Guide to Warehouse Automation
A company looking to increase its logistical productivity, optimize its storage area, improve the safety of its operators and goods can automate its warehouses.
Manual warehouse management and inventory control involves a high risk of error. To limit operating costs and ensure efficient logistics service, it is essential to monitor the performance of operations. It is necessary to automate part or all of the warehouse when stock loss is frequent or the number of erroneous orders is high.
By 2026, the market for automated logistics solutions will exceed $30 billion, growing at more than 14 percent annually, according to a study by consulting firm LogisticsIQ.
Partial automation of a warehouse is a common practice for operations or workstations where the logistics manager identifies a potential increase in productivity and a reduction in errors.
In order to have a complete automation, the flows must be constant and repetitive. Only automated solutions allow a continuous work flow in warehouses with more extreme conditions such as refrigerated or those with low oxygen levels.
The operations most likely to be automated are those where the risk of error from manual management is highest:
To ensure proper implementation and a proposal that meets the customer's needs, the logistics solution provider conducts a feasibility study.
Based on this document, an offer is drawn up specifying the automatic solutions designed to increase the productivity, safety and efficiency of the installation. Other variables are taken into account such as profitability and return on investment for the customer. The solution must therefore always be in line with the customer's requirements and means.
In order to automate a warehouse, it is necessary to implement a warehouse management software (WMS) that coordinates the operation of the entire installation.
The software becomes the pilot of the installation that assigns each product a location based on criteria and rules predefined by the logistics manager. In addition, the digital control of the warehouse guarantees the traceability of all operations.
A WMS is the ideal solution to achieve better performance in the order picking phase. It allows to synchronize picking aids such as voice-picking or pick-to-light with radio frequency terminals that will be transmitted to the operators with detailed instructions to simplify their work and avoid errors.
Warehouse management software is a tool to automate decision making and coordination of operations. Through a Warehouse Control System (WCS), the management software synchronizes the actions of all automatic elements.
There are automated storage solutions on the market offering different levels of complexity, tailored to the customer's requirements. Many companies start with automation by complementing the digitalization of their warehouses with a semi-automatic storage system.
When the automation covers all intralogistics steps (internal transport, pallet retrieval/deposit and software decision making), the warehouse is fully automated.
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