May 06 2013

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By: Staci Cretu, M.S.
Marketing and Communications Manager

In almost any business scenario, faster and more efficient is better. This goes double for materials handling. The more stops and detours a product has to go through in the supply chain before getting to the end user, the more chance of delays and problems along the way. Enter automation—a trend in materials handling that’s really taking off, and proving to save companies great deals of money along the way.

By streamlining materials handling and logistics through automation, many steps can be taken out of the overall process, and companies can save upwards of 25-35%. It means faster, better business utilizing the latest technology innovations (the key to moving manufacturing forward), and is being widely recognized by the industry as the trend that’s here to stay.

In a recent article in Modern Materials Handling, Charlie Kantz, a supply chain VP who reduced the cost of shipping by 25% by making the process more efficient, exemplifies this trend in supply chain optimization and automation. Kantz suggests the key to making this change work, was the software and processes he introduced to the dated supply chain methods. He bypassed several steps, and in effect, “turned that model on its head”. Reducing the number of touches allowed him to control the entire process from the time the inventory left his factory until it reached the store at a reduced cost.

Automating the supply chain process, using products such as Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) in combination with Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), can greatly reduce the number of product touches and significantly cut costs associated with moving products. By consolidating warehouse operations into one or more centralized hubs, order selection activities can be eliminated in remote facilities, which can now serve as cross docking facilities only. This is yet another example of how automation can play a significant role in optimizing the supply chain.

Some trends are fleeting, but the trend of software and process automation is one that is definitely here to stay—for good reason. We would love to know your thoughts on automation. Do you agree with the above statements? Do you think automating will have any negative effects?