Warehouse Automation - Top 7 Technologies
Warehouse automation is the usage of sophisticated equipment and software for automating or semi-automating various tasks in a warehouse like receiving, counting, picking, storing, retriving, palletizing and sorting. The purpose of warehouse automation is to improve warehouse efficiency, reduce errors, improve warehouse safety and reduce employee fatigue.
The return on investment of warehouse automation would depend on the type of warehouse, type of materials being handled, geographical location of the warehouse, floor area of the warehouse, velocity of your operations and the situation of your finance.
There is no one-size-fits-all warehouse automation technology for all types of warehouses. You are encouraged to adapt the following strategies of warehouse automation to the specefic nature of your operations and estimate the return on investment for each of these.
Here are the top 7 technologies in warehouse automation that are most interesting!
1. Warehouse Automation using Cobots
Cobots are collaborative robots that work by collaborating with humans to accomplish tasks. Cobots are not fully autonomous, unlike robots which can replace the employees.
There has been a rise in the adoption of cobot technology because of the following factors;
1) COVID-19 and lock down situations forcing the need for automation
2) Increasing cost of employees
3) Declining cost of cobots thereby making them more affordable
4) Advancement in Cobot technology with Artificial Intelligence
No wonder that there is a staggering rise in use of Cobots across industries, with a compound annual growth rate of 44%! Cobots can be used to semi-automate the following tasks in a warehouse;
2. Warehouse Counting Automation using Indoor Autonomous Drones
Indoor autonomous drones have been gaining popularity due to its efficiency and accuracy to of counting inventory.
Before we move on, there are certian factors to keep in mind while adopting the cobot and autonomous indoor drones. These are as follows;
1) Initial costs and maintenance of cobots and drones
2) Warrenty period
3) Battery life span
4) Time to full charge the cobots and drones and frequency of charge required
5) Cost of replacement of parts and its support
6) Safety features like speed adjusment and collision avoidance
3. Warehouse Picking Automation using Pick to Light and Put to Light Technology
Pick to light systems guide the warehouse operators to accomplish picking tasks efficiently and accurately.
Pick to light systems consist of a scanner, an alphanumeric display with LED lights, and a work indicator display.
Here is a summary of the working of pick-to-light system;
1) Operator scans the container label
2) Work indicator displays container ID
3) All lights illuminate with respective pick quantities
4) After picking the item/qty the light is turned off by operator to confirm the pick
5) When all items are picked the work indicator/controller indicates that the picking task is completed
Put to light system is the reverse of pick to light system, in which items are put in racks from the container.
4. Warehouse Picking Automation using Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality or AR can be used for picking efficiently and accurately. AR Picking is also popularly known as Vision Picking. The warehouse operators use AR smart glasses which guide the operators towards picking destinations.
Other automated picking techniques are Radio Frequency picking, Voice Picking and Pick to Light.
5. Virtual Reality for Employee Training
Virtual Reality techniques can be used to create a virtual warehouse environment. The virtual warehouse environment can be used for training and updating employees regarding standard operating procedures and safety procedures.
This has major organization wide benefits as it directly effects the employee onboarding costs, quality of employee training and reduction of accidents due to higher information retention amongst employees.
The VR warehouse environment can also be used for planning the warehouse more effectively as it helps in better understanding the movement of materials, employees and equipment, and also test various situations the warehouse can be in.
6. Warehouse Appointments Automation using Online Dock Scheduling
With online dock scheduling software, the warehouse managers can minimize the phone calls and email chains with the suppliers or carriers required for setting warehouse dock appointments. It also helps in maintaining the appointments in an organized and easily accessible way bringing in the efficiency required in modern warehouse operations.
This software technology can be used to manage both inbound and outbound appointments.
7. Warehouse Vehicle Stage Tracking using Yard Management Software
Many warehouse managers are faced with confusion and find it difficult to answer questions about in-facility status of the vehicles efficiently. A yard management software can not only give clear visibility into the status of the vehicles in the warehouse, but also help in re-conciling vehicle entry and exit times which can help to address claims of detention charges by suppliers or carriers.
As mentioned earlier, the return on investment of each warehouse automation technology would be different for different kinds of warehouses. However, what would make most sense is to try out the one warehouse automation technology which has potential to give maximum return on investment first, and then move on to other warehouse automation technologies.
For enquiries related to Dock Scheduling Software and Yard Management Software, you can write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org describing your business and requirements!