These 4 common myths keep companies from adopting warehouse automation. Learn the truth behind them and discover the benefits of warehouse automation.
Automating warehouses has been in the discussion even before the pandemic hit the globe. As we progress towards 2022 in the ‘new normal’, the idea of adopting warehouse automation is gaining significant popularity to meet the ever-growing consumer demands and boost return on investments.
Industry experts have been pushing automation for decades, and only now has it become a pressing need to escalate order-fulfilment productivity. Companies are now more willing to expand their target audience base by reducing operating costs, delivery speed and time.
However, many of them still hesitate to incorporate robotic technologies in daily warehouse activities. These companies are rethinking their warehouse strategies, whilst struggling with appropriate resources to meet their scalable growth. Taking that into account, this article puts an end to common automation myths.
Myth 1: Small to mid-sized companies cannot afford automation technologies
The term 'warehouse automation' may seem daunting at first. Instead, investing in an intuitive, easy-to-operate, and efficient technology can make daily operations more productive, no matter the organization's size.
Companies don't need to apply automation at every step of the order-fulfilment process. They can start using the appropriate technologies for the most time-consuming and laborious tasks first, such as order picking, palletizing, packaging, parcel induction, etc. For instance, order picking consumes about 55% of warehouse costs but applying suitable robotic technologies can save unnecessary expenses. On top of that, automating the order picking process can save them from the perils of mispicks.
Robotic picking can be up to five times more efficient than manual picking, performing repetitive tasks around the clock. This substitution can keep the warehouse operations going without interruptions caused by human errors, fatigue, breakdown, or sickness. Boosting efficiency can improve profit margins and modernize processes to meet dynamic consumer expectations.
Myth 2: Unemployment rates will increase
Since the time robotics has set foot into the vast field of logistics, many companies have been concerned about their workers losing their jobs.
Warehouse staff is prone to fatigue, which feeds to an assumption that they are replaceable. On the contrary, they need to be relieved from repetitive and dangerous tasks of removing items from the shelves, or picking and placing objects on sorter and conveyor belts. Instead, companies can benefit from the collaboration of human and artificial intelligence to improve warehouse working conditions.
Involving robots might appear cumbersome for humans to manage, but instead of fearing the change, investing in suitable training modules can help the employees feel supported and confident with the new workflow.
Myth 3: Investing in a vision software is expensive
Selecting high-quality vision software to enable robots to pick and place any object requires a careful choice. Vision software serves as the robot’s brain. Building a picking cell without a robust vision software can defy the whole purpose of automation. It determines the long-term reliability of an automation cell, and end-users (or retailers) risk operational challenges without knowing what goes beneath the hood of their automated picking cell.
What matters is not just the software installation and smooth configuration, but how well it fits with the other components, such as the industrial camera, robots, grippers, warehouse management systems etc. A plug-and-play modular product with fast and efficient integration can ensure a whole new level of automation.
Robust vision software can accelerate the robotic cell’s performance with better pick rates, precise placement, and ease in handling parcels, to name a few. This is why selecting the right supplier who understands the current operations and target objectives can turn out to be a long-term investment.
Myth 4: Automation means building a new warehouse
Automation doesn't necessarily lead to building new warehouses unless the scale of operations expands. Most of the time, the existing warehouse space can incorporate advanced technologies to streamline processes, offering a helping hand to the warehouse employees.
Companies can take advantage of the existing space, especially the vertical space for Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS), thus, saving up to 85% of floor space as they increase the cubic volume within a building. Depending on the existing logistics infrastructure and the growth strategy, retailers may opt to automate existing operational facilities or plan for a completely new and fully automated warehouse. Accordingly, they need to choose brownfield or greenfield integrators.
Briefly put, brownfield installations can offer a turnkey solution, especially with a limited budget and time, for automating time-consuming order-fulfillment processes. On the other hand, end-users can control the warehouse design, management and maintenance with greenfield installations. The good news is that retailers don't need to wait for years as many brownfield integrators have quickly adapted their automation needs and can provide robotic picking solutions while respecting retailers' existing constraints.
Warehouse automation may seem overwhelming, but automating one process at a time can benefit the organization in terms of time, cost, and return on investment. As more and more players enter the e-fulfilment market to reach consumers faster than ever, scaling operations with quality software and better automation strategies can nudge the companies in the right direction.
About the author
Fizyr, based in Netherlands, designs, builds, installs, and maintains a vision software product for automated picking and placing in harsh logistics environments.