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Without a doubt, automation is the future of warehousing. It is the more sensible alternative to manual processes. With e-commerce continuously growing throughout the years, labour costs increasing, and consumer expectations rising, manual warehouse processes cannot keep up with these higher demands. However, the advancement in technology has made many warehouse processes more efficient by fast-tracking the work of humans or automating tiring manual tasks so that workers can focus on more complicated ones.
What Is Warehouse Automation or Robotics?
In the simplest terms, warehouse automation is the process of automating the inventory using specialized equipment, such as the automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS or AS/RS). This is used to streamline the operation within the facility with minimal human labour.
Adobe’s Digital Intelligence Briefing reported that only about 15% of businesses have embraced the Artificial Intelligence technology, but business experts predicted that it will rise to 31% over the next 12 months. However, the use of robots in warehouses doesn’t necessarily mean that humans will lose their jobs in the future. Warehouse automation systems used in many facilities in Canada help boost productivity and accuracy while lowering the cost of labour and improving safety within the facility.
How Does Automated Warehouse System Work
A safe working environment is crucial for the health and safety of all employees. With the continuous increasing demands of customers and workers sprinting around the facility, things could potentially take a dangerous turn. Adopting warehouse automation technology has not only helped many giant companies, such as Amazon, Ikea, and Coca-Cola achieve great heights of success — small-and-medium-sized businesses can now take advantage of what an automated warehouse system has to offer.
So, how does an automated warehouse system work?
An automated warehouse system involves the use of software and technology, such as sensors and robotics, to automate warehouse processes and ensure that all business-critical operations can meet the demands of your clients. A warehouse management system (WMS) is designed to help manage and complete multiple tasks efficiently by leveraging manual processes and data captures, inventory control and data analysis. For instance, using an automated system that employs robots and cranes designed to perform both simple and complex tasks can help save hours of putting 1,000 pairs of the same shoes into boxes.
Automated warehouse solutions in Burlington and other parts of the country use robotics to automate repetitive processes that require labour, such as loading and unloading of products or trailers or manufacturing or processing lines, and storing and retrieving products on-demand, eliminating labour-intensive tasks. This opens up a world of opportunities to different industries, address various needs, resolve issues, and shape the competitive edge of businesses by automating the following warehouse processes:
- Receiving – Capture data quickly in your warehouse’s receiving area using your mobile device. The integrated software used by the system allows you to capture, process, and store important information that significantly impacts downstream and upstream automated workflows.
- Returns – Conveyors and other automated sorting systems and equipment help automate the sorting of products to return-to-stock shelves in designated storage locations.
- Putaway – Automating physical and digital warehouse processes can streamline the movement of products from receiving to storage, as well as facilitating cross-docking (the process of sorting, processing, and placing the goods onto cargo trucks bound for different destinations).
- Picking – Manual order picking is considered to be the most expensive warehouse activity. Travel time can take as much as 50% of operating hours. However, you can reduce the hours by increasing the speed and efficiency of inventory movement, from stock locations to filling customer orders using GTP systems and autonomous mobile robots.
- Sorting – The process of sorting and consolidating goods is a time-consuming and confusing task. Using automated sortation and ASRS systems can resolve the issue by determining and handling small or fragile inventory separately, improving inventory accuracy and quality control.
- Replenishment: Supercharge your automated reorders by automating inventory tracking and cycle counting. It alerts the system automatically when it detects an order request and labels it for approval. This protects your business from overstocking costs and inventory loss due to theft and spoilage.
- Packaging: High cost and environmental factors can impact the condition of the packaging materials, making the packaging of order fulfillment a critical stage. Automated warehouse systems use algorithms to streamline the packaging and cartonization package by determining the right type of shipping packaging based on the durability, dimension, and material cost of the product.
- Shipping – Conveyors, dimension sensors, scales, software applications, and printers are used to detect available carriers, estimate the rates of shipping, and place proper labels on packages ready to be shipped.
Top Trends in Warehouse Automation and Management
With the economy growing stronger, many warehouses and manufacturing companies are struggling to keep up with the customer demands on a daily basis. Luckily, the ongoing advances in automation and robotics have helped solve various labour challenges. Over the last few years, different warehouse management and automation trends have changed the face of the industry and business:
- Automated Picking – Searching around the warehouse to find specific goods and fill customer orders is a time-consuming task. Auto-picking robots work by locating goods using real-time data and smart radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on packaging to assist workers, making picking and packing faster and easier. This allows human labourers to focus on the preparation of goods for shipment.
- Industrial IIoT – Many warehouses can rely on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or smart devices from lighting to package tracking. For instance, attaching RFID tags to product packaging helps monitor product movements within the warehouse and even beyond.
- Automated Machines – Automate forklifts, pallet movers, drones, shelving, floor cleaners, and local delivery vehicles using big data, machine learning, and remote systems. This enables machines to complete different tasks without any human input.
- Voice Assistants – Incorporating smart technology helps control different warehouse devices and processes using the sound of your voice. Voice assistant technology, when combined with warehouse automation, can help boost the safety of employees and improve daily operations by minimizing distractions in the work area.
- Cloud-Based Software – A growing number of warehouse management businesses are using cloud-based software. Unlike other technologies, cloud-based technology does not need special infrastructure or in-house IT support for maintenance, making it popular among logistics companies.
If you are planning to introduce a warehouse automation system, count on Mainway Handling Systems. Our team of professional system integration specialists will help you choose the right solution to streamline your operations and processing needs. Call us today at (905) 335 0133.