Warehouse Automation: What Is It and What Are Its Benefits?

This comprehensive 2023 guide will walk you through warehouse automation and its benefits.

Introduction

Numerous types of warehouse automation exist, each employing a unique set of technology and all with the potential to dramatically enhance output. Robots and other forms of automation are two examples of this tech. Manual procedures are consistent with the issues that arise in warehouses, such as high operational expenses, costly mistakes committed by people, and extended processing times. To address these issues, various forms of warehouse automation have been developed. A study estimates that by 2025, warehouse productivity will have increased by 25-70 percent thanks to automation and robotics, while operational costs will have decreased by 20-40 percent.

What Is Warehouse Automation?

Warehouse automation is the process of minimizing the need for human labor in the storage and distribution of goods by automating the flow of goods into, within, and out of warehouses to customers. Manual data input and analysis are only two examples of the kinds of labor-intensive operations that could be eliminated as part of an automation project.

A warehouse worker, for instance, might load a self-driving mobile robot with several heavy items. The program monitors the flow of goods as they are transported by the robot from one end of the warehouse to the shipping area. By doing so, we can be confident that all of our documentation is always up to date. These robots boost productivity, speed, dependability, and precision in this endeavor.

Instead of requiring the use of physical or robotic automation, the term "warehouse automation" is often used to simply refer to the substitution of software for human labor. Conversely, this scenario illustrates how humans and robots may work together to do repetitive tasks in a way that decreases the risk of injury and fatigue for both parties.

Benefits of Warehouse Automation 

1. Productivity

Most jobs in a warehouse are tedious and time-consuming repetitions of previous ones. Workers' workloads are lightened thanks to automation tools used in warehouses. Automation has eliminated the need for humans to measure pallets and packages by eye, move massive loads, or spend substantial time on either the receiving or warehousing of goods. Warehouse employees could be redirected to more productive and less strenuous tasks instead. If you take this course of action, you will notice improved employee retention and greater warehouse productivity.

2. Fewer Errors

Although it is impossible to eliminate human error entirely, warehouse automation tools can help. Because of the time and effort required to fix these problems, customer happiness will suffer. The biggest benefit of automating a warehouse is that it reduces the likelihood of mistakes being made by humans, which in turn increases efficiency and saves money.

3. Decreasing Safety Risks

Warehouse automation has many benefits, one of which is the greater security it provides. Working in a high-traffic area, handling heavy materials, and other potentially dangerous activities are all part of a warehouse's daily routine. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and automated material response (AMRs) are two examples of warehouse automation technologies that can automate the aforementioned tasks, hence removing the related risks to warehouse workers. Furthermore, automated warehouse system systems bring the products to the worker rather than the worker having to walk to the things. As a result, there is less foot traffic across the entire warehouse, which reduces the risk of accidents and improves product security.

4. Faster and Economic

Automated warehouses provide the added benefit of giving warehouse managers access to real-time data throughout the whole manufacturing and shipping cycle by means of networked sensors, machine-to-machine communication protocols, and other technologies. It is just one more way that automated warehouses save time and effort.

5. Visibility and Transparency

Successful management of huge warehouses is impossible without cutting-edge warehouse management systems. Every day, warehouses get shipments of fresh goods that need to be organized and cataloged. Through the WMS, we are able to manage our stock from the time of order placement until it is shipped. Computer vision inspects products on the assembly line for defects. All items are checked to see if their final appearance meets the criteria without any help from a human. As a result of this type of automated damage and defect analysis, there is no longer any chance that a faulty or damaged product would be shipped to the end user.

6. Efficient Inspection

Upon arrival in the storage facility, the stock must be inspected thoroughly for evidence of damage or waste. Hand examination takes a long time and can cause mistakes because of human error. The process, however, automated, is nevertheless fairly rapid and error-prone. Machine learning is being used by companies like IBM to automate tasks and save time. Defects found on-site can now be pinpointed with the help of IBM Watson's Visual Recognition without any human inspection.

