Consumer goods and retail distribution warehouses are fast-paced, dynamic environments. Humans and machines are both on a mission to find the correct item, package it, and ship it to its final destination. And all this needs to happen as quickly as possible. Delays and inaccuracies could mean the difference between keeping and losing a customer.
There’s a lot that needs to go right in warehouses and also potential for so much that can go wrong in this highly complex process. The best method to make sure customers receive their orders and warehouse workers remain safe is through automation solutions. An automated warehouse is predictable, productive, and scalable.
Predictability Is Key for Product Fulfillment
Warehouse automation solutions excel at several steps in the order fulfillment process, such as storage, retrieval, and transportation. Lean production models state that transportation is a non-value added activity, but the reality is that this waste is a significant portion of manual operators’ time when completing tasks. Furthermore, the resulting traffic of unpredictable routes can lead to bottlenecks and delays in the picking system.
In the retail and consumer goods industries, customer expectations are extremely high. In the past, seasonal spikes in production were predictable and could be prepared for. Recently, there has been a perpetual peak in demand. Now, warehouse operators are working overtime to satisfy customer demands and make good on promises, such as overnight and two-day shipping. The current labor market is throwing a wrench in many facility managers’ productivity plans and budgets. The demand is greater than what the labor supply can support, and facility management is seeking alternatives to keep pace.
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) free up hours of wasted travel time for manual forklift operators, allowing them to focus on the value-add aspects of the operation. Designed to always stick to their approved routes, AMRs provide a level of reliability and consistency that simply can’t be matched by a human workforce. Mobile robots reliably perform their tasks, and their optimized workflows ensure that product isn’t damaged in transit.
Additionally, AMRs make facilities safer. Seegrid Palion AMRs have driven millions of miles without a single personnel safety incident. When correctly implemented, AMR routes are predictable and greatly reduce foot traffic and forklift congestion on the warehouse floor. Facility managers can feel confident that workers are safer and accidents won’t halt operations. This predictability means that, at the end of every shift, warehouse managers will know the specific output they can expect, allowing them to plan for the future.
Scalability Allows Future Opportunities
AMRs are incredibly easy to program, which makes a fleet easily scalable and flexible. A flexible automation solution means that facility managers can say “yes” to expanding to new product offerings, increased inventory, and quicker turnarounds. AMRs can be adapted as the business, customer behaviors, demand, and the industry as a whole evolves. AMR fleets can also be easily expanded at any time and quickly implemented to start on tasks.
The ability to rapidly deploy an AMR fleet is also important given the current labor market. Hiring new workers and getting them up to speed with warehouse operations, training, and expectations requires a major investment in time and resources. Seegrid Palion AMRs do not need any external infrastructure, which means adding a new robot to your automated fleet does not require any costly downtime or installation. Also, warehouse personnel can retrain an AMR to drive a new route without a Seegrid engineer present.
Visibility Unites an Automated Warehouse
Visibility ties all of your automation solutions together. Automated warehouse management software allows warehouse supervisors to oversee operations and ensure the warehouse robots and operations are working as efficiently as possible.
Fleet Geek is a cloud-based fleet analytics software that constantly keeps tabs on an entire fleet’s performance with up-to-the-minute views of Palion AMR activity. The data collected can inform decisions that will improve efficiency and streamline the flow of materials. For example, Fleet Geek can help a facility identify periods of low utilization to then redeploy Palion AMRs to different tasks or shifts to increase fleet output. In an environment where every second counts, it is crucial to have a holistic, data-driven view of material flow throughout facilities.
Automation for the Present and the Future
Today’s warehouses are under considerable stress: order volumes are booming, demands are skyrocketing, and timelines are shrinking. Many pieces of the puzzle have to come together perfectly to ensure accurate order fulfillment. Automation streamlines and optimizes the warehouse floor, making it safer and reducing errors.
Apply for a facility scope to learn more about how automation may be the missing piece in your supply chain.