Warehouses are some of the most important parts of the way that retail organisations operate, with better warehouse logistics keeping companies up to date with their orders and shipping requirements, writes Jack Roberts of Bluestonex (pictured). As artificial intelligence and machine learning become more common, companies are starting to implement more automation in their warehouses to take advantage. Learn more about the role of automation in a warehouse, and how to best tailor automation to your warehouse operations.
What is automation?
The process of automation refers to when artificial intelligence plays a significant role in taking manual tasks away from people in the workplace, instead placing them under the purview of machines that have been designed for the role. Many people think of automation as a purely “robotic” process that uses advanced machinery to complete work, however, most of the automation primarily emphasises software solutions. Lots of tasks that artificial intelligence completes focus on relatively menial and repetitive jobs, as these are much simpler to program.
How does automation apply to a warehouse?
Technology has been an increasingly important part of warehouses for a few years now, with automation starting to apply in a range of different ways. Some of the main processes that are becoming more automated in a warehouse environment include:
Some companies use automation to complete product ordering processes. This includes keeping tabs on the amount of stock available as one of the main metrics that a company has and ordering new stock the moment it lowers to a specific threshold. Product ordering automation is ideal for businesses as it ensures that there are always enough products available for customers. Automating this is less useful for just-in-time systems, with bulk products being ideal.
Vast warehouses can have stock across a large area, with different products all being in different places. By combining artificial intelligence with a barcode or QR scanning system, automation can keep track of where individual products are in a large warehouse. This removes what would otherwise be an extremely strenuous task for employees, freeing up a lot of time to complete more important tasks for the company.
Moving away from the implementation of software automation in the workplace, adding robotic hardware such as mobile arms to the warehouse can increase efficiency. Robotic implements can move precisely and repeatedly without showing any signs of fatigue, bringing a greater degree of consistency to the workplace. This also keeps staff members safe from injury, with robotic tools able to lift heavier goods more safely.
Tailoring automation to your warehouse
Automation is all well and good, but it is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution, with different companies implementing it in unique ways. Learn more about the steps to take when tailoring automation to your warehouse, and why each of these steps is a fundamental part of preparing your business for the future.
Consider your needs
Start your journey towards automation by considering your needs. A lot of automation focuses on information, such as data governance automation and ensuring greater data health. By understanding the issues that your data faces and some steps to resolve it, you guide your automation to be far more effective. Some companies turn to external consultants at this stage, but a lot of the time you have a better understanding of the issues affecting the company than someone that is only looking at the data.
Every company has its own limitations to consider when it is looking to implement new technology, with some examples including the budgetary limits that the company is working with and the amount of space a business has. For example, adding robot arms to a space is a fine idea, but it doesn’t work if there isn’t enough physical room. Do a full audit of what might hold your automation back, then balance your dream solution with this better understanding of the boundaries you are working within. It will save you time later in the process when you’re considering solutions.
Set clear goals
Make sure that you have clear goals for your automation. Pay attention to your needs and set clear goals that resolve the gaps in your workflow, with automated systems specifically targeting these. Whether you’re targeting better business partner onboarding beyond the warehouse or simply an improved way of ordering products, knowing your goals ahead of time stops the project from spiralling out of control and eating into the budget you allocated to other areas.
The best way to tailor your automation is to get started as soon as possible. Automation and AI are fast-moving areas that are providing more cutting-edge advantages as time goes on, so the sooner a company makes the most of this, the better positioned they are for future developments. Augment your warehouse with automation today and start seeing the benefits immediately.