Warehouses around the world are, on average, 16722 sqm in size today. This is an increase from the 11798 sqm facilities in 2016. With increased space comes more challenges. For example, did you know that walking and manually selecting items from the warehouse accounts for half of the total time spent on picking? This time can be cut down tremendously by automating warehousing.
Warehouse automation helps companies in more ways than just reduced picking time. But to benefit from automation, companies need to follow the right warehousing strategies.
Here, we’ll look at some of the warehouse automation strategies that you can incorporate in 2020.
Eight warehouse automation strategies to implement at your facility
Plan for automation by studying inventory flow for each transaction
It’s easy for staff to lose track of inventory when there are many transactions. But this can lead to a lot of inventory errors. The item may be placed in the wrong slot, it may be wrongly packaged, or the wrong product may be shipped. Returns will be a nightmare.
Implementing automation like barcode scans, RFID tags, cycle counting and lot tracking can trace the inventory through each transaction, reducing the chance of errors.
Implement a Workflow Management System (WMS) to bring harmony between your staff and your automation
The WMS is integral to successful and efficient warehousing. The WMS allows your staff to work well with the automation by providing easy access to important real-time information.
Things like low stock, on-site accidents, bottlenecks, and so on will be visible on the devices that staff use. The WMS can also provide information about order picking, sorting and packaging, ensuring a lesser number of errors.
Integrate your new automation into the existing system; remember to migrate your data
One of the best warehousing strategies is automation integration.
A lot of companies use legacy systems for their supply chain & logistics. Replacing them entirely with new-age automation will not only be challenging but impractical. The move should be slow, starting with minor integration.
For automation integration to work, you should also migrate all of your data. That is the only way your new technology will be able to give you value.
Use vision and voice-assistive technology to automate the picking process
Your WMS should be integrated with vision-assistive technology like mobile computers and voice-assistive technology like Bluetooth headsets and wireless phones. These types of automation make order picking more efficient by giving order pickers pertinent information about the location of the product, the quantity required and the type (colour, size, and so on).
Many voice-assistive technologies come with voice verification systems, where the WMS and staff can collaborate to verify whether the product being picked is right or not.
Order replenishment can become safer and quicker by using AS/RS
AS/RS consists of key technology like storage and retrieval machines, AGVs, racks and warehouse controls. Together, they make the process of order replenishment more efficient.
By automating product storage, AS/RS reduces the need for having staff climb ladders or racks. Loads of all weights, shapes and sizes can be quickly stored, saving time. Additionally, AS/RS reduces the chances of accidents, keeping both employees and the products safe.
There is greater consistency in product replenishment, as automation ensures that the products are in the right condition during stock replenishment and are placed in the right rack.
Have in place technology for pre-choosing of shipment and delivery options
Sometimes, your staff may make mistakes when choosing the shipping and delivery details. This can result in the product being shipped to the wrong place and lead to returns as well. A lot of re-work needs to be done to ship the product to the right place.
All of this can be avoided if companies pre-set the shipment and delivery detail, package weight, dimensions, parcel insurance, special instructions, and so on in the WMS. The fewer human decisions made and the more the warehouse automation, the better will operations be.
In fact, companies should adopt the omnichannel fulfilment model to ensure the end-to-end order management process is seamless.
Install multiple Print & Apply systems to ensure all your products are packed and labelled
One of the most common warehousing problems is labelling. Often, products may move past the P&A system without getting labelled. This can happen because of incorrect spacing between products or the wrong speed setting of the P&A system.
A good strategy is to install multiple P&A systems next to each other and to alternate their labelling. This way, if one machine misses the product, the next one won’t.
Electronic Data Interchange, ATLS, Routing & Scheduling software and GPS can make your logistics much more efficient
On-road logistics is one of the most challenging areas for companies in South Africa. Increasing expenses in the form of fuel prices, carbon tax, Road Accident Fund levy and border-crossing fees are making this a costly affair.
But the right warehousing strategies can reduce these expenses and make logistics safer, quicker and efficient.
First off, warehouse automation like ATLS technology can reduce the time and effort it takes to load the trucks while making the loading process safer for everyone. Next, the Routing & Scheduling software can provide drivers with the most optimal routes for their deliveries. The GPS can be used to track any traffic congestion or road closures and provide real-time information to drivers so that no delays are experienced.
GPS also helps companies to know if a truck is not moving due to technical failure and if it needs help. Finally, the Electronic Data Interchange software can help companies share pertinent shipment-related documents with their various warehouses. These documents can be used to check if the right shipment is on track, where it is, whether it’s facing any delays and if any deliveries were missed.
Let’s take it back to the basics, see the 6 Basic Functions That Improve Warehouse Efficiency.