Global supply chains are expanding and evolving at a breakneck pace. Omni-channel e-commerce and distribution coupled with consumer demands for faster and more efficient service were already transforming the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up that transformation, placing massive demands on warehouse management during a historically difficult period.
The time for warehouse automation has already arrived, and the myriad reasons for automating your warehouse are compelling. First of all, the warehouse is obviously a key component in the supply chain. The more cost savings, efficiencies and productivity enhancements that take place in the warehouse, the better the entire supply chain will operate.
Conversely, if your warehouse is plagued by inefficiencies, delays and outdated, siloed technologies, the whole supply chain will suffer. And when the supply chain suffers, business is directly impacted and the customer satisfaction meter drops significantly.
Our previous two posts in this blog series on warehouse automation discussed the challenges of warehouse management and how automation technologies solve those problems while providing a host of benefits. We also discussed the nuances of automation, as well as the differences between process and physical automation technologies.
This post will look at where automation specifically helps with warehouse management. Here are six of the biggest benefits of automation when it comes to the warehouse.
- Efficiency Gains through Improved Performance
The efficiencies gained through warehouse automation are compelling. Business process automation streamlines manual tasks like inventory data collection for integration with a larger ERP system or database. AI and automation are used to input and track data, which is then stored for later reporting and analytics.
Streamlining a variety of tasks improves efficiencies as well as overall warehouse performance, not to mention reduces errors inherent with manual processes.
Physical automation technologies include everything from autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to driverless automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRs). Each type of automation offers a host of efficiency gains while vastly improving warehouse performance.
- Increased Worker Productivity and Reduced Turnover
Warehouses have one of highest worker turnover rates of all industries, at an unsettling 36 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Automation eliminates many mundane and repetitive manual tasks, both from a business process and physical labor standpoint. This frees up workers from the accounting and management departments all the way to the warehouse floor to focus on more challenging tasks.
Not only will workers be more engaged and happy after automation, they also will be able to focus on core business initiatives, planning and growth strategies. Automation also makes workers' tasks easier and safer, which will boost overall productivity without the need to raise headcount.
- Reduced Operating Expenses
Warehouse automation solutions offer a return on investment within months, making them an attractive investment for businesses of all sizes. And because of increased productivity and efficiencies, automation helps reduce overhead while increasing throughput.
Automating business and physical processes helps lower costs for labor, equipment, maintenance and management. Human workers are also responsible for less manual entry and processes, which means there will be significantly less chance for errors. That leads to major costs savings.
Finally, automation can help lower regular operating expenses including energy consumption, the amount of storage space required and money spent on safety incidents.
- Improved Customer and Partner Experiences
By now there should be no question that warehouse automation is directly linked to an improved customer experience. By streamlining operations throughout all aspects of the warehouse, there are simply less opportunities for error. Inventory moves faster and more accurately and customers and partners will reap the benefits of a better overall experience.
That improved customer satisfaction is a major asset for any business, boosting both brand and reputation. Warehouse automation not only improves operations today, it prepares businesses for an increasingly competitive supply chain with very little room for errors and inefficiencies. It should be viewed as a strategic business initiative offering a very healthy ROI.
- Better Inventory Management
Warehouse automation doesn't just streamline inventory and warehouse operations. It helps create a healthier inventory by reducing lost products, shrinkage and misplacement. Businesses have a granular level of management when it comes to inventory control, which translates to fewer fulfillment and shipping errors.
Automation solutions can also help coordinate the usage of material handling equipment like barcode scanners and mobile devices. This further improves efficiencies and helps contribute to tighter inventory control. That also means businesses can reduce or eliminate staging in support of just-in-time methodologies for order fulfillment, creating even more efficiencies.
- Reduced Environmental Footprint
Warehouse automation is better for the environment, too. It helps reduce energy usage and costs while also lowering the amount of waste generated. Better planning and streamlined processes can also reduce the amount of land used since warehouses will maximize their use of space, including layout and flow.
Businesses that deal with temperature-controlled buildings or require refrigeration will realize exceptional benefits from automation, as well as those that deal with hazardous waste.
If there was any doubt why your business needs warehouse automation, the benefits listed above should eliminate it.