Warehouse automation can make a big difference to any business. From boosting productivity to increasing health and safety there are many benefits to investing in it. Automation can come in many different forms, from packing and handling to automated storage and retrieval systems that increase efficiency and help to reduce cost. If you’re considering an automation system for your warehouse then there are a few things that you need to do first.
Is the business ready for it?
An honest evaluation of existing conditions is essential. For example, where are the current technology gaps within the business and how are these being approached. Does your workforce have the skills to cope with automated systems and where might the business need third party support to successfully switch to a more automated approach?
How will automation align with logistics goals?
An automated warehouse doesn’t exist in isolation so it’s important to ensure that it is being integrated with other key objectives, such as those related to logistics. This will affect the decisions you make about where and how to automate and help to identify what the real business case is.
What are your performance goals?
It’s essential to ensure that investment in automation will deliver on the specific goals that the business has for it. That could be processing or sorting a specific number of units per day, for example. Make sure you’re able to do a trial run to ensure that the automation systems you’re installing will enable you to meet those performance goals.
Give one person responsibility for managing implementation
Automation can be a big change in a warehouse environment and it’s crucial that someone has perspective on all of it. So, make sure that you have a key individual overseeing the process early on. They may need to build a team or involve management – it’s essential that they are involved in the process from the start, including the selection, buying and planning of automated systems.
Upgrade your infrastructure
Automation can require new infrastructure in a number of different ways, for example when it comes to remote activity, networking and vendor support. Planning for this well in advance can help to minimise disruption and downtime, both from initial implementation and on a regular basis. For example, you may need to increase network capacity or schedule regular maintenance and upgrades to keep new automated systems functioning well.
Are you migrating data?
Many warehouses have relied on manual and semi-automated systems for some time and this may mean that there is a large volume of data to migrate for a highly automated system to function effectively. Key to this is ensuring that the migration process is clear, that its goals are widely understood and that a plan is in place for ensuring that this will be effective into the long term.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst
Even the most advanced systems tend to experience downtime at some point and it’s important that the business is prepared for this. A strong team and contingency planning should be in place to minimise issues and ensure that when problems arise they can be quickly dealt with.
Before automating your warehouse these are some of the key considerations to bear in mind.