What is Warehouse Automation Technology and How Does It Work? Significant Advantages of Warehouse Automation and Automation Trends to Watch Out for in 2023 [Complete Guide]
The market leaders have set the bar for supply chain modernization and innovation in light of the industry’s overall trend toward automation. Automation is now more of a need than a luxury as a result. But more than adding automation to a warehouse is required.
A complete view of your entire website aids in planning and locating potential bottleneck locations.
Customization of automated systems is now essential from the beginning of the warehouse line to its conclusion. Finding out exactly how a warehouse handles daily problems gives you the advantage. Enough indicates that to have your operations function as efficiently as possible, you must have an integrated solutions process that covers the complete system.
When the technology first became widely accepted, it was believed that only large corporations could use it to their financial advantage. Their production was increased, turnaround times decreased, throughput and capacity were optimised, and expenses significantly decreased. Small and medium-sized enterprises can now affordably utilise automation thanks to the technology’s expanded accessibility.
A study predicts that robotics and warehouse automation will boost productivity by 25% to 70% and save operational expenses by 20% to 40% by 2025.
Warehouse automation benefits businesses by giving them a competitive edge in the market. With it, it’s easier to maintain your warehouse’s efficiency and optimal productivity levels due to several difficulties. These warehouse difficulties include human error, expensive operations, safety risks, and lengthy processing times. To keep your process efficient, warehouse automation offers several advantages.
This article outlines the seven advantages of warehouse automation that will increase your warehouse’s productivity. Let’s first examine what warehouse automation is and its advantages.
- What Is Warehouse Automation Technology?
- How Does Warehouse Automation Function?
- 6 Types of Warehouse Automation Technology
- 7 Significant Advantages of Warehouse Automation
- Key Emerging Trends In Warehouse Automation Technology to Watch Out in 2023
- How Warehouse Automation Technology from WareIQ Can Grow Your Online Retail Businesses
- Warehouse Automation FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Warehouse Automation Technology?
Technology and automation increase warehouse operations’ effectiveness, precision, and safety. This can involve robotics, conveyor systems, automated storage and retrieval systems, and other cutting-edge technologies to speed up storing, order tracking, and retrieving goods. Automation of warehouses aims to boost output, lower labor expenses, and enhance warehouse operations’ overall accuracy and effectiveness.
Depending on the unique requirements of the warehouse and the products being stored, many systems and equipment can be a part of warehouse automation technology.
How Does Warehouse Automation Function?
Automation allows repetitive, tiresome jobs to be completed with minimal human labour, whether in warehousing or any other situation. Hand-packing 1,000 products will get tiresome very soon if you need to prepare them for delivery and fulfillment. Using automation technology to finish the job, humans are spared from doing tedious work for hours and are given more time to focus on more challenging jobs. Automation can be helpful for any process that involves repetitive labour.
Nevertheless, contemporary technology, such as drones and machine learning, prepares the way for warehouse automation solutions to carry out more difficult, non-repetitive jobs. Automation refers to a machine or conveyor belt operating continuously in a fixed position. To implement solution designs, engineers had to foresee their most considerable volume requirements, which made many automation projects prohibitively expensive if accurate volume fell short of estimates. On the other hand, modern warehouse automation systems frequently involve robots and cranes that can carry out a variety of simple and complex jobs and can be deployed according to the operation’s needs.
Collaborative robotic systems are one example of an automation system that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to optimise operations in real time based on warehouse constraints and operational priorities.
6 Types of Warehouse Automation Technology
Under the broad category of warehouse automation are many technologies that support human employees or complete jobs from beginning to end. To maintain inventory and distribute items, warehouses are intricate operations that handle various duties and processes.
The solutions for automating warehouses come in a wide range of configurations and incorporate different technologies:
Automated Systems for Dimensioning
Automated dimensioning systems are made to take physical measurements of pallets and packages using infrared, camera, weighing, and barcode technology. Automated dimensioning systems for warehouses come in two varieties:
- Automated Dimensioning Systems for Parcels
A three-dimensional or irregularly shaped parcel’s dimensions (length, width, and height), weight, and photographs can all be quickly recorded via an automated parcel dimensioning system. The laborious package dimensioning procedure is automated, and human error is effectively removed.
- Automated Dimensioning Systems for Pallets
A warehouse technology called an automated pallet dimensioning system automates the procedures of weight, picture capture, and pallet dimensioning (length, breadth, and height). It is specially made for rapidly and precisely measuring irregularly shaped and cubic pallets.
