Warehouse technology augments human labor and automates tasks in some cases, allowing associates to focus on more complex tasks as a result of technology.
It is the automation of a warehouse’s inventory flow to, from, and inside customers’ warehouses with minimal human assistance. An automation project can eliminate labor-intensive tasks such as writing, entering, and analyzing data that involve repetitive physical work.
It does not mean that robots have taken over human jobs or are stealing them. In fact, instead of turning to manual labor, companies are turning instead to machines, which have precision and can work without fatigue for long hours.
Categories of Warehouse Automation
A warehouse can be very simple or very complex when it comes to automation. Automation in its most basic form reduces repetitive tasks through the use of planning, machinery, and vehicles. Intelligent and robotic systems use artificial intelligence.
Warehouse Automation Categories Include
- Simple Warehouse Automation: This form of automation involves the use of simple technology to assist with tasks that would otherwise require a lot of manual labor.
- Automated Warehouse Systems:
- This type of system automates manual tasks and procedures through software, machine learning, robotics, and data analysis.
- Robotic Warehouse Automation: Robotic warehouse automation helps humans perform tasks in the warehouse using equipment and systems.
- Advancing Warehouse Automation: Automated warehouse workflows combine the use of mechanized warehouse robots and automation systems that can replace labor-intensive human actions.
Types of Warehouse Automation
Warehouse automation includes a variety of technologies and systems due to the large range of warehouse technology available. During receiving and shipping, warehouse automation is designed to streamline processes and minimize manual labor.
- Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light Systems: Mobile barcode scanners are paired with digital light displays to indicate warehouse pickers when and where to place or pick up items. During high-volume situations, they can reduce walking times and human errors by a great deal.
- Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS): GTP fulfillment technology is AS/RS, which includes automated machines for storing and retrieving materials and products, such as material-carrying vehicles, totes, and mini-loaders. An RS/AS system is usually used by warehouse applications that require a high volume.
- Automated Sortation Systems: Sortations can be accomplished using RFID, barcodes, and sensors to identify items on a conveyor system and direct them to a warehouse storage location. During order fulfillment processes, companies use automated sortation systems to receive, pick, pack, and ship orders.
- Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs): Computer power is minimal on board this type of mechanized automation. Using magnetic strips, sensors, or wires, these vehicles follow a set path through the warehouse. Warehouse environments use this layout for navigation AGVs can operate only in large, simple warehouses. The heavy traffic of a complex warehouse and limited space does not make AGVs a good choice.
- Goods-to-Person (GTP): A popular method of improving efficiency and reducing traffic congestion is goods-to-person fulfillment. A conveyor, a carousel, and a vertical lift system fall into this category. Warehouse picking can be doubled or tripled in speed using GTP systems.
- Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs): An AMR uses GPS to create a route through a warehouse that is more flexible than an AGV. As AMRs employ laser guidance systems to detect obstacles, they are safely able to operate in dynamic environments where people are constantly moving. Programming them is simple with routes. They can also be implemented quickly.
- Voice Picking and Tasking: Speech recognition and mobile headsets can be used to direct warehouse procedures using voice commands. Warehouse workers are directed to pick and put away products by using the system’s optimized pick paths. Since pickers do not need handheld devices like RF scanners for this method, they can concentrate on their tasks with greater safety and efficiency.
The Working of Warehouse Automation
Robotics and sensors are used in warehouse automation to automate tasks. In addition to existing tools, such as inventory management software, these products can be used in conjunction with them.
Automation of warehouse operations ensures that operations that are critical for customers run smoothly. A warehouse management system (WMS) automates manual tasks, data collection, and inventory accounting, as well as providing data analysis capabilities. In addition to these integrations, these solutions allow the management and automation of a wide range of business and supply chain tasks.
Pros of Warehouse Automation
Comprehensive warehouse automation offers many benefits. Modern warehouse automation technologies are more flexible and scalable compared to older automation solutions like conveyors, which are bulky and fixed in place. Warehouse automation has several benefits few are listed below:
- Improved Warehouse Productivity: Automation of warehouses has the primary benefit of boosting productivity. Collaboration robotic systems have provided many benefits to warehouses that have implemented them, including increased productivity 2 to 3 times, fewer errors, and greater employee satisfaction. Warehouse productivity has improved thanks to these improvements, rivaling that of goods-to-person shipping.
- Intelligence-guided decision making: The technology behind collaborative mobile robots leverages AI and machine learning so the robots can make real-time data-based decisions. Automated robots help associates accomplish more by guiding them from task to task and streamlining picking routes, which enables them to do several things during a single walk on the floor. Additionally, all pick paths are made as dense as possible to reduce unnecessary walking between tasks.
- Streamlined onboarding & training: Due to collaborative mobile robots’ designed approach to training (collaborative robots guide your associates during the picking process), onboarding is a much simpler process. Plus, they are easier to use because they have fewer mechanical touchpoints. Even green-hires will find it easier to complete training and onboarding with these innovations.
- Robust equipment reliability: An important aspect of warehouse operations is the maintenance of equipment. A conveyor breakdown is a classic example of an equipment breakdown causing major delays and halting operations. Automation can improve the overall quality of existing operations by adding autonomous robots. Robots in the warehouse can be moved, serviced, and replaced rapidly. So your operation is kept running smoothly.
According to Astute Analytica, the Warehouse Automation Market will grow at a CAGR of ~15% during the forecast period 2021-2027. Also, as automation technologies evolve, companies will be forced to reevaluate their processes and implement new improvements to meet the current needs.
The self-driving collaborative robot is a great solution for warehouses that want to accommodate changes in demand, increase production, and maintain a conservative cost structure while still increasing operations.