Warehouse automation has become a hot topic across manufacturing, logistics, retail and pretty much any other sector that relies on warehousing to move goods. The global warehouse automation market is growing as connected technologies become more accessible, and workforce availability, labor shortages, customer demands and supply chain disruptions continue to be challenges facing industries that rely on warehouse operations.
To help make things easier for busy warehouse managers and decision makers, we’ve put together a list of the top warehouse automation trends to watch in the years ahead. As with all things technology, these trends can shift over time, but if you’re thinking about automating your warehouse, below are some warehouse automation trends to consider for your operations:
Automated Vehicles and Robotics Solutions
Automated guided vehicle (AGV) technology used to be reserved only for large warehouse operations with huge budgets. These days, however, AGV technology, autonomous mobile robots (AMR) and other automated vehicle and robot automation technologies are available to warehouses with smaller budgets.
In fact, robots as a service (RaaS) providers allow warehouse managers to rent robotics systems and equipment without the need to heavily invest in long term solutions. RaaS can be combined with cloud based technologies to further gain power to process more pallets without having to spend a fortune on the purchase, installation and maintenance of expensive systems.
Choose Automation Solutions That Can Scale
If you choose to take advantage of automation trends in robotics and autonomous vehicles, you’re encouraged to look for solutions that can scale with your needs. Because these solutions tend to increase productivity, you may find that your warehouse operation grows at a rapid pace after the implementation of robotics and autonomous vehicles. If you don’t have a service provider that can grow alongside your warehouse, you may find your operations bottlenecked in the future.
Warehouse Management Solutions
Warehouse management systems (WMS) are among the top warehouse automation trends along with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. WMS and ERP are administrative in nature and mostly focus on keeping track of data points, but they can increase efficiency and productivity across all areas of a warehouse operation. While a WMS can provide key insights into order picking and material handling equipment on the service floor, ERP systems keep track of things like pallet costs and related expenses.
Combined, these integrated systems provide warehouse professionals with a comprehensive view of operations and administration, allowing for more informed decision-making. In times of uncertainty, more information is always better, especially as automation solutions are changing rapidly and decision makers are hard-pressed to make snap judgments on expenses.
Cloud Services Extend the Benefits of WMS and ERP
As an added benefit, WMS and ERP systems are often available through cloud-based services, sometimes referred to as software-as-a-service (SaaS). What this means is that warehouse managers are able to use these software solutions to aid automation technology without needing servers, network engineers, network security professionals and all of the other resources typically required to manage complex administrative software at large warehouse and logistics facilities.
Instead, the cloud services provider or SaaS product manager takes care of the behind-the-scenes details like updating security patches and installing software updates. Warehouse managers simply log into their secure accounts where all of the personalized information about their operations is stored. The software itself is streamed through the Internet without needing any type of local installation.
5G Wireless Connections and WiFi 6
Wireless connectivity is what ties together automation solutions in modern warehousing, but in order to take full advantage of automation, secure, reliable connections are required. Depending on the networking technology currently used at your warehouse, you and your team may or may not be able to utilize things like automated robotics or Internet-of-things (IoT) technologies. IoT is a type of connectivity in which various electronics are connected and can include everything from your parcel scanning equipment to the refrigerator in your facility’s breakroom.
To get up to speed (no pun intended), warehouse managers are turning to 5G wireless connections and WiFi 6, also known as 802.11ax. These are the latest iterations of mobile data and on-site Internet, respectively.
With 5G coverage across your warehouse and even beyond as it extends to drivers who work off-site part of the time, systems like WMS and ERP can keep your team and facility connected remotely. WiFI 6 increases speed and reliability for Internet delivered from your modems and routers located around your facility.
Future-Proofing Your Networking
Although it’s not imperative to have these updated speeds to take advantage of automation trends in warehouse operations, technology always changes, and older tech tends to get left behind rather quickly. By getting ahead of the curve now and upgrading existing networking devices to take advantage of 5G and WiFi 6, you’re less likely to run into automation connectivity problems in the future.
The Role of Human Workers in an Automated Warehouse
Although automation trends in warehousing have seen a sharp increase in recent years, this does not mean that human workers are any less essential. In fact, in many cases, human workers are more important than ever since automation is not perfect, and automation must also be supervised due to natural variables in complicated logistics scenarios.
Warehouse managers are therefore cautioned not to rely too heavily on automation. A balance must be struck between the inclusion of robotics and the human element in order to remain successful going forward. Failure to strike such a balance may result in lost productivity when you find that you need to backtrack after automation doesn’t fully solve all of the challenges your warehouse faces.
Every warehouse is different, so this isn’t to suggest that every warehouse manager will end up regretting investing heavily in automation. You will need to evaluate your facility’s needs, your customers’ expectations and your budget to determine what’s right for you. Automation is definitely here to stay, but how much you choose to rely on it as opposed to human workers will be up to you.
Contact Pallet Market Inc to Learn More About Warehouse Automation Technology
Pallet Market Inc provides consulting, drop trailer services, broken pallet pickup and a host of other essential services for pallet manufacturers in California. To learn more about improving efficiency and productivity at your warehouse, visit Pallet Market Inc. You can also reach our pallet experts online using our contact page.