September 12th, 20223 min read
Automated Warehouse Systems to Combat Labor Challenges
Distribution Centers are in a seemingly endless battle to retain their workforce.
80% of DCs have been operating with a manual workforce but the pandemic, U.S. economy, aging workforce, and intense competition have further complicated labor retention. The accelerated rate of labor shortages has exposed an urgent need for future-minded businesses to integrate to automated solutions.
Robotics and automated systems fill the labor shortage gap.
Before the pandemic, consumer demand growth was at about a 25% rate and Retail DCs were scrambling just to keep up with increasing e-commerce demand. Post-pandemic demand has grown an additional 50% which substantially increased the pressure to succeed and turned the focus to automation.
Due to the ever increasing speed of physically challenging, monotonous tasks, labor retention continues to dwindle. The introduction of robotic technologies provides a simple solution to maximize operational efficiency while taking over roles that were losing to labor shortages. And the integration of smart automated systems which uses data backed science to make quick decisions for increased productivity is the key to future success.
Solutions that help Retail DCs maximize pace and provide an answer to labor issues.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)
AMRs move through facilities without the need to be directly supervised by an operator or without limitations of a fixed, predetermined path. Equipped with an array of sophisticated sensors, they operate from a digital map of their environment. This allows them to maneuver around fixed obstructions as well as people and moving equipment.
The existing Warehouse Management System (WMS) feeds tasks to the robots, and the digital mapping, sensors, cameras and embedded safety mechanisms provide all the information they need to operate. AMRs provide crucial support to manual workers which significantly increases productivity and efficiency in workflows.
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS)
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems are computer-controlled inventory management systems that automate the storage and retrieval of unit loads for picking, packing, and shipping. It supports daily warehouse planning and identifies where to allocate resources to meet customer demand. Also ideal for increasing operational performance without increasing your building footprint.
They operate in conjunction with a warehouse management system (WMS) to optimize product storage, increase labor throughput, and warehouse picking strategies.
Robotic Loaders and Unloaders
When fully automated systems are required, articulated robotic arms with advanced machine learning enable operations that work with consistent size/weight cases to lower logistics cost while freeing up labor for higher-value jobs. Fully autonomous, robotic loaders and unloaders handle products with great care, eliminating human related lift injuries and increasing line efficiency.
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
A Warehouse Management System is a sophisticated software application to help manage the operations of a warehouse or distribution center. The actual benefit of a WMS is to increase efficiency and accuracy in your warehouse processes. With the right application, the long-term value of this investment can save a business money over the long term.
The WMS provides capabilities that are very difficult to manage with manual or paper-based processes. Warehouse Management Systems offer capabilities like receiving, put-away, stock locating, inventory management, cycle counting, task interleaving, wave planning, order allocation, order picking, replenishment, packing, shipping, labor management and automated materials-handling equipment interfaces. These systems incorporate mobile devices along with bar code and RFID scanning/sensing to form the transactional foundation of a WMS.
Our specialists can help you choose the right automated systems to meet your company’s objectives, specifications, budget, and expectations. Let’s talk and take the first step towards improving your warehouse operations. Contact an IndPro specialist today to get started.