In the relentless drive for business efficiency and improved profitability, automation has become one of the most important aspects of every warehouse management system. While the main benefits of warehouse automation – reduced labour costs, less mistakes and space maximization – are obvious, there are many things you probably haven’t considered.
Our founders created CartonCloud because they saw how automation, even on a small scale, could benefit their own business. But as the company has grown and evolved, so to has our understanding of the power of warehouse automation.
While there is a range of different automation options for warehouses, ranging from automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) to easy-to-use warehouse management platforms like CartonCloud, some of the lesser-known benefits are available to businesses of all sizes.
Data, or “Big Data”, have emerged as this century’s most important tool for improving business efficiency and performance. Quite simply, the more you know about your business, the more you can identify inefficiency and implement improvement.
Humans, for all their wonderful traits, aren’t great at tracking data in large volumes. We often forget where we left our car keys, let alone where we left 50,000 different SKUs! Equally, tracking the performance of humans and measuring their output and productivity is difficult and imprecise.
Advanced systems with automated processes are not only reliable, they have the ability to absorb data that can be analysed objectively. As they work, they collect data about anything and everything, which serves as an incredible database of information that you can put to use. It leads to better decision making with more successful outcomes. It reveals a lot more about your processes and it can help you unlock new avenues of improvement.
The utopian vision of full warehouse automation with perfectly-programmed and synchronized robots re-stocking and picking orders 24-hours a day can seem very complex and expensive to implement for a smaller-scale operation. Thankfully the process of automation can be developed and rolled out over time to reduce capital expenditure and implementation risk.
Automation is not an ‘all or nothing’ concept and often starts with simply putting all your data and workflows into a single technological platform that can automate some of the laborious processes, like data entry.
Unlike humans, machines are great at remembering where things are stored, how many things are stored and the easiest and quickest route to get to them. In warehouse management and distribution, mistakes are time, and time is money. Automated systems can be programmed to undertake very specific tasks in very specific orders and they NEVER forget where something is stored.
In fact, according to The Essentials of Supply Chain Management by Hokey Min, most companies observe around a 25% gain in overall productivity and a 10–20% improvement in space utilization by moving from a paper-based system to a WMS.
Saving the Planet
Every business must consider their impact on the environment and tackle the shared challenge of climate change. Adopting warehouse automation, even to a small degree, can help your business make a contribution to reducing impacts.
Automation’s contribution to ‘greening the supply chain’ has been known for many years and includes;
- Less land usage by optimizing space management;
- Less energy consumption through movement optimization; and
- Less product wastage, less energy required to move wasted product and less wasted product going to landfill.
The main benefits of warehouse automation are widely known. While the process of implementing new systems and processes in your business might seem daunting (all change is) it is worth considering the full gamut of benefits, not just the obvious ones.