- Warehouse Automation - Inther Group
- Warehouse Automation solutions by Inther
- What does the future hold for the automation of warehouses?
If you have not already done so, standardize your processes by reducing potential variation, which saves time and money, and reduces errors. Measure each activity in the warehouse to establish a baseline where improvements can be made. Once you know where to improve, determine how to make those improvements and identify a target metric to measure implemented improvements. Implement solutions that reduce in-aisle steps.
At first glance, it may make sense, for example, to pick in FIFO first in, first out order, taking the first four pick lists from the stack at the wave prep desk. This leads operators to pick items for orders 1 through 4 in chronological order, often one order at a time, and possibly revisiting the same aisle or the very same location more than once.
But what if orders 1,2, 8, and 10 have picks in the same aisle or even the same location? And what if the operator knew how many total items to pick for their cart at the location? We call it smart work allocation. We apply advanced algorithms and AI in our cloud-based servers to actually reduce the number of steps that an operator takes and aisles they visit.
Start small and build a scalable solution. When making the first upgrade decision, you should think ahead and pick an automation solution that is scalable and can be easily integrated with future solutions. Assign an individual or team to lead implementation. This team should then be involved in all aspects of the planning and process creation. Companies that delay during this step may find themselves struggling to make a quick hiring decision and having the team trained and ready.
Engage outside experts to assess your warehouse layout. Warehouse design has changed a lot in recent years, as large distribution centers DCs have moved away from single channel to multichannel inventories and even smaller warehouses have begun to automate many operations.
Match the automation technology to your specific operational challenges. Applying different automation technologies, either individually or in combination, can alleviate a variety of different challenges. Conduct regular audits of your systems. Doing so allows you to identify relatively minor issues requiring minor repairs before they turn into catastrophic issues requiring major repairs, and downtime in your facility.
Improve security with unique password-protected access to all data points in your WMS. These may include areas like receiving, picking, packing, and shipping and loading areas. Setup a system to pre-select shipment and delivery options based on the type of item. This built-in logic ensures that only eligible services are considered, preventing users from choosing the wrong carrier, service or documentation. Automating the shipping service selection allows your warehouse staff to focus on processing orders quicker and not rate shopping between carriers. Identify data you could leverage to direct incoming shipments.
Basically, you want as much information as possible to be known upfront — dimensions, packaging, origin, identifiers, descriptions, classifications etc. Provided that you can handle the data and make it available, it can trigger your defined business rules and direct available resources, pending orders and task priorities. By promptly and automatically linking your returns to your warehouse inventory, you will achieve more efficient and accurate order fulfillment.
Once the stock becomes part of your inventory again it can be allocated to other customers who require those products. Leverage electronic data interchange EDI to reduce errors. Here are a few ways EDI can help you with your own warehouse processes:. Install a high-speed, intelligent warehouse door system. As one of the busiest working areas within any warehouse is the loading bay area, it makes sense that they are fitted with the best automation technologies available. Focus your warehouse layout design decisions on the dock operations.
When designing new warehouse facilities, consider taking advantage of the newest trends, including just-in-time cross-docking. Cross-docking is a technique where fresh inventory is unloaded directly from the inbound vehicle s then immediately re-loaded onto outbound vehicles — all without having to store the inventory in the warehouse. Optimize the intake of stock with barcode scanners or other automation equipment. This will significantly increase throughput as manual descriptions and item numbers will not have to be read out and checked off.
Establish advanced shipping notifications ASN. Consider labor management tools to optimize performance.
Warehouse Automation - Inther Group
Handling labor resources correctly can be the difference between an adequate operation and a good one…or a good one vs. These tools are best applied in high-volume picks, not for bulk items where heavy machinery is required to deal with stock. Minimize the number of steps in the order fulfillment process. Any process with more than a handful of steps is open to mistakes. Then update the process, reducing redundant steps and making it simple and effective.
Establish standards and monitoring of workforce requirements. A key requirement is to plan, schedule, and automate the deployments of staff to match needs in a dynamic real-time picking and shipping environment. Use a system that dynamically assigns the pick tasks to the picker and guides them at the point of pick. This will save time on travel and replenishments. Implement solutions that provide a directed workflow. In an entirely manual situation, pickers are juggling a lot. They are rarely hands-free because they need to handle an RF gun, a paper pick list and push a manual cart.
Warehouse Automation solutions by Inther
The software also powers the put-to-light technology, which shows pickers which totes to place items into. Organize workstations using lean manufacturing principles for a streamlined workflow. It consists of: Sort; Set in order; Shine; Standardize; and Sustain — all techniques designed to keep clutter at bay, reduce errors and improve safety and organisation. Utilize a Workflow Execution System WES to help synchronize operations between human workers and your automated systems.
They were given screens that would reveal bottlenecks so they could shift dynamically. The system could also be configured to provide voice alerts directing them to log out of low-load zones and move an overloaded zone. Minimize touches in your pick and pack processes. To accomplish this, the order must be error-free and packed correctly the first time, moving directly from shelf to box to truck without having to be moved in and out of totes or repacked into smaller or larger containers. Minimizing this kind of rework helps make the picking and packing process more efficient.
