Warehouses and distribution centres have traditionally been labour-intensive operations centres, with employees moving inventory from one place to another. Supply chain challenges brought about by the pandemic have forced many businesses to turn to other technologies to reduce supply chain risks.
Such organisations are increasingly turning to warehouse automation. A recent Futurum Research and Honeywell report shows that this option has been steadily growing in popularity, even though it has yet to develop fully. In other words, there is a lot of room for growth in the future.
Goods-to-person (GTP) technologies, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that help pick and sort items, and drones are just some of the warehouse automation solutions available.
Regardless of the form taken, warehouse automation offers many benefits, and businesses worldwide are buying in. They include:
1. A more efficient workplace.
With warehouse automation solutions like autonomous mobile robots (ARMs), drones, and automated storage/retrieval systems, businesses can fulfill orders more quickly, safely, and predictably than human workers.
2. A more agile “workforce.”
Given the many issues impacting the retail segment, companies need to be agile and ready to change on a dime. For instance, many businesses shifted to a purely online, direct-to-consumer (DTC) model during the pandemic to create a more robust customer bond. While humans may need lengthy training after such a significant business model change, robots do not. This allows businesses to be more flexible and responsive to the current environment.
3. Less reliance on humans.
In the context of Malaysia, where access to foreign workers was severely restricted during the height of the pandemic, a move towards warehouse automation means less disruption and fewer shutdowns when humans are unavailable to work. Furthermore, with robots, there’s no training, no need for breaks, and no staffing shortages.
4. A more accurate inventory.
Human error is an issue for every company, but warehouse automation and AI can help create more accurate numbers for areas such as production location, inventory counts and shipping details.
5. Data-rich Environment.
Warehouse automation is AI-driven, and data will be acquired throughout its life-cycle in a data-driven environment. The data can subsequently be used for quality assurance, asset tracking and any processes associated with the Internet of Things (IoT).
Warehouse Automation and what lies ahead.
While some argue that fully autonomous warehouses would be the ultimate goal, the most likely outcome is one where automation technologies and humans will work together hand in hand. Over the upcoming years, we will see an increased reliance on warehouse automation to be more agile and resilient. Forward-thinking companies must seize the opportunity to take their current automation plans and push them forward to meet future needs. Companies that don’t may find themselves struggling.