Automation in the warehouse means the use of automated storage, conveyor and picking systems. More and more companies are relying on the automation of their warehouse to optimize their work processes in order to increase productivity. The technology in connection with a warehouse management software is usually faster and more precise than humans. The process speed is increased, errors are minimized, material flows and the use of space are optimized. Initially, the acquisition costs are usually high, but the automatic warehouse quickly pays for itself over the years due to lower personnel costs compared to manual warehouses. An automatic warehouse can be an automatic pallet high-bay warehouse, an automatic small parts warehouse or shuttle system, also in connection with conveyor technology, picking systems or picking robots up to automatic shipping systems.
Function of an automatic warehouse:
- Automatic storage and retrieval of goods using standardized loading aids such as pallets, trays for boxes or containers.
- The storage strategies in the automated warehouse are controlled by warehouse management software.
- The automated compilation of orders can be simplified by multi-or-picking stations or further automated by piece-picking robots.
Construction of an automatic warehouse for small parts:
- Storage and retrieval cranes or shuttle systems navigate in the rack of the automated warehouse with one or more aisles.
- Items or cartons are stored either in containers or trays.
- The totes are automatically driven to the picking station according to the goods-to-person principle.
- Containers or trays are often brought to the order picker by conveyor technology, but there are also shuttle robots that can move both on the shelf and on the floor and therefore do not require rigid conveyor technology.
- The control technology and the warehouse management software guarantee efficient material flows, coordinated processes and eliminate sources of error.
What are the advantages of automation in the warehouse?
- Due to the possible utilization of the room height, extremely space-saving storage is possible.
- Sources of error are reduced through transparent, automated processes.
- With high throughput, access times and delivery times are reduced.
- Due to bottlenecks in the job market for logistics specialists, automation in the warehouse is becoming more and more relevant.
- Material flows are usually rethought and existing, often historically grown, processes are optimized.
What are the risks of automation in the warehouse?
- Depending on the degree of automation, the investment can be quite high.
- Automation requires professional planning and digitization through a warehouse management system.
- The flexibility for extensions and process changes is less than in a manual warehouse.
- When planning an automated warehouse, future utilization should be taken into account.
When does partial automation in the warehouse make sense?
Partial automation using conveyor systems is also often useful. For example, goods can be picked in the shelving warehouse by pick-by-voice with the help of picking stations connected to conveyor technology and transported automatically to the packing department. This significantly reduces error rates in order picking and packing. Although these concepts do not have an automatic warehouse, the material flows are automated and digitized. Such systems can be expanded more flexibly than an automated warehouse.
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