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What is Warehouse Automation?

Warehouse automation can be hugely impactful in the way of optimising productivity and increasing efficiency. Typical challenges facing the running of a warehouse include human error, high operational costs, safety risks, and high processing time; these are all areas of workflow that can benefit from implementing automation in your warehouse.

Warehouse automation is a rapidly growing and improving sector of warehouse management; the warehouse automation adoption rate was only 8% in 2019, however, it is expected to rise to 45% by 2030.

Warehouse automation is the process of automating the movement of inventory to reduce human intervention. It can allow businesses to eliminate labour-intensive or repetitive tasks to increase worker satisfaction, as well as speed and accuracy of tasks.

Automation can be both partial, or full, and can start with a simple warehouse management system involving data collection and inventory control. It has significant upfront costs, but has many benefits, and generates a return on investment through its increase in efficiency and optimised output.

Physical automation is a way of utilising technology in order to minimise employee movements and create more efficient workflows. Integrating robotics is one example of this automation. These systems are, however, more suited for large-volume warehouses that have the space to accommodate the specialised equipment that is required.

Warehouse automation works by using software and technology, such as robotics and sensors, in order to automate tasks. They can work in conjunction with existing tools and inventory management software.

Different types of warehouse automation:

Basic warehouse automation: this refers to automation based on simple technology that can assist workers with manual labour tasks. For example, implementing a conveyor in order to move inventory around.

Warehouse system automation: this system uses software, machine learning, robotics , and data analytics in order to automate tasks and procedures. For example, a warehouse management system.

Mechanised warehouse automation: this system uses robotic equipment and systems to assist humans with warehouse tasks and procedures. For example, autonomous mobile shelf loader robots.

Advanced warehouse automation: this combines mechanised robotics with automation systems and can replace labour intensive workflows. For example, robotic forklifts can navigate warehouses.

Warehouse automation technology:

Due to the wide range of technologies and systems available, there are many different types of warehouse automation technology, and they fit into the different types of warehouse automation in order to optimise your business.

Goods-to-Person (GTP): goods-to-person fulfilment is one of the most popular methods for increasing efficiency and reducing congestion. This category includes conveyors, carousels and vertical lift systems.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS): AS/RS are a form of GTP fulfilment technology that includes automated systems and equipment like material-carrying vehicles, tote shuttles and mini-loaders to store and retrieve materials or products.

Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs): these vehicles use magnetic strips, wires or sensors to navigate a fixed path through the warehouse. AGVs are limited to large, simple warehouse environments designed with this navigation layout. Complex warehouses with lots of human traffic and space constraints are not good candidates for AGVs.

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs): these are more flexible than AGVs, AMRs use GPS systems to create effective routes through a specific warehouse. They use advanced laser guidance systems to detect obstacles, so AMRs can safely navigate dynamic environments. They are easy to program with routes and easy to implement quickly.

Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light Systems: these systems use mobile barcode scanning devices synced to digital light displays to direct warehouse pickers where to place or pick up selected items. They can dramatically reduce walking and searching time and human error in high-volume situations.

Voice Picking and Tasking: The use of voice-directed warehouse procedures, also known as pick-by-voice, uses speech recognition software and mobile headsets. This system optimises picking paths and reduces wasted time due to error.

Automated Sortation Systems: this is the process of identifying items on a conveyor system and diverting them to a warehouse location using RFID, barcode scanners and sensors. Companies use automated sortation systems in order of fulfilment.

What are the benefits of implementing full-automation into your warehouse?

  • It allows for increases in the efficiency of warehouse processes

  • It allows for the possibility of operations to run 24 hours a day

  • It improves your warehouse space utilisation rate

  • It can reduce fixed costs in your warehouse

  • It shortens the time warehouse operations take to complete

  • Automation can allow for an elimination of forklifts from the goods storage area, and thus an increase in the safety of your space

  • It allows for a constant control and inventory update

  • It eliminates errors resulting from manual warehouse management

  • It can enable quiet and fast pallet movement

  • It also implements a very high rate of storage space usage, which directly translates to lower average storage cost of one pallet

While implementing warehouse automation systems can be a large economic commitment, and takes a lot of planning to ensure it can work effectively and efficiently, the advantages of it are so great that they outweigh the initial cost. The return on investment that will come from having such increased efficiency and productivity is significant.

All in all these devices are getting smarter every day and are set to make huge inroads into the traditional way operating facilities are currently run. Want to receive bespoke advice about the system that will best optimise your warehouse? Talk to us @ DC Space & Storage Solutions Ltd about your project on 01392 927096 or email and receive a free quote.

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