Goods-to-person (GTP) Technologies
Robots or other equipment transporting products to employees for assembly or packaging are typically used in goods-to-person (GTP) systems. It might use cranes or cars that roam the warehouse collecting materials. GTP offers conveyor systems as well as automated storage and retrieval options.
- Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS): When most people think of automated warehouse solutions, AS/RS are primarily pictures. AS/RS is a type of GTP technology that uses cars, cranes, and carousels to move objects throughout warehouses and put them in storage areas.
- Conveyor System: Another form of GTP technology is conveyor systems. Conveyors transport inventory to work locations like packaging and shipping or sorting areas by moving products around or along assembly lines.
Computerized Systems for Sorting
A conveyor system’s items can be automatically identified, sorted, and directed to particular warehouse locations using automated sortation systems, such as:
- Picking and Packaging
- Processing Returns
- Loading and Unloading
Depending on the product type, these warehouse automation systems employ various sorting techniques using RFID, barcode scanners, and other sensors. Due to improved warehouse operations, there will be less handling of orders and fewer growth restrictions.
Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
AGVs traverse a predetermined path across the warehouse using magnetic strips, floor markers (stickers), wires, lasers, cameras, and other sensors. Only large, straightforward warehouse settings with properly created navigation layouts may accommodate these warehouse automation systems. AGVs are not recommended for complicated warehouses with limited space and a high volume of human traffic.
Grand View Research predicts that from 2019 to 2025, the global market for AGVs would expand at a CAGR of more than 15.8%.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)
AMRs use inbuilt sensors, cameras, and computers to move through a warehouse more effectively than AGVs, making them more adaptable and intelligent. AMRs, in contrast to AGVs, which have a predetermined course, are sentient and process paths in real time. AMRs can move materials independently without physical guides or other markers. These robots are explicitly made for warehouses to handle labour-intensive, high-volume needs. They can operate in settings with human employees safely because of in-built sophisticated guiding algorithms that can detect different barriers.
One of the most cutting-edge sorts of warehouse automation solutions that can raise the calibre of warehouse operations is the usage of drones. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, are sophisticated flying machines that find cargo, carry out inventory counts, etc., using optical sensors, infrared cameras, barcode scanners, RFID technology, etc. If any item is in the incorrect storage location or the products require replenishing, they automatically transmit alerts. They can access even the deepest corners of a warehouse.
In 2029, more than 13 million drones will be used worldwide, up from 989,000 in 2019, predicts Gartner. Drones can inspect inventories faster than traditional human methods, saving hundreds of person-hours.
Drones are a much safer alternative to manual counting using large machinery like forklifts, scissor lifts, and man-cages.
7 Significant Advantages of Warehouse Automation
Due to the reduced time, effort, and errors manual operations create, warehouse automation is a crucial component of supply chain optimization. Here are a few benefits that warehouse automation can offer your company.
Reduced Error Rate
When clients receive the wrong orders, it is a major catastrophe for online retailers, and the customer’s faith is frequently lost. The number of decisions that warehouse staff must make can be decreased via warehouse automation, eliminating pick-and-pack mistakes and increasing order accuracy.
Although no system can ever be entirely exact, automated systems can undoubtedly increase human accuracy. Automated systems can recognise and fix faults as soon as they happen. In picking activities, automated systems have essentially flawless precision and accuracy.
Increased Workforce Efficiency
We do not necessarily need to replace workers with robots due to automation. Automation has the advantage of getting rid of more tedious and repetitive tasks. Automation in the warehouse can increase worker happiness, enable workers to execute their responsibilities more quickly and accurately and free them up to concentrate on things that provide value. In short, warehouse automation streamlines supply chain procedures and prevents resource wastage.
Additionally, warehouse automation is functional during peak business activity and demand, such as holidays. On the one hand, automation can cut hiring costs and personnel turnover, eliminating the need for temporary workers who regularly need training. On the other hand, when business is sluggish, automated systems malfunction and layoffs are unnecessary.
Increased Productivity at the Warehouse
In comparison to robots, humans are incredibly slow and inaccurate. However, humans also possess a cognitive ability that robots cannot match. They work well together as warehouse automation systems.
Automation can help reduce touchpoints and inefficient processes throughout the warehouse because most warehouse tasks are repetitive and time-consuming.
Since warehouse automation technology can instantaneously locate every item in a specific sequence, workers can move items and pick less frequently. Warehouse automation can speed up order delivery when conveyor workstations and robots are used.
The entire process will be streamlined and accelerated, dramatically increasing the warehouse’s total production.
