Warehouse Automation Improves operations and Worker Safety
Automation is emerging as an increasingly logical choice for distribution centers, improving efficiency, organization, worker safety and sorting. Manufacturers across the U.S. are already ramping up automation and robot production over the next decade, noting the variety of benefits. The Boston Consulting Group believes that, by 2025, 1.2 million more advanced robots will deploy.
Warehouse automation covers a variety of operational facets that result in greater efficiency and safety practices. The highlights of warehouse automation include the following:
Improved Order Accuracy and Person-Hour Efficiency
Warehouses that have already adapted to substantial automation have experienced the positives. Clothing and accessories retailer Patagonia is one example, moving to an automated approach to prevent bottlenecks that were a result of peak season. In fewer than nine months, after they enlisted logistics systems supplier Dematic, automation’s benefits were prevalent. Person-hour efficiency increased by 20 percent, and power consumption decreased by nearly 30 percent. The shift from a traditional roller conveyer system to an automated belt-driven tech saved ample funds and person-hours.
Innovative Solutions for All Niches
Patagonia’s embracing of automated belt-driven tech is just one of many examples of putting automation-driven innovation to work. Beyond conveyer applications, other recent technologies using automation include voice-directed tech, radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips for location tracking and scanning, auto-guided vehicles and pick-to-light solutions.
Pick-to-light solutions allow a customer or store to light up to indicate a need for a scanned item. Pick-to-light helps maximize accuracy and sorting speed while applying to most supply industries.
AVGs have begun incorporation with automated conveyer applications, with the capability to load products into a vehicle automatically. Eventually, as self-driving automation becomes more commonplace, sorting and loading processes can become entirely automated.
RFID technology has been around for decades, though has recently become more accessible via handheld applications. Now that voice-activated and hands-free RFID technology exists, their tracking and data capabilities make them an ideal fit for an automated warehouse.
As large companies like Amazon and Walmart note their commitment to automation and robotic technology, you can expect many others to follow suit within the e-commerce and mega-retail spaces, as well as within more private and smaller sectors, as automation becomes increasingly accessible.
Worker Safety, Prioritized
Automation enables warehouses to delegate more dangerous jobs to a robot or automated device, which are much more replaceable than a human employee. Manual, repetitive tasks can also be automated, placing workers for more intellectually intensive duties that can result in greater engagement and overall safer circumstances.
Repetitive motions, such as picking up and down an item for hours each day, can result in significant injury in the present and future. Carpal tunnel, tendinitis and bursitis are a few of the painful, debilitating repetitive-motion injuries you can prevent with automation. Additionally, automating tasks such as driving may be able to eliminate on-road fatalities entirely.
Some of the most common warehouse site threats include cracks in the floor, scattered materials, spills and stray cords. These can cause slips, trips and falls that could severely injure a human. For a robot or automated component, there may just be some damage that can be easily repaired or replaced. Employing automation in areas that pose hazards can effectively minimize the risk of worker injury.
Fewer injuries also equate to fewer injury claims. Healthy, productive workers who feel safe and are not inclined to file suits against a business are a great thing for everyone — consumers, employees and the business itself.
More Storage Space
Another highlight of an automated warehouse is the ample space it will provide, compared to a conventional warehouse. Warehouse management systems assign products a specific location and number, while also noting an item’s popularity. The system will typically place more in-demand items closer to the ground floor. Without automation, looking up both an item’s location and popularity is very time-consuming. With automation, however, it’s easy.
Automation is entering a very exciting time, particularly regarding its application in warehouses. Various technologies provide most industries imaginable with relevant tools and management systems to improve their storage space and person-hour efficiency, while also bolstering worker safety. Automation technology continues to rise in popularity, since these benefits and its increasing accessibility are hard to ignore.