Every warehouse or distribution center is a complex web of activity and data. As thousands of items pass through, managers need to keep constant track of stock levels, inventory movement, and asset location, as well as external factors like demand fluctuation. But with so much happening at once, it’s hard for a human team to complete all tasks and gather all information efficiently.
Enter warehouse automation. By allocating manual and information gathering tasks to robots, warehouse management and operation becomes significantly easier and – more importantly – significantly more effective. Warehouse management systems and sensors instantly capture far more data than a single human ever could, and robots can keep working round the clock.
For most warehouse managers, the main obstacle to automation is the upfront cost. And while this is an important consideration, the exceptional ROI potential that warehouse automation offers makes it a highly valuable investment.
Here are the top eight benefits of automation for warehouse operations to show you how warehouse automation saves money, streamlines your facility, and improves your service.
In a world of global supply chains and superfast production, our human bodies are shockingly limited. While we excel at using our brains for complex or thoughtful tasks, the tiring and tedious manual labor of warehouse operations quickly takes its toll. Our work slows after only a few hours, we need to stop for food, and sometimes we can’t come to work because of sickness or other commitments. Even under the best conditions, our efforts are constantly interrupted.
On the other hand, a fleet of automated robots can work tirelessly for months on end before needing to stop for maintenance. Recruiting this unstoppable workforce means you can increase warehouse throughput, opening new avenues for increased profit.
Lower operational costs
As well as improving performance, warehouse automation reduces human labor costs, prevents product loss or mishandling, and optimizes your storage to house more stock. By boosting your gross income from both directions, automation creates a measurable financial result that quickly covers the cost of setup.
Improved workplace safety
Working in a warehouse or distribution center can pose health and safety risks. Transporting high racks and heavy pallets all day can lead to strain or injury, particularly in a high-traffic facility. And if your team works with toxic chemicals, they can suffer severe burns or poisoning.
Moving your workers into skills-based positions and using robots to handle manual tasks dramatically lowers the risk of human injury. This keeps your team safe and healthy, reduces your sick pay or lawsuit expenses, and improves sanitation across your facility.
Higher employee satisfaction
Manual work is repetitive, tedious, and not particularly fulfilling. Automating your warehouse operations allows your team to occupy more intellectually stimulating high value-added roles such as robot monitoring, becoming what we call “Crew Chiefs”. The ability to work remotely can also cut down on commuting time, giving your workers a greater degree of personal freedom.
In these ways, automation provides better motivation for your workers to improve their skills and minimizes employee turnover so you can capitalize on their experience and training. It also means you don’t need to recruit additional staff during busy seasons, as you can simply increase the number of robots in operation.
Fewer human errors
Even the most talented human worker is prone to making mistakes. We get tired, distracted, and frustrated, which leads to a greater risk of inventory loss, shipping errors, and wastage.
With its level head and cool efficiency, an automated robot delivers much greater precision and control when handling products, and fulfills orders far more accurately. If it features machine learning software, it’ll even perform better over time. This increased reliability not only prevents unnecessary losses but also allows you to give customers and clients a better experience.
While it’s true that automated robots still can’t get it right 100% of the time, their mistakes are much quicker and easier to manage. Using remote supervision software like Yonder, your Crew Chiefs can help all the robots they monitor find the right answers when they get confused. This type of human-in-the-loop system capitalizes on the greatest strengths of human and robot workers to achieve much greater results than either could alone.
Better use of resources
The more data you can gather regarding your warehouse operations, and the more effectively you can use it, is a huge factor in growing and streamlining your business. Using your warehouse management system to collate and analyze data gathered by robots and IoT devices lets you refine your processes, optimize your warehouse space, and maximize workflow efficiency.
Better control of inventory
Supply and demand aren’t constant throughout the year. As they rise and fall, the amount of stock you need changes. And unless you’re properly equipped to monitor and react to these changes, it’s easy to overstock or stock-out.
The use of warehouse automation technologies makes it easy to track market data, customer demand, and real-time inventory, allowing you to manage stock effectively. This means you won’t find yourself storing excess products or being unable to fulfill a shipping order.
Better sustainability practices
Governments and industries set very strict goals for environmental sustainability. But unless you have a clear and informed plan of action, these can be very hard to meet.
The smart warehouse management, condition monitoring, and predictive analysis offered by warehouse automation software allow you to identify areas for improvement and limit your emissions. This means you can avoid the repercussions of failing to meet sustainability goals and build a reputation as a responsible company.
Find out how to automate your warehouse
Although the benefits of warehouse automation are hard to contest, they still leave one very important question: how do I achieve warehouse automation? While you could take a trial and error approach, you’ll get much better results by speaking with an expert.
Contact us today to tell us about your facility and operations, and we’ll help you find the best approach to warehouse automation.