6 Best Types of Warehouse Automation Systems
The recent Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruptions in the warehousing and distribution industry. Changing customer expectations, labour shortages, country-wide lockdowns and more has made it difficult for warehouse managers to maintain the operations efficiently and cut down on unnecessary costs.
A warehouse automation system has become a necessity for every warehouse and is an effective way to combat the challenges of warehouse management. We are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution and Industry 4.0 focuses on cloud computing, the internet of things, automation, and digitizing manual processes.
What are Warehouse Automation Systems?
Warehouse automation, or automation in any other scenario for that matter, provides a means for warehouses to complete repetitive and tedious manual tasks efficiently and quickly with the help of technology. Warehouse automation systems are a combination of one or more technologies that enable this automation to happen in the warehouse.
Warehouse automation systems help in reducing labour effort by collecting important inventory data and automating manual processes. These systems can be as low-cost as mobile barcoding or as expensive as automated mobile robots.
Types of warehouse automation
Warehouses are complex operations that involve several different tasks and processes to help manage the inventory and distribute the goods. Similarly, warehouse automation systems are equally varied and consist of several different kinds of technological solutions that can speed up the warehouse process.
pick-to-light systems help pickers locate items inside the warehouse faster and allow them to walk lesser to improve their productivity. These systems use LED lights and barcodes on warehouse items so that pickers can locate the correct items correctly and quickly.
Conveyor systems, automated storage and retrieval systems, and other goods-to-person solutions help employees in picking faster by bringing materials to them for assembly or packing. These systems can use cranes, carousels, or other such vehicles to move inventory across different warehouse processes like packing, shipping, or storage.
Voice Picking and Tasking
Warehouse procedures can be completed by using voice-directed commands as well. This method is known as pick-by-voice and makes use of mobile headsets and speech recognition software to understand the verbal communication of pickers and taskers. The pickers are advised optimized paths for picking or putting away items and eliminate the need for them to carry barcodes and RFID scanners.
AGVs and AMRs
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are also effective warehouse automation solutions that help in improving the overall bottom line of the warehouse.
AGVs use sensors, wires and magnetic strips to navigate around the warehouse and pick items. AMRs can use advanced guidance systems using a laser that can navigate around dynamic warehouse interiors and pick items accurately.
Conveyor belts have been using sortation systems for a long time now to identify items and direct them to their correct locations or bins. This sortation reduces the amount of effort an employee needs to put in for sorting the products and also means quick picking times as items are in their correct location.
Several warehouses have started using drones to assist during different warehouse processes. Drones can help in inventory management and can be equipped with barcode scanners so that employees can perform inventory counts inside the warehouse without moving themselves. Some companies are also using drones for deliveries to nearby customers.
Benefits of Warehouse Automation
Modern warehouse automation solutions are very scalable and provide a lot of benefits to the warehouse owner. They are easy to implement unlike older automation systems like large conveyor belts and can incorporate with other automation solutions like robots to accommodate increased demand during peak season.
Some of the other benefits of warehouse automation include;
- Reduced operating costs as well as unnecessary costs due to reduction in manual errors.
- Increased productivity of the warehouse as pickers require less time to move and pick items from around the warehouse.
- Minimizes manual errors in picking, packing, sorting, or storing products which can lead to faster order fulfilment.
- Fewer injuries to employees as they don’t have to perform everything on their own.
- Increased accuracy of picking and packing products inside the warehouse.
- Optimized use of available warehouse space so that maximum products can be stored in the warehouse.
- Warehouse automation enhances the material handling coordination to reduce any inventory loss.
Warehouse automation systems using warehouse management and inventory tracking can be a beneficial addition to modern warehouses. Changing customer demands and rising orders require the warehouse to work quickly and efficiently without raking up too many errors during the fulfilment process.
Limiting manual involvement in different warehouse processes not only speeds up the supply chain but also helps companies meet customer expectations and grow their business day by day. There are a number of systems available in the market that can help companies automate different processes inside the warehouse and provide different features as well.
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