Business process automation, also known as digital transformation or business automation, is embracing all the industries gradually. According to Digital Trends Report 2019 by Adobe, integrated technology infrastructure is critical for successful customer experience. The report further reveals that businesses are using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities for business process automation.
A warehouse management system is no exception as it directly affects the performance of the supply chain and thus plays a significant role in ascertaining the quality of customer experience. Therefore, when considering warehouse management software in 2020, it is essential to consider the benefits of warehouse automation and the technologies stack that contribute to building an automated warehouse system.
Warehouse automation will critically impact the capabilities of 3PL companies, warehouse operators, transport companies, and distribution centers in 2020. Before discussing the benefits of automated warehouses for different stakeholders, let’s begin by understanding the concept of warehouse management system automation.
Warehouse Management System Automation
As the name suggests, an automated warehouse system is a congregation of technologies like robotics process automation, artificial intelligence, automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) and autonomous mobile robots combined with warehouse management system (WMS) that replace human efforts smartly while increasing the efficiency of the warehouse by leaps and bounds.
Warehouse automation intends to cut down the costs and time invested in manual labor due to which inventory moves slowly. Moreover, manual movement of goods is always prone to errors and malfunctions that affect resource efficiencies. It is possible to control value leakage by reducing the number of touchpoints, as goods move within a warehouse. For example, Alibaba-affiliate Cainiao has opened a warehouse in China with 700 automated guided vehicles for parcel pick-up and delivery within the warehouse. By leveraging automation in the warehouse, Alibaba targeted to deal with Singles Day demand in 2019.
How Warehouse Management System Automation Removes Bottlenecks
The value of an automated warehouse coupled with a reliable warehouse management system, can’t be underestimated. A fully automated warehouse addresses multiple challenges faced by modern warehouses in the current context, where they have to process thousands of orders in a day. The major problem is to reduce the cost while at the same time improving productivity. This may sound simple, but can be a daunting task in a warehouse spanned in thousand square feet and have hundreds of employees.
Moreover, it can be dangerous and unsafe for employees to work at a faster speed to meet the expectations. The safety of the employee is equally important, and a hazardous work environment can call for long term consequences.
Warehouse automation can solve such problems while affecting the bottom-line of the business. For example, Goods-to-person technologies (GTP) pick items and bring them to workers in the warehouse mapped on WMS integrated with ERP. AS/RS is also a picking technology that retrieves and stores items back to their place automatically. Pick-to-light systems include an LED display guided mechanism that tells the operator to pick the right item and scan it. Robots replace human efforts and are more accurate and faster. Additionally, warehouse automation allows allocating human resources in management and planning work. Robots and automatic mechanisms can easily handle the extra workload without straining the human capacity, thus ensuring a safe work environment.
Automated warehouse systems are gaining popularity in business space, as more and more companies will look forward to improving the process efficiencies by incorporating advanced technologies in 2020.
Now it is clear that automation is the right solution to all challenges; let’s now explore the concrete benefits of an automated warehouse system.
Benefits of Warehouse Management System Automation?
1. Increment in speed: Automation is meant for improving the speed of the tasks while ensuring zero errors. An automated warehouse is known to process more orders in a day as compared to its manual counterpart. Automated systems improve order picking efficiency, optimize routes, and help in identifying the exact coordinates of items that significantly reduce the order processing time.
2. Optimal utilization of space: Space constraint becomes a significant limitation as inventory count increases. With more humans around, it is difficult to store items on the aisle as well as on high shelves, as it increases the probability of accidents. However, robots are auto-programmed to operate in the less-spacious environment, thus facilitating an optimal utilization of warehouse space.
3. Reduction in costs: Rising costs curves always pose challenges for the businesses. Automation permanently resolves these issues. However, on the upfront, implementation of warehouse system automation is an expensive strategy, but it starts paying off well at an early stage. The ROIs are positive and encouraging for businesses to opt for warehouse automation. Furthermore, automation easily supports warehouse activities during peak seasons, special events, and holiday season by 24*7.
4. Improved inventory management: Undoubtedly, as human errors are minimized with a tangible gain in overall productivity, inventory management gets streamlined. An automated warehouse management system maintains accurate inventory data with exact counts, thus helping managers to plan preemptively.
5. Safe work environment: Needless to say, automation allows proper utilization of floor and shelf space, thus creating minimum traffic on the floor and eliminating the chances of human accidents.
2020 will witness a proliferation of automation in warehouses where small and medium scale companies will go for warehouse management system automation to improve the overall productivity of their supply chain. AI, Robotics, and other smart technologies will catalyze the warehouse processes while making them faster, accurate, and intelligent.