December 7th, 20224 min read
Warehouse Automation Can Help Alleviate Labor Shortages
A Host of Benefits from Robotics and Automated Solutions Can Actually Lead to Higher Job Satisfaction for Employees
An aging U.S. population and the Great Resignation have brought widespread media attention to previously existing – but steadily growing – challenges in the U.S. labor market. Simply put, there are fewer workers seeking employment, and companies are needing to increase compensation and benefit packages to attract qualified candidates.
A seemingly endless supply of employees historically meant warehouses and distribution centers could successfully – and profitably – operate with little automation. But as the workforce continues to dwindle, and as e-commerce fulfillment continues to thrive and grow, companies will need to increase their use of Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, and other automated solutions in order to alleviate labor shortages. Looking to the future, the demands on warehouses and DCs likely will persist, and even exponentially increase.
Smart Technology Solutions
So how will these smart tech solutions increase efficiency while ultimately reducing costs? Robotic technologies mean longer operational/production hours, less downtime, and improved accuracy. Throw in Big Data and you have systems that can make real-time workflow decisions to maximize output and drastically improve productivity.
Automated Guided Vehicles Mobile Robots (AGVs)
Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) can transport incoming and outward bound items quickly. Working in tandem with warehouse software, these robots can figure out in real time – via machine learning – the most efficient route for potentially dozens of stops all across an enormous workspace. Sensors and cameras mean these machines can instantaneously and safely adjust to all obstacles (including people).
Automated Palletizers and Depalletizers
Automated palletizers and depalletizers can assist in shipping as well as storage and retrieval. These systems safely increase operational speed, efficiency, and accuracy while maintaining a safe environment for warehouse workers.
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) help store, retrieve, and buffer SKUs at maximum speed and accuracy. These systems reduce labor costs for the most time-consuming part of the entire order-fulfillment process by bringing goods to the person, rather than the other way around. AS/RS save space and improve ergonomics by placing items in the optimum location for employees to handle them, reducing injury risks.
Robotic Loaders and Unloaders
Warehouse loading and unloading is a risk-prone, high-turnover position. By implementing robotic loaders and unloaders, DCs can reduce accidents, turnover, and, ultimately, costs while dramatically increasing productivity and efficiency. Again, system software and Big Data promote machine learning that not only quickly responds to workflow snags, but even predicts slowdowns and creates solutions to avoid them.
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
Looking at the big picture, a warehouse management system (WMS) optimizes material handling and other warehouse processes, including e-commerce, shipping, receiving, and labor, and is used to increase efficiency and, ultimately, revenue. WMS directs the broader processes within a warehouse or distribution center – or even multiple sites. A WMS system can track ordering, fulfillment, inventory location, labor optimization, and more.
What’s My Next Step?
Smart technology solutions, including robotics and other automated solutions, Big Data, and machine learning, are all becoming increasingly invaluable in warehouse and DC operations. These solutions have many outstanding benefits, but the bottom line in a high-pressure U.S. labor market is that they can help in reallocating manual labor and addressing shortages.
Integrating automated solutions can help make the remaining manual labor safer and more mentally engaging for employees, and ultimately help to increase job satisfaction. Contact IndPro specialists today. We’ll assess your operational workflow and provide options to improve with automated solutions and reallocate precious labor where it’s most needed.
IndPro Services, a leader in Commercial Systems and U.S. Federal Government procurement, provides successful, efficient, data-driven solutions.
Dedicated to improving efficiency in warehouse and distribution center operations, we work on the same side of the table with you to help you procure the best possible solution for your specific application.