Faster and More Efficient Processing
The ability to accelerate operations and reduce handling time is another advantage of warehouse automation. Robots are more accurate and move at a faster rate than humans. Warehouse automation technologies expedite the measurement process and quickly and correctly record a package’s dimensions, weight, and picture. When you need to measure thousands of shipments, it saves time.
On the other hand, automated warehouse workflows let you employ particular triggers to carry out several actions without requiring human involvement. It is a worthwhile and essential investment for warehouses because of this automation.
Maximum Utilization of Space Available
Storage space in warehouses can be maximised with robotic and automated systems. Automated warehouses accomplish this, among other things, by narrowing the aisles. Automated warehouses don’t need extra aisle spacing to meet safety standards because machines don’t need as much room to function as people do, which can increase warehouse storage efficiency.
In addition, the chosen solution is an automated three-dimensional warehouse. Then, its high-rise shelves can better use the space at hand and increase the number of items held per square foot. In the same area, an automated three-dimensional warehouse has a storage capacity that is several or even ten times greater than an ordinary warehouse.
The automated three-dimensional warehouse can thus save a significant amount of area while maintaining the same storage capacity.
Better Inventory Control
Your company has several difficulties, including unpredictable markets, high customer demands for faster shipment, and shaky supply chains. Supply and demand management is now too complicated to be handled manually without incurring significant risk.
An automation solution is required! Automation has many advantages, particularly in improving inventory control, avoiding stockouts and shortages, adjusting to market changes, and enabling just-in-time manufacturing and demand forecasting.
Information on specific inventory locations can be tracked by AI automation. The data is accurate and simple to evaluate for intelligence because it is always available. It can send much pertinent information quickly and precisely to managers, assisting them in making better and more informed decisions.
Lower Operating Costs
It is accurate to say that investing in warehouse automation is costly, complex, and possibly dangerous. But have you considered the expenses of a poorly run warehouse? Initial costs are negligible, but over time, out-of-stock situations, poor customer service, and dissatisfied clients can be fatal to your company.
The cost of warehouse automation initiatives is, without a doubt, high, but they often yield positive results rapidly. Due to the numerous new sources of savings that warehouse automation offers, the ROI was remarkably swift. For instance, lowering administrative and training expenses for staff, maximising product handling and storage costs, avoiding inventory errors, and removing the possibility of product loss and maltreatment.
Key Emerging Trends In Warehouse Automation Technology to Watch Out in 2023
eCommerce is flourishing, and everyone wants their purchases delivered on the same day without paying more.
The logistics chain is under a lot of strain right now. Therefore, warehouse automation technology needs to advance to compete and thrive.
There is no denying that warehouse automation significantly impacts efficiency, production, and safety.
Automation is the best approach to boost a warehouse’s productivity. What are the significant advancements and trends in the eCommerce warehousing sector, though?
You can alternatively check eCommerce shipping trends.
Cloud-based Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
Warehouse management systems (WMS) can now be offered as cloud-based services that can be accessed online, similar to many other digital solutions available today.
This immediately relieves customers of the high expense and inconvenience associated with setting up and managing servers, software, and other IT resources.
You can start seeing a return on your WMS investment immediately because initial implementation and subsequent upgrades are quicker and simpler.
The supplier is entirely responsible for ensuring your system is functioning correctly.
Your system can be automatically upgraded as part of the WMS subscription if better software becomes available.
It is simpler and less expensive to reconfigure cloud-based systems to accommodate a company’s changing size, complexity, and market conditions than it is to do so with a site-based WMS.
In some circumstances, costs can be further decreased by opting for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription rather than purchasing software licences.
Large and potent cloud-based WMS suppliers may also offer advantages like superior cybersecurity, quick processing, and round-the-clock maintenance services.
Data Analytics and Big Data
Modern “smart” warehouses scan products and employ sensors on materials handling and other equipment to collect massive amounts of data automatically.
The resulting datasets would have previously needed to be more significant and more time-consuming to analyse comprehensively. Now that practical analytics tools are readily available, that work is quick and automatic.
Analytics tools can spot trends in your data that would otherwise go undetected. They also provide your company with the knowledge that may be used to make better decisions and advance.
Managers could ensure the quickest possible flow of goods by analyzing data on orders and inventory.
Analyzing data on warehouse activities can help optimize the usage of manpower and equipment for material handling to increase productivity. It is possible to study data on mishaps and near misses to determine the underlying causes and the steps that must be taken to lower risks.
Monitoring the state of your equipment and determining the optimal maintenance strategy is one of the numerous uses of big data and analytics. This lessens downtime, lowers repair costs, and increases asset life.
Suggested Read: What is Smart Warehouse Management System?
