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What Is An Automated Warehouse?

September 25, 2019

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A modern warehouse featuring high shelving stacked with cardboard boxes with mobile robots navigating the aisles under a large steel roof.

The idea of automated warehouses has been growing since Henry Ford’s time. As robots get smarter, they’re taking on more and more warehouse tasks. Now, they can even grab specific items from shelves and put together your orders perfectly. This transformative power of automation in warehousing is changing the logistics field, providing operational efficiency and accuracy in supply chain management.

Unlocking Efficiency: Understanding Warehouse Automation

An automated warehouse is a modern facility that uses advanced technologies and machines to oversee warehouse operations. This technology can vary from semi-automated setups, where machines help humans, to fully automated setups, where machines take care of most tasks on their own.

Here are some terms you might not be familiar with:

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

AMRs are widely used in e-commerce fulfillment centers, especially when many orders are needed. These robots are highly independent and can be considered the most autonomous entities in the warehouse. While they typically operate on their own, they also can collaborate with warehouse staff, moving alongside them as they navigate through the warehouse space.

Automated Picking

Thanks to automated “picking,” warehouse workers have items delivered directly to them at their workstations instead of fetching them. This not only saves time but also lowers the risk of injuries that might occur from lifting heavy items or making mistakes while moving around. This automated warehousing process of bringing items to the worker is also called “goods to person” (GTP) technology.

Pick-to-Light

Employees have it easier than ever when it comes to locating items in the warehouse with “Pick-to-light” systems. Workers scan barcodes, and LED displays direct them to the right storage bin while also showing the quantity of items to be picked. Once the task is completed, the operator presses a button, and the system reveals the next storage area to focus on.

Why Would You Want an Automated Warehouse?

With more people shopping online, it’s a no-brainer that you need to get orders out quickly and keep track of what you have. Automated warehouse systems help with that by tackling some of the main problems warehouses face, making the whole process smoother.

Here are key reasons companies are investing in automation solutions:

Increased Productivity

Automated warehouses work with a level of efficiency and consistency that’s better than what humans can do. Robots and automated equipment can keep working all day and night without needing breaks, shifts, or downtime that people do.

This means warehouses can handle more work with the same or fewer resources, making operations much faster. For instance, a robotic picking system can fill orders quicker than human workers because it can pick up several items from different spots at the same time.

Automation also makes packing and shipping faster, cutting down the time it takes from when an order is received to when it’s sent out. This faster processing not only makes customers happier with quicker deliveries but also boosts the productivity of the warehouse. This allows businesses to deal with more orders without having to significantly increase their labor costs.

Reduced Errors and Improved Inventory Management

Automation technology in warehouse management systems is built to do tasks very accurately, which improves order accuracy and inventory control. In regular warehouses where people do the work, it’s common to pick the wrong items or count things wrong. This is especially important in industries where keeping an accurate inventory is crucial, such as pharmaceuticals, automotive parts, and electronics.

Automated warehouse systems use things like barcode scanners and RFID sensors to make sure the right items are picked and that the count of items in stock is correct and up to date. As inventory becomes more accurate, you can manage your stock better, the error rate of having too much or too little inventory decreases.

Better inventory accuracy also helps you to plan and forecast more reliably, improving how they buy materials and make products. In the end, this leads to big savings because there are fewer losses from mistakes, and money isn’t wasted on extra stock that isn’t needed.

Enhanced Safety

A fully automated warehouse is key to making work safer for employees. Traditional warehouse operations jobs can be risky, like climbing ladders to get items from high shelves or lifting heavy things. Robots can take over these risky jobs. They bring items right to a spot where workers can easily and safely pick them up.

This cuts down on the need for hard physical work and lowers the risk of common injuries from lifting, carrying, and reaching. By easing the physical demands on workers, an automated warehouse not only reduces injuries but also boosts workers’ happiness and productivity.

Workers can then spend more time on important tasks that need human skills, such as checking quality, solving problems, or helping customers, instead of doing the same physical tasks over and over.

Maximizing Space

Efficient space utilization not only increases the amount of storage in the same area but also cuts down on the need to expand or add more warehouse buildings.

Automated storage systems are set up with vertical lifts to use high ceilings and tight spaces well, which are often not fully used in warehouses run by people. Systems like high-density automated racking and Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) can store items in compact arrangements that use less space.

Plus, automation systems can be adjusted to fit different sizes and shapes of items, which improves how space is used and makes managing inventory more flexible. The efficient use of space helps lower energy costs and improves how the environment inside the warehouse is controlled, making operations more sustainable.

Improved Data-Driven Decision Making

Automated systems collect lots of important data about inventory amounts, how long it takes to process orders, and how resources are used. This data can be looked at to find problem areas, improve workflows, and make informed decisions to keep making the warehouse better.

The data can also be combined with other systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP) to give a clearer view of the supply chain and help with predicting future needs.

Scalability and Flexibility

When it gets busy during peak seasons or when there are sudden increases in orders, automated solutions can handle more work by picking items faster or using more robots.

On the other hand, when things slow down, they can reduce their activity, which helps them use resources better and saves energy.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

The efficiency and accuracy brought by warehouse automation directly impacts customer satisfaction. Faster processing times and accurate order fulfillment mean that customers receive their products quicker and with fewer mistakes, enhancing the overall customer experience.

In today’s fast-moving market, where customers expect quick delivery, being able to consistently meet these expectations gives a business a big advantage over others.

LOOKING FOR EXPERIENCED, QUALIFIED, AND RELIABLE WAREHOUSE EMPLOYEES?

At Spectra360, we do more than just fill jobs in your warehouse. We make sure to understand what your company is like and what you specifically need. This helps us find workers who are excited to work and do well in busy settings.

Contact us today and improve how your warehouse works with skilled workers who can professionally handle automation tools.

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