November 02 2015

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Westfalia's Satellite Review Magazine

AS/RS is a Supply Chain Game Changer: Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems Lead the Way to Innovation

By: Staci Cretu, Marketing and Communications Manager, Westfalia Technologies, Inc.

| Game changer (n.): a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in significant way

In sports, the competition is fierce and can bring out the best in people. But, there are only a few that possess those abilities to change the game at any moment. These prized athletes lead their team to victory and have helped shape the way we look at the world of sports. These leaders have a willingness to look at things differently and take risk.

Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) in the world of material handling are similar to athletes in sports. AS/RS is a game changer for many reasons. Categorized as a disruptive technology by some, AS/RS is changing the way many manufacturers and distributors are doing business. In fact, some would argue that it has become the new norm for many industries.

However, like one individual playing on a sports team, automation alone is not the game changer. Rather, it’s the combination of equipment, people and technology working hand in hand to achieve a greater purpose – the movement of goods.

Like a coach, an AS/RS can lead its team to victory

Team coaches help produce winners through a businesslike approach to maximizing their players’ potential. The best coaches are able to coolly analyze opponents, matching their weaknesses with their teams’ strengths.

Like a team coach, a world-class AS/RS design helps companies maximize the potential of their facility and inventory. Today’s most forward-thinking automation solutions providers also desire to implement just the right amount of equipment/process change to enable the maximum benefits for the customer. It’s not just the equipment or machine quality that defines a high-quality AS/RS, but rather the quality of the process and the people that are involved.

All sports have people and so does automation

Think about it: do you know any sports in which a person or team of people are not involved in the effort to win or compete? It takes a special person or team of people to participate in a sport which can also include equipment. The incorporation of automation in a facility is no different.

It is a misconception that automation destroys jobs or displaces workers. While there might be some jobs rendered obsolete, workers are still needed. The difference is that their job has now evolved into a higher-level, more technical-related position to support the automation. A previous job for someone working in a warehouse might have been manually picking cases to palletize for shipment. With the integration of automation, a once laborer is now a maintenance engineer, responsible for operating the automation and technology introduced into the facility. These once “manufacturing workers” will now be treated as “knowledge workers,” holding a specialized skill for operating the equipment and technology.

In the end, the right automation and technology paired with the right workers will position companies for success and uphold their staying power in the competitive marketplace. Like a professional athlete who strives for continued success in their given sport, for continued growth, we must all continually disrupt ourselves and keep a mindset of innovation to be game changers for our selected specialty.

Read more in our 2nd issue of The Satellite Review Magazine: Click Here to Read.