through more efficient, less error-prone workflows. Automated technology is designed to make every process more simple, which means you'll be able to achieve better results in less time with fewer costly mistakes.
Improve Safety and Prevent Injury
This automated equipment is designed with safety in mind, with a host of features that prevent injury, meaning fewer incidents each year. They don't get tired unlike their human counterparts and they don't make easily-avoidable (and sometimes expensive) mistakes.
They also allow you to have better control over your inventory and, in turn, your customer service.
Here are a few more important benefits to consider:
- Predictive maintenance checks are built-in to reduce equipment downtime and improve warehouse safety
- You can implement automated tech slowly, one area at a time, according to what you and your team are comfortable with
- You can partner with automated technology experts such as the ones at Southern States Toyotalift (SST) - feel free to schedule a free warehouse optimization consultation today
How Can You Begin to Implement Warehouse Automation?
We usually recommend solutions with which people are already generally familiar.
Since automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are similar to utility vehicles already used in-warehouse, this may be a good place for you to start. These are self-guided vehicles that navigate the warehouse floor with an operator on board.
Or maybe it isn't necessary to utilize this kind of equipment yet and you'd like to start with more simple technology, like Pick-to-Light or Put-to-Light (PTL) systems.
These give you an immediate boost in controlling your inventory. PTL works by setting up a system of lights that accompany each item in storage. When it's time to pick an order, each of the items will light up for the team member to pick and scan, reducing the need to check and double-check pick sheets.
You also have automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), which work by using software combined with robots to store and retrieve items from modular shelving.
These are ideal for tight spaces and can even operate in the dark (bonus energy savings). They are robots that follow established routes to pull material. When combined with a series of lifts, carousels, and so on, can create error-free (no human error from misreading pick sheets), streamlined workflows to move material around more efficiently.
Who Should You Consult With to Start Your Warehouse Automation?
Ready to learn more about how automation can help streamline your warehouse operations and reduce labor costs?
Or maybe you’re already interested in incorporating warehouse automated solutions in the near future. Either way, the material handling experts at Southern States Toyotalift (SST) are ready to help.
Contact SST online or by phone at (866) 231-1478 to schedule your free, no-pressure warehouse optimization consultation. You can also visit us in-person at one of our eleven locations throughout Georgia and Florida:
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