In the logistics industry, the advancing technology of warehouse automation and robotics has provided invaluable benefits. From improved safety and productivity to reducing operational expenses, implementing robotics and automation has revolutionized how warehouses approach logistics. But what types of warehouse automation and robotics are available, and how do these technologies work?
The Technology of Warehouse Automation and Robotics
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic gave the logistics industry a double blow: It created a warehouse labour shortage and triggered a higher volume of eCommerce sales than ever before. Consumers are shopping online more than ever, expecting high-quality packaging and faster shipping and delivery.
Although warehouse automation and robotics have been ubiquitous in the supply chain for several years, the technology continues to advance. Unsurprisingly, companies in the warehousing and logistics industries are having difficulty keeping up with the rapidly increasing demand. That’s where warehouse robotics and automation come in.
Warehouse robots are autonomous machines that perform specific tasks, reducing or even eliminating the need for human workers. These robots consist of two parts: the physical machine that performs the work and a software system that controls its movement. Typical tasks for robots include picking items from shelves, sorting and packaging them, and stacking them on pallets.
The most common types of warehouse robots include:
- Automated Guided Vehicles: AGVs transport materials and items from one area to another using cameras, laser guidance systems, and infrared sensors.
- Articulated Robot Arms: Warehouse robots with articulated arms use multi-jointed limbs to lift, transport, and pack items on shelves and pallets.
- Autonomous Mobile Robots: AMRs are highly sophisticated and can perform a wide variety of tasks, like transporting and delivering stock, processing packaging information, checking inventory, and more.
- Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems: AS/RS robotic systems automate tasks like transporting and stocking items throughout the supply chain. Most consist of large-scale systems with a crane that moves on fixed tracks and a computer program controlling their movements.
Warehouse automation allows companies to automate the process of moving and transporting inventory both into and out of warehouses with minimal assistance from humans. As warehouse jobs often require repetitive labour, automation simplifies and streamlines these tasks. It takes the pressure off human workers and freeing up time they can spend on more complex jobs that robots or machines cannot complete.
The two primary types of warehouse automation include physical and digital:
- Digital Automation utilizes software and computer systems to automate manual computer-based tasks like data collection and inventory control.
- Physical Automation includes mechanized technology, such as warehouse robots, to automate physical tasks.
Logistical and supply chain automation includes a broad range of different technologies. However, the most common types of automation technology include:
- Warehouse Management Systems: Also known as WMS, warehouse management systems are cutting-edge software applications that streamline operational efficiency and allow for precise control over workflows in a warehouse.
- Handheld Terminals: Warehouse employees use portable devices called handheld terminals to track items and stock with speed and accuracy. They often integrate with a WMS to improve data management.
- Predictive Maintenance: A WMS with predictive maintenance capabilities automates the process of monitoring and inspecting warehouse equipment, preventing breakdowns or errors before they occur. It uses technology like infrared thermography, acoustic monitoring, and vibration analysis.
Benefits of Automated Warehousing and Robotics in the Supply Chain
As robots are machines, they are capable of utilizing a level of strength, speed, and accuracy that humans simply cannot. In a warehouse or fulfillment center, using robots to automate tasks can streamline daily operational tasks and duties exponentially.
By combining human intelligence with a tireless workforce of robots, warehouses can increase productivity. With the demand for eCommerce products rapidly increasing, boosting daily production is one of the best benefits these technologies provide.
Reduces the Chance of Errors
Using robots and software systems to handle repetitive tasks like data entry, inventory management, and order processing also reduces the chance of human errors. It’s a fact: Humans are prone to making errors, especially if they’re distracted or tired.
Of course, no system or software program can provide 100% accuracy. However, if mistakes occur, these systems can detect the problem and fix it before it becomes a larger and more expensive issue.
Optimizes Inventory Management
The ever-increasing consumer demand in the eCommerce industry and expectations for lightning-fast shipping and delivery have made it challenging for warehouses to maintain accurate inventory management. By leveraging automation within the supply chain, companies can prevent issues like product shortages, backorders, unexpected market fluctuations, and production issues.
Creates a Safer Work Environment
Working in a fulfillment center or warehouse can be dangerous. Workers must lift heavy pallets, operate forklifts and other machinery, and complete their jobs in a high-traffic environment. However, technology like robots can create a safer and less hazardous workplace.
For example, robots can bring items to and from workers, decreasing the amount of traffic and movement. Also, many have sophisticated systems for detecting problems like chemical spills or malfunctioning equipment, which could put human employees at risk.
Lowers Operational Costs
One of the best benefits of utilizing warehouse automation technology and robotics is the potential for businesses to reduce operating costs. This technology can improve productivity, increase workflow efficiency, and prevent costly errors, so it helps companies significantly lower their overhead and operational expenses.
While the technology can be expensive, it offers a swift return on investment and continues to pay for itself every day.
Encore Deliveries: End-to-End Solutions for Warehousing, Logistics, and Delivery
In today’s modern world, the warehousing and logistics industry is rapidly changing. As such, businesses must adapt and evolve their operational models to keep up, and that includes leveraging technology like warehouse automation and robotics, and nobody knows that better than us here at Encore Deliveries. For over 90 years, we’ve provided end-to-end solutions in warehousing and logistics, small parcel, and home delivery for a diverse range of sectors and industries. Call Encore Deliveries now at 905-670-7111 or contact us online to learn more about how we can help your business grow and succeed.