August 13 2015

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Why Use Warehouse Automation?

By: Olivia Mitchell, Marketing Coordinator

Warehouse automation has a plethora of benefits which allow companies to improve their bottom line and bring them into the black. When updating your current facility or looking to build new, take the following automation benefits into consideration:

1. Customizable

No two warehouses are alike. With automation, a warehouse can be transformed into a facility that does exactly what you want when you want. The flexibility and customization that can be accomplished with an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) makes managing inventory a breeze. Take a look at a few customization examples that can be implemented into a warehouse:

  • Hybrid System: In a hybrid (AS/RS) some lanes are single deep, some are double, and some are multiple deep (3-12 pallets deep in a lane)
  • Two cranes in the same aisle: This allows for higher throughputs
  • Order Picking: This can be integrated within an AS/RS. Combining different picking strategies, automated and manual order fulfillment technologies, and warehouse management software (like a warehouse execution system, for instance), often best sets the business up for success.
  • Location: Automation can be installed in existing facilities and designed specifically to fit in new facilities, with both low and high bay building heights.

2. Cost effective

Automated warehouses may be a large upfront investment, but with paybacks within three to five years, that leaves twenty years to reap cost savings and profit potential that an AS/RS has to offer. Cost savings accrue from a variety of sources:

  • Reduced labor and equipment costs
  • Reduction in land use requirements
  • Reduced waste
  • Maintenance costs are lower
  • Reduced energy costs especially for refrigerated and frozen warehouses

3. Improve productivity

Automated systems are faster and more accurate than manual labor and ensure that product is moved and transported, and done so correctly. The technology behind this automated process guarantees an efficient system without the time constraints of an average work shift. The systems can also cover a vast amount of space, moving both horizontally and vertically.

4. Optimize space utilization

Let’s face it, there is never enough space. You either want to use as much as possible in an existing facility or are looking to build a new facility, both as cost effectively as possible. With a high-density AS/RS more product can be stored in a smaller amount of space. In fact, an AS/RS can store 40% more pallets in the same space as a conventional rack warehouse.

5. Provide better inventory accuracy

By bringing in software, like a warehouse execution system (WES), and integrating it with the AS/RS, organizations have total control over their inventory, whether it is a slow-moving seasonal product, or a product that is popular all year round. Therefore, without having to worry about inventory and maximizing space, manufacturers and distributors can focus on more critical areas, like fulfilling orders.

6. Optimize order fulfillment

With an automated warehouse, organizations can establish efficient picking processes, routes and sequences to enable better overall performance of the warehouse. However, successful order fulfillment begins with the design of the warehouse and picking process. Integrating an AS/RS with warehouse material handling systems drastically simplifies the picking process to improve order fulfillment.

7. Create a safe working environment

An AS/RS adopts the idea of ‘bringing the product to the worker’ as opposed to the worker retrieving the product. This greatly decreases the amount of physical labor involved with these tasks, including walking, lifting and carrying heavy loads. As well as keeping employees out of sub-zero temperatures in frozen food warehouses, eliminating multiple breaks.

8. Eliminate product damage

Automated technology ensures the safe handling of products and minimizes product damage by eliminating workers from having to manually move product from one location to another. Less human interaction with product equals less damaged product.

9. Provide less shipping errors with just-in-time order fulfillment

How does 15% less errors in shipping sound? With transportation being somewhat unreliable, automated technology can eliminate staged orders waiting to be picked up by implementing just-in-time (JIT) order fulfillment. The idea behind JIT order fulfillment is to prepare orders right when the truck arrives on site, as efficiently and quickly as possible. This frees up a great deal of warehouse space and keeps everything flowing.

10. Environmentally Friendly

Less well known, yet equally important, are the environmental benefits that automation provides. Three primary “green” outcomes concern land use, energy consumption and waste production, including hazardous waste. Take these green benefits into consideration:

  • Uses 40% less space than a conventional warehouse storing equivalent product inventories
  • Requires less energy to function
  • Reduces forklift damage to the building and rack system as well as battery use
  • Eliminates fork trucks, lessening the opportunity for product damage
  • Reduces stretch wrap consumption