The Benefits of Automation in Logistics Warehousing
Logistics warehousing is a vital part of the supply chain that involves storing, sorting, and moving goods from one place to another. However, it can also be a challenging and costly process that requires a lot of manual labor, space, and time. That’s why many logistics companies are turning to automation to improve their warehouse operations and gain a competitive edge.
Automation is the use of technology to perform tasks that would otherwise require human intervention. It can range from simple software solutions that track inventory and orders, to complex robotic systems that pick, pack, and transport goods across the warehouse floor. Automation can also involve digital tools that capture and analyze data, such as barcode scanners, RFID tags, and sensors.
Automation can bring many benefits to logistics warehousing, such as:
Increased efficiency and productivity
Automation can help logistics warehouses to optimize their workflows and processes, reducing errors, delays, and waste. For example, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) can store goods in high-density racks and retrieve them quickly and accurately using robotic cranes or shuttles². This can save space, time, and energy, as well as increase the throughput and capacity of the warehouse.
Improved accuracy and quality
Automation can also help logistics warehouses to improve the accuracy and quality of their operations, ensuring that the right goods are delivered to the right customers at the right time. For example, automated picking systems can use vision or voice technology to guide workers to the correct locations and items, reducing mispicks and returns². Alternatively, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) or autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) can transport goods from one station to another without human intervention, avoiding collisions and damage.
Reduced costs and risks
Implementing automation in logistics warehousing can also help to reduce costs and risks associated with labor, inventory, and safety. For example, automation can reduce the need for human workers, especially for repetitive, strenuous, or hazardous tasks¹. This can lower labor costs, turnover rates, and injury claims⁶. Automation can also reduce inventory levels and shrinkage by providing real-time visibility and control over stock movements⁴. Moreover, automation can enhance safety and security by preventing accidents, thefts, and losses.
However, automation also comes with some challenges and limitations that logistics warehouses need to consider before investing in it. Some of these include:
High initial costs and maintenance
Automation can require a significant upfront investment in hardware, software, infrastructure, and integration². It can also entail ongoing costs for maintenance, repairs, upgrades, and support⁶. Therefore, logistics warehouses need to carefully evaluate the return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) of automation solutions before adopting them.
Technical issues and downtime
Automation can be prone to technical issues and downtime due to malfunctions, breakdowns, or cyberattacks². This can disrupt warehouse operations and cause delays or losses. Therefore, logistics warehouses need to have backup plans and contingency measures in place to ensure business continuity in case of emergencies.
Human factors and resistance
Automation can also affect the human factors and resistance of warehouse workers and managers. For example, automation can create new skills gaps and training needs for workers who need to operate or interact with automated systems³. It can also cause fear or resentment among workers who may perceive automation as a threat to their jobs or autonomy. Therefore, logistics warehouses need to communicate clearly and transparently with their employees about the benefits and challenges of automation, as well as provide them with adequate support and incentives.
(1) Warehouse Automation Explained: Types, Benefits & Best Practices. https://www.netsuite.com/portal/resource/articles/inventory-management/warehouse-automation.shtml
(2) Benefits of Warehouse Automation: Advice from 25 Experts – Camcode. https://www.camcode.com/blog/benefits-of-warehouse-automation/
(3) Benefits of Logistics Warehouse Automation – Aeologic Blog. https://www.aeologic.com/blog/benefits-of-logistics-warehouse-automation/
(4) Efficiency Advantages of Automation in Logistics | ZhenHub. https://zhenhub.com/blog/automation-in-logistics/
(5) How Automation Benefits the Logistics Sector through Efficiencies and …. https://managementstudyguide.com/how-automation-benefits-logistics-sector-through-efficiencies-and-synergies.htm