Collaborative Robots (COBOTS)
Collaborative mobile robots help employees pick items accurately and efficiently by directing them through the picking process. Cobots are designed to simplify a worker’s life.
Some collaborative mobile robots optimise picking routes and tasks depending on the warehouse’s condition and the jobs’ order.
Cobots can also be helpful in other warehouse tasks like picking and palletizing.
Collaborative mobile robots provide many benefits, including greater productivity, reduced walking time, flexibility, reliability, and scalability.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Although not an emerging technology, RFID sensors are vital to new Internet of Things applications that improve warehouse and supply chain efficiency.
IoT improves warehouse visibility by providing real-time location information for goods and equipment.
Better data gathering across systems is made possible by the portability, affordability, and real-time inventory monitoring capabilities of RFID sensors.
IoT or intelligent devices can enable anything from lighting to packaging monitoring.
For instance, RFID tags attached to product packaging may track every movement of goods inside the warehouse and even outside of it, from where the warehouse’s inventory is stored on shelves to where goods are being transported.
IoT-capable sensors, such as RFID tags, can track the movement of goods in your warehouse in real-time.
IoT technology enables you to get automatic updates on inventory levels. When these data are aggregated over time, they offer insightful information about demand and can help with more precise forecasting, letting you know which things must always be in stock.
The Internet of Things (IoT) drives AMRs and AGVs, many of which rely on sensor technology to find their way across intricate warehouse floors.
Voice Assistance Technology
The capacity to operate multiple gadgets, procedures and interfaces using your voice enhances the “smart” technology experience.
Voice assistant technology can significantly enhance operations and safety by lowering employee distraction when used in a typical facility and integrated with warehouse automation.
Simply speaking over a microphone to engage a remote bot to grab the products can finish order picking. Voice assistance technology can be particularly useful when dialling for assistance, turning on and off lights, and dealing with machinery.
The same assistants can provide virtual content to support staff in the actual world when used in conjunction with Augmented Reality, or AR, which brings us to the following major trend.
The appropriate warehouse automation solutions can provide various advantages to keep your operations efficient. Automation in the warehouse decreases human error, saves operational expenses, boosts warehouse productivity, eliminates safety concerns, makes the most use of available space, speeds up processing, and increases customer happiness. Automated warehousing systems can significantly and favourably affect your company, especially over the long term.
How Warehouse Automation Technology from WareIQ Can Grow Your Online Retail Businesses
Having a 3PL partner can help simplify eCommerce fulfillment management. WareIQ is a technologically advanced 3PL that leverages logistics automation to improve order fulfillment effectiveness and speed delivery.
Thanks to our dependable fulfillment services, integrated logistics and warehouse automation, friendly customer support team, and outstanding technology, you can concentrate on expanding your business while leaving the fulfillment process to us.
At WareIQ, we developed our warehouse management system (WMS), which oversees, monitors, and offers efficient inventory management and fulfillment. Without the customer needing to invest in a warehouse, racking, palletizing, or automation systems, we optimise logistics and warehousing automation on their behalf.
Our proprietary merchant fulfilment platform interfaces with our WMS and gathers distribution metrics and on-demand data analytics for a transparent view of our fulfilling performance.
To save transit time and reduce shipping costs, our system chooses the fulfilment centre that is most convenient for the consumer. Because we are the owners of our WMS, we can update our technology based on real-time client input and give you the best service.
- Pan India Fulfillment & Darkstore Network: Plug-and-play fulfillment infrastructure with no minimums, which is compliant with Amazon Seller Flex, Flipkart Assured, Myntra and other marketplaces
- Inventory & Network Planning Excellence: Best-in-class AI models for sales forecasting, product segmentation, and inventory management to reduce inventory by 40% and increase revenue by 10%.
- Vertically Integrated Fulfillment Tech Stack: Our Fulfillment Tech Solution supports integrations with 20+ top marketplaces & D2C platforms, and prominent national, regional and hyperlocal couriers, enhancing reach by covering deliveries for 27,000+ pin codes
- Supply Chain Productivity Applications: Integrate a host of supply chain productivity apps with a single-click to your existing CRMs, ERPs & accounting software to manage your logistics workflows from one command center. Use Apps like RTO Shield to get 100% RTO protection, Branded Tracking to turn your order tracking page into a profitable marketing channel, and many more.
Trusted by 300+ top Indian brands, we are helping them accelerate online sales and expedite their growth through a synergistic combination of advanced technology, robust fulfillment infrastructure & seller enablement services!WareIQ is backed by leading global investors including Y Combinator, Funders Club, Flexport, Pioneer Fund, Soma Capital, and Emles Venture Partner.
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