Five Emerging Trends in Warehouse Automation
14 Nov 2016
The warehouse function in any organisation is vital to the smooth running and indeed overall profitability of any business, and the complex logistical decisions that need to be made on a daily basis in order to ensure that goods are in the right place at the right time must be carefully considered in order to maintain standards.
Due to advances in modern technology, customers in this day and age expect a high level of accuracy and speed when goods are delivered to them, irrespective of the location of the warehouse relative to the delivery destination. Next-day deliveries are no longer seen as particularly exceptional, with big industry names such as Amazon and Argos now offering same-day deliveries for many of their products. In order to retain customers, businesses must do all they can to make sure that picking errors and damage in transit are eliminated or at least kept to an absolute minimum.
Automation within the warehouse environment has therefore now become essential to businesses in order to meet high customer expectations, retain loyalty and remain competitive in a fast-moving industry. In the quest to maintain and even improve standards, a number of new trends are emerging in warehouse automation.
Changes in the Way Packaging Is Designed and Configured
In order to facilitate the use of automation in the warehouse, there has been a move towards using totes, plastic crates and plastic boxes instead of cardboard for packaging. These are designed to tolerate being manipulated repeatedly by automated systems without either the packaging or the goods within them getting damaged.
Increased Use of Plastics in the Warehouse
Following on from the above point, there is a general increase in the use of plastics, not just for packaging but also for storage within the warehouse. Plastic pallets are now much more popular than wooden ones, as pallet manufacturers are now able to produce tailored plastic pallets that meet the unique needs of any warehouse.
Reduced Use of Racking for Storage
The use of conveyor technology is reducing the need for lots of racking structures with the warehouse. Aside from freeing up valuable warehouse space, there are also health and safety benefits in having less restricted spaces, and warehouse operatives will benefit from a more pleasant working environments
Improved Tracking of Goods on Transit
Most customers purchasing goods for delivery now expect to be able to trace their order as it makes its way to them. Automation is making it easier for businesses to identify where goods are in the supply chain, and technology such as radio-frequency identification allows them to tag goods so that their exact location is known throughout its journey.
Changes in the Way Goods Are Handled
The future promises to see a marked change in the way products transported in totes are handled. It was previously limited by the size and weight that could be lifted by warehouse operatives, but the introduction of robotic machines in the warehouse means that tote capacities can be increased, allowing manufacturers to move larger volumes of goods efficiently.