Let’s talk about automation; it has become an industry buzzword. However, everyone has a different perspective as to what it is. In simple terms, automation means to use equipment to make a process less labor intensive – often also simpler and faster – thereby reducing or removing the need for human intervention.
It sounds complicated but, if you break down the steps in the process, a fully automated system is quite simple. It all starts with reviewing your application and understanding your current needs while planning for the future.
For some companies, automation can be as simple as adding flow rack instead of static rack for higher volume products to allow a new case to fill an empty spot that was just picked. This basic level of automation allows the picker to keep working thus increasing throughput.
What if, once the picker pulled that case from the flow rack, it was placed on a conveyor to be transported to a central distribution location? Transportation of that case has now been automated to make the process smoother and faster.
What if a robotic arm is added to the central processing location to stack that case onto a pallet? This labor-intensive, repetitive task is often boring and physically taxing, sometimes resulting in Workers’ Comp injuries. A robot does repetitive tasks better than people and frees up skilled labor to learn new proficiencies that can be redeployed to other areas in the warehouse.
Remember that case we picked off the flow rack? Someone had to place it there to begin with. Wouldn’t it be cool if that also could be put there using automation? The process can be as straightforward as an automated robotic arm unloading a pallet of cases onto a conveyor system where an automated order picker (or crane) known as a mini-load waits to read the case barcodes to deliver them to the proper flow rack lane.
Today’s technology makes each one of these steps straightforward and stress-free.
Automation can be kept simple with steps to meet your customers’ demands. By working together, we can build a system that works for you to fully meet your company’s growth plans while maintaining your budget.
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