There’s no question: digital transformation has had a profound impact on the way businesses operate and connect with consumers. And since the onset of Covid-19, business leaders are facing immense pressure to optimize supply chain efficiency and accommodate new market trends without increasing costs.
As Abe Eshkenazi, CEO of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), shares, “Twenty years ago, supply chain was relegated to a corner of the business. Now, supply chain touches every element of a business and supply chain managers have to understand how all the different functions — marketing, sales, finance — of the business work together and navigate those waters.”
Add external factors like commoditization, the rise of online retailers, and consumer expectations for fast shipping to the equation, and it’s clear that companies need to up their supply chain management game.
There’s no sugarcoating it: it takes a lot to succeed in today’s competitive market. The good news? You’re not alone. And new technology, like warehouse automation, can play an integral role in resolving key challenges and driving efficiency across the supply chain.
What is Warehouse Automation?
Warehouse automation uses technology to streamline operations and bolster outcomes. The most effective warehouse automation solutions are ergonomic, scalable, and maximize ROI. There are two different warehouse automation types: physical and digital automation.
This encompasses mechanized equipment, like robotic systems, within a warehouse setting. For instance, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), goods-to-person (GTP) technology, wearable devices, and collaborative robots (or “cobots” for short) are considered forms of physical automation. Utilizing automation equipment can reduce human error, decrease job-related hazards, and accelerate turnaround times.
Digital automation uses software to automate manual processes, such as inventory tracking. A warehouse management system (WMS) is one example of a digital automation solution that captures and analyzes crucial data to drive greater visibility and streamline time-consuming processes. Mobile barcoding is another software solution that not only scans and tracks inventory, but communicates data to a centralized database in real-time.
Both physical and digital automation can significantly improve warehouse and distribution-related procedures in ways that are simply not feasible through traditional means. Automating repetitive tasks effectively decreases costs and allows businesses to redirect their focus to more meaningful, high-level activities.
Why Warehouse Automation Matters
It’s no secret that warehousing operations lie at the heart of the supply chain. The warehouse is much more than simply a place to store goods: it’s a core business component, and fundamental for driving sustainable growth.
Lost inventory? Customers receiving rotten or spoiled food? Yikes. Issues like these can negatively impact everything from customer satisfaction to brand reputation. But while broken or inefficient processes can lead to long-term downstream consequences, the opposite is also true. Implementing solutions like warehouse automation can drive positive outcomes and improve supply chain management.
Over the years, warehouse management has evolved into a highly complex, multi-faceted science. AI and automation help to navigate these processes and digest data in a way that accelerates cycles, strengthens performance, and supports business growth.
Let’s break it down a little further. Here are some ways warehouse automation can improve the way your business operates:
- Optimize flow and utilization of warehouse space.
- Improve operational efficiency.
- Increase workforce productivity.
- Decrease overhead, expenses, and costs derived from human error.
- Protect company assets, as well as public brand reputation.
- Minimize manual procedures and managing of stock-keeping units (SKU).
Businesses that implement automation and forward-thinking technology into their supply chain management and warehouse operations reap loads of benefits. Here are four impossible-to-ignore advantages of warehouse automation.
1. Reduced Costs
By automating processes, you’ll see a corresponding decrease in overhead. You’ll drive cost savings across the board — equipment, labor, energy consumption, maintenance, etc. — all while increasing throughput.
2. Stable Inventory Levels
From inventory transactions to data collection, automating processes can effectively decrease shrinkage, misplacement, and lost inventory while driving accuracy. Maintaining stability between supply and demand is crucial for controlling costs and keeping customer satisfaction high. In addition to fewer shipping errors, this enhanced level of inventory management can decrease (or eliminate altogether) the need for just-in-time order fulfillment methodologies.
3. Higher Productivity
Automation can catapult productivity to a level that just can’t be achieved by manual work alone. This means maximizing throughput without having to increase headcount. What’s more, when employees have the tools they need to perform their jobs efficiently and effectively, look forward to an uptick in morale and retention numbers.
4. More Sustainable Practices
The adoption of automation helps decrease the amount of energy needed to power warehouse operations. As a result, you’ll reduce expenses, decrease land and waste use, and minimize your impact on the environment. These advantages are particularly impactful for warehouses that handle temperature-sensitive goods and deal with hazardous waste.
Eco-friendly practices are not only important for preserving the well-being of our planet, but a bulk of today’s consumers want to align themselves with brands that are eco-conscious as well.
When to Introduce Warehouse Automation to Your Business
All of this sounds great — but when is the time right to introduce warehouse automation into your operations? Warehouse automation is a necessity when manual or outdated processes (think: spreadsheets) are hindering your organization from scaling and enjoying success.
Here are some signs that you can benefit from warehouse automation:
Order fulfillment has inaccuracies.
Your inventory counts are rarely accurate and you can no longer trust data you procure manually.
Current processes and workflow are time-intensive and labor-intensive.
You’re struggling to keep up with high demand.
The business is receiving negative reviews from unhappy customers due to packaging or shipment-related errors.
You want to expand your offerings, but don’t have the foundation to do so.
Sound familiar? These are just a few (of many) reasons why warehouse automation can turn the tides for your business and drive more positive outcomes. Keep in mind: you’re not alone. As technology advances, so does the opportunity to adapt and meet evolving market needs.
Stay Competitive. Fuel Your Success.
Implementing a robust warehouse automation solution can deliver measurable, valuable results, from optimizing inventory management to driving output across your supply chain. The right warehouse automation solution will enhance both inbound and outbound operational efficiency, ensuring everything from the initial order to its arrival on a customer’s doorstep is carried out seamlessly.
Because automation minimizes unproductive and repetitive tasks, you’ll be able to streamline workflow and ensure your business is focused on activities that really move the needle, like launching new products or tapping into new markets.
Chaotic, unorganized paperwork is essentially impossible to keep track of and derive valuable insights. Through automation and cutting-edge tech, however, you can capture and analyze pertinent data to gain a firm understanding of your company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as potential new revenue opportunities.
At Smart Warehousing, our goal is to revolutionize the warehousing space through innovative technology designed to optimize every step of the supply chain process. As a 3PL provider, we focus on maximizing profitability for businesses through customized solutions tailored specifically to your unique needs.
Our cloud-based Smart Warehousing Information Management System (a.k.a SWIMS) is designed to integrate with your current tech stack to optimize ROI and drive greater visibility across all areas of the supply chain. With 20+ years of experience, we can help your business get a better grasp on order fulfillment, inventory management, logistics, and more to ensure you’re hitting key goals and objectives.
Don’t let outdated procedures or growing pains keep your business from moving forward. Contact the Smart Warehousing team today to discover how we can personalize a solution to take your business to new heights.