Warehouse automation is an important secret of most major warehouses across the globe.
The truth is that there’s plenty of space in warehousing and distribution for both humans and automation tools. In fact, the combination of the two can produce glorious logistics efficiency.
Despite the fear-mongering that robots are going to replace all human workers ever, the reality is a little bit more complicated. Absolutely, some automations have made certain job titles a thing of the past, but there are still plenty of humans needed to help those automations along. With the huge increase in eCommerce order fulfillment over the last five to 10 years, automated warehouses are really a bit behind the curve. Warehousing and distribution has needed the extra help for a while.
Warehouse Automation Versus Increase Fulfillment Volumes
Automations like robots are able to increase the output and efficiency of warehouses and distribution centers by:
Reducing pick errors. Humans look into bins to choose the items that they need to pick, often even when they’ve got access to a bar code scanner or other helpful tech. It’s not because they’re trying to make mistakes, just that they have always relied on their vision to identify things, it’s basically a reflex.
A robot picker, on the other hand, deals only in hard data. If a bin is marked with the item it’s seeking, it will always pick from that bin once it’s been identified.
Speeding up orders and increasing efficiency. Automation tools don’t hesitate or doubt themselves, the seconds they can shave off of a pick really add up. They also can be programmed with maps of the entire warehouse so that they go straight to the items needing picked and back, choosing the most efficient path each time.
Thinking outside of the box. In some warehouses, teams of robots stack crates based on an algorithm that places the most commonly picked items at the top and the least picked at the bottom.
To a human eye, the chaotic tangle of sardines and shaving razors makes no sense, but the robots that stack and restack these crates, it’s the best use of space and time. They are very fast pickers, too.
One of the biggest problems in warehouse and distribution today is figuring out how to pick faster so humans can pack faster. It was inevitable that automations like picking robots and robotic arms would find their way into the industry. They’re helping move the supply chain along a little quicker and a bit more efficiently, bit by bit.