Improving efficiency in a warehouse is a challenge. In most warehouses, things don’t stay still for long, with new stock coming in, deliveries going out and a lot of sorting, packing and picking in between. There are so many moving parts that small delays or mistakes in one area can create knock-on impacts on the whole system. This can make efficiency seem like an unachievable goal, but robotic automation is offering a new solution.
A lot of the challenges are either because of a need for more staff or due to human error. These are perpetual problems, but new solutions are arising every day. One part of the solution to improving warehouse efficiency might be to delegate menial tasks to computers. Robotic Automation is now sophisticated enough that industries can benefit from applying this technology and bringing warehouse efficiency into the twenty-first century.
1) Ease Labour Shortages
Many in the logistics and warehouse industries are struggling to hire enough people to cover both day-to-day, repetitive tasks and high-level, problem-solving tasks. Labour shortages put a lot of strain on your existing staff, leading to more errors.
With automation, many small tasks happen without any human action. This might be a scanner reading barcodes as packages come down a conveyor, and a programme sorting them into different areas automatically. Or it could be an autonomous robot picking and retrieving packages and transporting them to the correct location.
With autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), a warehouse can reduce the time workers spend driving or walking around the facility, freeing them up to focus on more valuable work.
2) Improve Accuracy
One of the errors that can cause delays or bottlenecks in warehouses is inaccuracy. The wrong product is retrieved, or the product is stored in the wrong place; these are simple mistakes that can be chalked up to human error but should be minimised where possible.
Pick-to-light automation improves accuracy by guiding operatives to the correct area, using LED lights to illuminate the correct storage location given by a scanned barcode. This type of system is already in use in many warehouses, and AMRs can integrate with a pick-to-light system, working alongside existing operations without disruption or reconfiguration. Pick-to-Light systems have been proven to improve the accuracy of picking in warehouses and fulfilment centres.
3) Reduce Travel Time for Workers and increase productivity
Because the robots can navigate warehouses using their sensors, they are able to travel to storage locations autonomously. The operative is able to simply set up the route and move on to other tasks, while the AMR retrieves and transports goods. This reduces the amount of time spent walking and searching between warehouse areas for each operative, improving efficiency at work and leading to a more fulfilling work experience.
4) Constant Replenishment
Given a large enough fleet, AMRs are also able to replenish stock at any time. The concept of ‘The Internet of Things’ began as an idea for stock replenishment, in which sensors on shelves would send a signal when the shelf was empty, ordering more of the designated item. With this kind of automation, AMRs can receive updates for stock to retrieve and distribute, avoiding delays while high-demand items are replenished.
Aside from charging time, AMRs do not slow down and can perform these repetitive tasks consistently throughout the day.
5) Improved Safety
Manual handling always comes with a degree of risk, which is why industries such as warehousing and logistics put a great deal of emphasis on manual handling training. AMRs can assist operatives with picking, carrying and placing objects, leading to less strain on workers’ bodies, and less risk of workplace injury. Some AMRs can be fitted with robotic arms to pull heavy cages.
Warehouse Automation: the Future of Distribution?
In this article, we’ve discussed just five ways that automation can improve warehouse efficiency, including helping your business manage labour shortages and improve both safety and accuracy. Other ways include:
- Evaluating Throughput Levels: Because the systems are all computerised, there is a digital monitoring and records system to help you understand how your stock is moving.
- Increasing warehouse capacity: By using automation and AMRs to transport goods to storage, warehouses can make efficient use of space, compacting goods and using the full height of the facility to expand the total storage capacity.
- Providing Flexibility: Automated solutions are easily scalable. For example, a warehouse might bring in additional AMRs at peak times to cope with demand, or run a reduced fleet during slow seasons. Extra AMRs are easy to add in, as they can follow the same programming as your existing fleet.
Guidance Automation and Warehouse Processes
At Guidance Automation, our expert advisers can help you design robotic automation solutions to increase efficiency in warehouse processes including:
- Autonomous Mobile Robots (Otto Motors’ AMRs)
- Warehouse Execution and Control Systems
- Pick-to-Light Systems
Our automated solutions are scalable, easily installed and offer fast ROI.
We also offer a Free AMR Trial to SMEs. If you own a small or medium-sized business, contact us today to find out how easily AMRs could help improve your processes.