7 Trends in Warehouse Management and Automation in 2019
The economy is growing stronger, with reports about more jobs being added every month. What those numbers don’t show, however, is that the warehouse and manufacturing industries are struggling to fill jobs on a daily basis. This negatively impacts operations, productions, and ultimately their bottom line.
This confusing economic situation is finding a solution in a growing manufacturing and warehouse trend – robotics and automation.
Though workers may worry that automated systems will replace them on the job, the addition of automated systems in warehousing and manufacturing will actually improve the lives and jobs of everyone who works there – from the laborers to the foreman to the company owner.
As warehouse automation continues to grow, so do other innovative warehouse solutions. These seven trends in warehouse management are changing the face of the industry, and the way manufacturers do business.
In the world of automation, AGVs and AMRs are essentially the oil that keeps the machine running. AGVs, or automated guided vehicles, and AMRs, or autonomous mobile robots, are robotics innovations that are delivering new efficiencies in warehouse management and function.
AGVs and AMRs come in a wide variety of sizes and capabilities, each designed to support a function of a warehouse or manufacturing system. Some types of AMRs and AGVs include floor cleaners, forklifts, pallet movers, and more. Two of the leading developers of the robotics warehouse automation trend are Balyo Robotics and Locus Robotics.
Balyo Robotics: A software robotics company, Balyo, manufactures the robotic software called the “A FRAME” that aids in material handling. Tasks like pallet moving, transport of large products, and even storage solutions can be automated with a Balyo robot.
Locus Robotics: Another Bay State robotics brand, Locus has developed a multi-bot picking system that significantly improves ecommerce fulfillment productivity, helping workers pick faster and more accurately.
Gamification of the Warehouse
Because many in the world of warehousing and manufacturing are struggling to find qualified employees to fill the many open jobs, some have created a new way to incentivize current and prospective workers.
Gamification of the warehouse is the idea that traditionally boring tasks in the warehouse, particularly picking, can be turned into a game with incentives. Gamifying the picking process could mean offering points for the employee who fills the most orders or for the employee who completes the most assemblies at their station. It’s up to the discretion of the warehouse or manufacturer as to what tasks are gamified, but there are even dashboards and programs to help implement these new tools.
Taking it a step further, many believe that gamification of the warehouse will turn the interaction of robots and humans in the warehouse into a collaborative game. The overall goal is to make the warehouse and work environment a safe and welcoming space that intersects human labor with automation.
To make the robotics-human collaboration possible, robotics technology is required. The term “cobotics” refers to combining some of the key capabilities of robots (precision, speed, repeatability) with people-specific skills such as knowledge, analysis and decision making.
One example of this comes from Universal Robotics. They manufacture a series of robotic “arms” that are easily integrated into many manufacturing and warehouse systems. These arms work alongside the human workforce, doing the heavy lifting and improving the speed and efficiency of assembly lines and picking processes.
While same-day shipping isn’t necessarily a new trend in warehouse management, the tools required to keep up with the demands are. Warehouses must reconfigure and improve efficiency to meet these needs, which has resulted in the automation of processes, improved warehouse management systems, and more.
Innovative warehouse solutions for same-day shipping include AGVs for pallet and product transport, robotic arms for assembly and lifting, barcode scanners for inventory automation, robotic forklifts to move pallets of product to shipping, and more. This will improve efficiency and get products shipped faster, resulting in happier customers.
Automating the Picking Process
Did you know that picking is the largest warehouse activity, accounting for countless work hours and more manpower than any other operation. The worst part, it’s the travelling from aisle to aisle, product to product that eats up the most production time for employees.
To alleviate this and get some valuable time back, warehouse automation trends are seeing the implementation of picker robots into the workforce. The picker robot gathers product and brings it to a central location, so the human employees can then fulfill orders from there much faster. Separating the travelling task from the picker will substantially increase productivity.
Warehouse automation trends are about improving efficiency and ultimately improving the bottom line. To find the areas of your manufacturing or warehouse operations that can be improved, you need to be able to analyze performance data. If you think about the amount of data that is produced from machines and in warehouses on a daily basis, it’s astronomical.
These massive data sets are what is known as big data. What was once too large to process and make sense of, big data is now helping businesses and manufacturers make sense of their operational inefficiencies and improve upon them.
One prime example is the use of barcode scanners on a product moving through a warehouse. Each step of the process from picking to shipment is scanned, and operations can see where time is being lost or what is holding up the system. Big data analytics systems can highlight valuable information from daily operations, helping warehouse management make data-driven decisions that improve overall performance.
For automation in the warehouse to be successful, multiple moving parts must be communicating with each other all the time. AGVs and AMRs, warehouse management systems, Inventory, human employees and more, need to all be on the same page so that automated operations run as smoothly as possible. What makes this happen? The Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT connects all of your devices and systems, keeping them in sync while also collecting important operations data. This makes it easy to see everything at a glance, 24/7 — inventory and production levels, what shipments are going in and out, and so much more. Everything in your warehouse is now traceable, tracked and coordinated to achieve the maximum operations efficiency.
Automating the warehouse can appear to be a costly and difficult undertaking, but the experts at NITCO have been helping warehouses and manufacturers of all shapes and sizes add automation to their operations. If you would like to learn more about automating your business or have any questions, please contact one of our experts.