By: Chris Andersen
The initial overhead cost for integrating automation into your facility can be a little (or very) deterring. The questions become: is the return on investment worth the upfront costs? What about the maintenance? How expensive is the robotics and software? What will my electric bill be like? All of these are excellent questions that should be analyzed before jumping head first into warehouse automation and conveyor systems..
But, like many large retailers across the world, automation is the only way to keep up with inventory, output, and demand. Let’s take a look at the benefits to going with automation.
Maximization of Space
By upgrading your product retrieval and storage systems to automation, you essentially cut your facility’s spacing needs in half.
Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) decrease your aisle size, which was a function to allow forklifts enough of a radius to maneuver to each product position. Because there is no need for a forklift or a person on the floor, aisle widths can be just small enough to fit the track and automated picking system. Mobile shelving or mobile pallet racking systems omit unused aisles entirely, leaving you with a smaller footprint and larger storage density.
Automated conveyor systems also work as a space saver. Industrial conveyor systems can be completely customizable and a faster way from A-to-Z. Unlike a person on the floor, product can be conveyed suspended from rafters, revolving around and straight through pick modules and mezzanines, or inclined and declined at any point in the system. The route can be so specialized that it becomes much faster than any forklift or manual traveling time.
The bottom line: how does this save you money? For one, you get more pallet rack storage out of one warehouse than if you were to combine multiple warehouses, potentially saving you millions in distribution centers. More space also means more opportunity to increase inventory, which in turn will create more profitability.
This is quick and to the point. Automation subtracts human error. Although supervised by a human element (designing the PLC, integrating the robotics, maintenance, etc), all the work is entirely delegated upon the automatic material handling system.
Faster retrieval and sortation is a given. With instantaneous instructions read by the automation, and programmed pin-point accuracy, nothing can surpass the efficiency of having automation on your side. And with increased demand, you will need to rely on faster order fulfillment to keep up. This also allows for firms to add specific marketing ploys such as free shipping or returns – giving them the advantage in the market.
Decreased Day-to-Day Costs
As much as the overhead costs for robotics, conveyors, and integration may be, the return on investment could be tenfold. Automation works faster, longer, and on weekends. It takes no vacation days, and it doesn’t celebrate holidays. You don’t pay your robotic arms overtime.
With the correct maintenance and material, your investment in a new material handling system can be running continuously without problem. And most integrating engineering reps are always available if there is a problem down the line.
Not all companies will see it a necessity to create a completely automated warehouse, but those that are frustrated with their order fulfillment, output, and human error are beginning the integration process. Robotics, conveyors, and warehouse management systems are being integrated with more ease than ever before.
Automation is paving the way for future warehouse applications. DAK Equipment and Engineering can help, so contact us today!