Warehouse Automation Benefits and Trends

warehouse automationAutomation is everywhere. From self-driving cars to smart home appliances and beyond, life in the 21st century means relying on the latest technologies to streamline our day. This is especially true in the logistics and manufacturing spheres. Warehouse automation has evolved tremendously over the last decade. Only time will tell how automation will continue to develop, but there’s no denying the efficiency and labor-saving benefits of these new technologies.

What is Warehouse Automation?

Just what is warehouse automation, you might ask? It’s the process of replacing repetitive tasks with automated machines and systems. For instance, a worker might load a mobile robot up with cargo. The robot then moves across the warehouse to deliver the goods to the shipping area. Software within the robot keeps track of inventory while freeing up workers to focus on other tasks. Automation improves efficiency, accuracy, reliability, and speed – a true win win for every department. 

There are a number of benefits of using warehouse automation technology. Automation can do wonders to collect data and control inventory seamlessly. Though expensive, the latest technologies can improve operations while minimizing the potential for human error. In turn, warehouses can be designed more efficiently, increasing the capacity for goods and enhancing the reliability of logistics. Upfront costs may keep warehouse automation from becoming embraced as quickly as it could be, but as technology continues to evolve, prices will come down significantly.

Top Trends in Warehouse Automation

A look at trends in warehouse automation can be incredibly revealing. Warehouse management systems are some of the most common forms of automation in the 21st century. These software applications track inventory, direct picking and shipping efforts, and coordinate material handling equipment. These systems ensure that materials are moved in the most efficient way possible. Warehouse management systems keep labor costs low, improve inventory management, and make better use of warehouse space

Collaborative robots are also growing in popularity. Also known as “cobots,” they’re designed to work side by side with human workers to speed work flows. Cobots are frequently used in picking, packing, palletizing, and inspecting. Of course, these machines are no substitute for human innovation and discernment, which is why they must be used under the supervision of employees. While we might someday rely on completely autonomous robots in warehouses, the technology isn’t quite there yet.

Speaking of robots, autonomous mobile robots and autonomous guided vehicles are popular trends in warehouse automation. They are designed to move throughout the warehouse space while being occupied by an onboard operator. The technology relies on sensors to interpret and understand the environment around them in the same way your robot vacuum knows not to run into the wall. These machines reduce repetitive movements, freeing workers up to handle other tasks. 

Warehouse Automation Technology FAQs

Still feeling unsure about warehouse automation technology and its role in modern business? Browse our frequently asked questions for more information:

What are the Types of Warehouse Automation?

Warehouse automation exists in many forms. From the moment products are received on the shipping dock to the time they are shipped out, there are automated solutions for every step of the warehouse fulfillment process. Inventory control software is often the best option for organizations looking to dip their toes into automation, but it’s truly just the beginning. 

Goods-to-person fulfillment tools like conveyers and vertical lift systems are another great option, as they typically double the average picking speed. Automated storage and retrieval systems are great for high volume warehouse applications, while mobile robots leverage cutting edge technologies to navigate dynamic environments. 

How is Automation Used in Warehousing?

Every warehouse is unique. State of the art facilities rely on warehouse automation to speed along efforts to receive bulk products, depalletize them, put inventory away, pull items for orders, consolidate customer orders, and label them for shipping. Automation also makes sorting and inventory control effortless. If there’s a job in a warehouses, odds are good that there’s some form of automation available to get the task done.

How Many Warehouses Use Automation?

Three in 10 warehouses are either currently using robotics to automate their processes or are considering doing so. While this might seem like a surprisingly low figure, many stakeholders are waiting to see proof of concept before investing in high cost automation tools. The warehouse automation tide is beginning to turn, though; one survey found that 76 percent of automated warehouses were likely to boost inventory accuracy to 99 percent or more. Figures like that are impossible to ignore.

Why Safety Training Matters Now More Than Ever

With more and more technology being implemented in warehouses around the world, it’s important not to forget the humans working alongside and behind warehouse automation tools. Even the most sophisticated robots need humans to program them, supervise them, and correct them when they make errors. Some people see these tools as a threat to job security in the long run, but the reality is that we are a long way away from complete automation. 

So long as there are humans on a job site, there’s room for human error. Proper training and licensure can go a long way to prevent workplace accidents and injuries. If your organization employs lift operators, they must be fully certified before they begin working. Fail to comply with OSHA training requirements and regulations and your business could be subject to expensive fines and penalties. 

ForkliftCertification.com is the solution to your training woes. Our convenient online resources make it easy for workers to get certified in about an hour’s time. We are happy to provide further details about our forklift safety training programs. To learn more about our training options or to enroll your workers in any of them, please contact us online or call us today at (888) 278-8896.

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