Until recently, robotics in the warehouse seemed out of reach due to the capital costs of automation, and the lingering doubts about ROI. But as warehouse executives are being tasked with making their operations more efficient and cost effective, there’s a welcome ‘bot revolution’ in the supply chain industry.
Now more than ever, robots are transforming e-commerce fulfillment operations by bringing consistency, efficiency, and flexibility to material handling in the warehouse. But while you may recognize the need for warehouse automation, you’re bound to have questions surrounding the best systems to meet your needs.
With our experience deploying automation for customers, we know by heart the top warehouse automation considerations when selecting a path to automation. From ease of deployment to productivity challenges, it’s a tough choice. We make it easier. Let’s dive in.
Fixed vs. Flexible
The primary differentiator in industrial automation is the choice between “fixed” and “flexible” warehouse automation. While fixed automation systems—including complex AS/RS solutions—are valuable to higher-volume distribution centers, flexible automation systems, particularly mobile, are more versatile and require lower capital investments and total costs.
Scalability & Adaptability
As warehouse operations evolve, there will be a need for smarter and more adaptable automated equipment that can easily adjust and scale up to meet changing business needs.
Design & Planning
You must understand the future needs, current challenges, and overall business goals of warehouse operations, plus have realistic expectations for return on investment (ROI). But automation isn’t just about a strong financial ROI or distribution center efficiency; it’s also about productivity gains and quality of life for the human labor force.
Ease of Deployment
Deployment includes delivery, installation, system setup, and configuration, in addition to onsite robot and support system testing and validation. This includes integrating safety measures and quality controls to ensure that system performance matches warehouse management’s expectations.
Welcoming a robotic workforce requires training for success. During deployment, “train-the-trainer” training for supervisor and operator functions, as well as for maintenance personnel, is a must.
Ensuring Customer Success
Dedicated support teams perform routine maintenance for clients, and conduct business reviews to keep automation operating as designed.
As demand for more efficient and safer warehouses continues, companies looking to compete should leverage robotics and automation. Firms that respond with flexible automation will be positioned for customer satisfaction and success—using that automation as a fundamental competitive edge.
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