Use WMS to improve your warehouse storage capacity. The WMS assigns every product a specific location and bin number in the warehouse, based on the size of the bins and the amount of product kept in inventory. This approach maximizes the use of your warehouse shelves and allows you to be more efficient within your allotted space. Automating inventory control usually takes the form of an inventory management system IMS. This software platform provides the ability to gain total visibility into your inventory as it flows through your warehouse.
Although there are many IMS solutions out there, software like ShipStation is more tailored to smaller retail and online businesses while enterprise platforms, such as RFgen , are developed specifically with the needs of larger or enterprise companies in mind.
Inventory management software essentially allows the product data captured in receiving to be updated in real-time as inventory transactions take place. For example, Receiving Joe scans the products in receiving, automatically populating the IMS with data. Then, he hands the pallet off to Putaway Mary, who scans the bin where the stock will be stored. Now the system knows where to find the inventory and how much is on-hand in those particular bins.
Later, the inventory can be transferred to a new bin with another set of scans. When it comes time to pull that inventory for an order, Picker Larry has an exact count of that stock. Picker Larry picks the items and quantity and updates the IMS with his handheld scanner. Again, these transactions update the system in real time. Packer Jane has the right product in the right amount, which is then sent to the customer.
Now, the Warehouse Manager can see that the newly pulled items have caused the level of that stock to fall below the re-order threshold.
What does the future hold for the automation of warehouses?
Inventory control software should be paired with an automated data collection process, otherwise your inventory levels will become inaccurate, creating the same problems as before. On the adjacent shelf, he notices a bin full of dusty microchips that have since become obsolete and worthless. In both cases, money is lost due to bad or missing data. Ideally, your data collection solution will go hand-in-hand with your inventory management solution. Supply chain solutions providers like RFgen offer an all-in-one solution that helps you automate data collection, procure enterprise mobility hardware and integrate those systems with inventory management software and your database or ERP environment to create a multi-directional data communication ecosystem.
However, if you are looking to take warehouse process automation a step further to gain additional functionality and efficiency, you may be in the market for a warehouse management system, a WMS. What is a WMS? A warehouse management system, or WMS, is a software platform that takes over and automates internal warehouse logistics to make intelligent, real-time decisions that direct your worker movements through the warehouse with maximum efficiency.
Like inventory management software, a WMS helps you control and track movement of materials in your warehouse or distribution center, but with far more functionality and operational flexibility. Unlike inventory control applications, true WMS software provides a higher level of control and resource utilization for product movement and storage in and around your warehouse and DC facilities. The first WMS were computer applications that provided simple storage and location functions.
Since the early days of WMS, these programs have evolved significantly into either standalone applications or as an extension of your Enterprise Resource Planning ERP system that communicates with your database and other warehouse technologies, such as mobile devices, RFID tags and robotics. The modern WMS has evolved out of the realization that warehouse employees spend a significant chunk of their time walking around.
Add to this daily maintenance tasks, such as trying to find room for incoming product, shifting stock around, and cleaning or reorganizing, and it becomes clear how many opportunities there are to lose out on productivity. Warehouse management software streamlines these time-consuming tasks by directing processes like picking, putaway and replenishment along optimized paths that cut out unnecessary movement and minimize the time it takes to perform each action. Combined with the ability to direct and validate inventory transactions as it flows through the warehouse, WMS solutions have the potential to provide major gains in efficiency, productivity and cost-cutting.
While expanding your existing ERP may sound attractive, note that these modules tend to be heavyweight solutions best-fitted for very large enterprise operations that generate hundreds of millions—if not billions—in revenue each year. In addition to paying for components, licensing and setup, your company will have to shell out money for development time and wages for IT support staff as well.
Implementing a WMS can be complex and requires close integration with your existing warehouse processes and workflows. Your warehouse also needs to remain up and running at full speed while the new WMS is tested, integrated and deployed until your team has had a chance to learn the new system. Like any form of change management, an effective plan can make the difference between implementation success or failure. Warehouse automation can help you and your enterprise increase customer satisfaction to levels not otherwise possible through human-directed work alone.
Automation is not only the future of warehousing but the badge of the modern warehouse, DC and manufacturing operation. Warehouse automation comes in many forms, shapes and sizes. If your company is expanding but experiencing growing pains in the supply chain, then warehouse automation may be on the horizon.
Dustin manages our sales activity globally. Dustin has spent his career providing growth and leadership to small and medium-sized high-tech software companies and the clients they serve.
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Why RFgen? About Us Why RFgen? Key Takeaways: Warehouse managers face increasing market pressures from commoditization, supply chain transformation and rising customer expectations. Warehouse automation is an effective way to gain efficiencies, cut costs and scale operations. Start with automation basics, such as data collection, inventory control and WMS, instead of million-dollar investments. Look for an all-in-one automation solution that fits your business model. Callenges of Warehouse Management Supply chain professionals are facing more challenges than ever in the constantly changing world of warehouse management.
As a warehouse manager, you face daily challenges from internal and external pressures from the supply chain. Automation can help ease those pressures. Physical warehouse automation encompasses a wide range of mechanized solutions, including automated conveyor systems to assist in productivity and order fulfillment. Receiving Joe is tired of boxes piling up for days at a time while a disorganized warehouse struggles to find places to store new product.
Receiving Joe loves how automating data collection makes his job easier, faster and more accurate while he becomes more productive. Mobility and barcodes make Putaway Mary's job a breeze. Combined with mobility, Picker Larry works at maximum efficiency. Name Required.
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