7. Employee Satisfaction

Worker happiness can be increased through the use of warehouse automation by keeping up with convenience standards and making the workplace more pleasant for workers. Some people may also thrive in jobs that are less physically demanding but still require them to take responsibility for the quality of the goods being produced. For instance, if the temperature inside a warehouse tends to rise beyond 80 degrees Fahrenheit, management may be more receptive to installing a warehouse automation system that shortens workers' travel time between different areas. Providing this sort of amenity to workers has been shown to increase their level of contentment in their jobs.

8. Space Optimization

Options for warehouse automation provide more streamlined space management on the shop floor or within individual departments. To free up more room in the workplace, companies are increasingly turning to automated assembly lines and other forms of mechanization. By utilizing machinery, an automated warehouse system can free up more room on a floor for activities such as staff movement, storage, and architectural or electrical management and comforts.

Types of Warehouse Automation 

1. Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)

Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are one type of technology that can be found in GTP. The warehouse's automated system retrieves needed items from storage and returns them there after finishing using them. Most warehouses that implement AS/RS systems also implement warehouse software to monitor the system and aid workers in the fulfillment of orders.

2. Goods-to-person Technologies (GTP)

Rather than having workers physically move to the products, "goods-to-person" technologies are opting for "goods-to-worker" solutions. You'll be able to avoid wasting both time and money thanks to this. The GTP system allows the warehouse to access a centralized database, such as an ERP, to either enter or retrieve orders. After this is done, the relevant products are located in the warehouse by automated equipment and moved to the picking point. The throughput rates of GTP warehouses are typically much higher than those of manual warehouses. Because of this, companies that adopt GTP technology are able to reduce operating and order fulfillment expenses while boosting service quality.

3. Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

E-commerce fulfillment situations, in particular, require significant volumes of manpower, hence companies are increasingly turning to AMRs. Some AMRs operate along with warehouse staff by traversing the warehouse's floor, coordinating with human pickers as needed to fill their totes, and then transporting the goods to the pack station. Various other forms of AMR use mobile robotic carts equipped with vacuums and trays to retrieve boxes and totes from warehouse shelves.

4. Pick-to-light Systems

Pick-to-light systems have workers scan barcodes as LED screens light up to show them where to find an item and how many of them need to be chosen. The operator then places the chosen items in the designated containers and presses a button close to the screen to signal that the process is complete. Each operator's work area will continue to be illuminated by the displays as they are directed to the next picking location.

5. Warehouse Workflows

Warehouse automation, such as warehouse workflows, streamlines your operations to save you time and money. They allow you to set off a chain reaction in response to a predetermined event. These include things like making sure people have things to do and reminding them to do them, sending consumers automated emails when shipments have arrived, and checking to see if things have been done. You can also build new forks that are activated by the completion of particular tasks or by meeting certain conditions.

Incorporating this automation into your business will allow you to streamline your processes and increase output by decreasing the number of tasks that require human intervention. These forms of automated warehouse solutions are most useful for routine jobs that don't demand much in the way of human judgment or creativity.

6. Drones

Drones are one of the most cutting-edge forms of warehouse automation technology. This allows for streamlined warehouse operations. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are cutting-edge flying devices that use optical sensors, infrared cameras, barcode scanners, RFID technology, and other related advances to identify objects and do inventory counts, among other activities. If any of your things are in the wrong place, or if you're running low on inventory, you will receive automated notifications right away.

As a result, they can access even the farthest corners of a warehouse. More than 13 million drones will be in operation worldwide by 2029, up from just 989,000 last year, says research firm Gartner. If an inventory is being checked using a drone instead of the more time-consuming and manual methods traditionally used by humans, hundreds of man-hours can be saved. More importantly, manual counting using drones is a much safer alternative to using scissor lifts, man-cages, and forklifts.

Conclusion

Automated warehouse solutions automate the flow of commodities into, within, and out of warehouses to customers, minimizing the need for human labor. Whereas, warehouse workflows are something that will help you save time by streamlining your operations. However, warehouse workflows are a great way to cut down on wasted time and increase productivity. You can create a robust warehouse workflow automation app in comparatively less time with Zorp’s pre-built templates.