What are the Benefits of Blending Warehouse Automation Technologies in your Operation?
Automation has become commonplace in today’s distribution centers. From traditional conveyance and sortation to more leading-edge AS/RS and robotics, supply chain analysts predict continued growth and expansion in the coming years. Drivers for automation are many, with labor availability, retention, and cost at the top of most lists. Other automation drivers include maximizing throughput and capacity, building scalability to quickly adjust to demand fluctuations, and enabling agility to endure supply chain and market disruptions.
So, where do you start? With the explosion of new automated technologies and robotics, jumping straight into evaluating vendors is tempting. However, you need to initially evaluate and assess your operation, modeling workflows to identify where automation makes sense. This is a great time to refresh your processes or facility layout to avoid throwing automation at bad practices. Working with a neutral third-party consulting team can provide an unbiased assessment of your operation, help navigate investigation into what type of automation makes sense, and offer the best return on investment for each workflow.
There is no silver bullet of ‘one technology fits all.’ Instead, a best-of-breed approach to automation technology can provide a complete and bespoke solution. Blending different types of technologies from multiple vendors offers a variety of benefits to the end user by creating a custom ‘tool’ for each task. You’re not using the same hammer for every nail.
A systems integration partner can assist you by vetting, recommending, and integrating various technologies for your specific purposes. Technology-agnostic systems integrators are not tied to any vendor and can offer multiple options. Additionally, integrators can reduce implementation risk as they bring real-world engineering and design skills along with experience in successfully commissioning these technologies. Each workflow in your operation can be addressed with a unique and best-of-breed technology, and that blended solution can be seamlessly connected via over-arching warehouse execution software.
For example, a cube based AS/RS can deliver exceptional order fulfillment speed and expanded capacity in a small footprint. Blending this system with a second vendor’s robotic picking arm to place items on a takeaway autonomous mobile robot (AMR) from a third supplier can eliminate the labor factor while boosting fulfillment speed. Intelligent warehouse software can seamlessly blend and connect these three technologies to optimize order fulfillment flexibility and speed.
Warehouse automation offerings will continue to expand, so it is essential to be thoughtful and measured before approaching an investment. Most companies require experts to help them navigate the complex landscape and evaluate and integrate various options. There is a clear benefit to blending best-of-breed technologies in your operations, creating a bespoke solution that delivers flexibility and resilience and reduces your reliance on labor now and into the future.