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Automation and robotics in warehouses: The path to productivity and efficiency

Warehouse automation refers to the use of advanced technologies and systems to streamline and optimise various tasks within a warehouse setting. These technologies, such as robots and automated conveyor systems, enhance efficiency, accuracy, and speed in tasks like inventory management, picking, packing, and shipping. By automating processes, businesses can improve productivity and customer satisfaction, making their operations more efficient and competitive in the market.

In this article, we'll explore the world of automation, specifically focusing on warehouse automation, as well as the various forms of warehouse automation, its impact on organisations, and the types of cutting-edge solutions available for warehousing.

Automation in warehouses: What does it really mean?

Automation is the process of using technology to perform tasks with minimal human intervention. It has the capability to enhance productivity, reduce errors, and optimise operations. Automation has the ability to take over dull repetitive tasks, freeing the workforce to focus on more rewarding, higher-level work.

What is warehouse automation?

Warehouse automation encompasses a wide range of technologies and processes designed to automate various aspects of warehouse management. It ranges from basic automation to sophisticated AI-driven solutions, all with the common goal of improving efficiency and reducing operational costs.

Here are a few types of warehouse automation, ranging from basic to advanced:

What is the impact of automation on organisations?

Companies can leverage automation to ease the pressure by reducing manual labour, minimising human errors, and accelerating processes. It enables real-time monitoring, data-driven decision-making, and improved customer service, ultimately leading to enhanced competitiveness in the market.

The use of new technology at Maersk removed the need for repetitive tasks and enabled staff to focus on key operations, using space wisely in their warehouses and more profitably, whilst attracting and retaining employees. DexoryView, the robots and data visualisation platform, work together to help Maersk measure, track and locate goods across every logistics step, from inbound to storage, picking to outbound, WMS (warehouse management system) stock records, reconciling inconsistencies and closing that data loop.

Available solutions for warehousing

The most spread types of automation and robotics solutions are:

  1. Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS): These systems use robots or cranes to automatically store and retrieve items from shelves or racks, optimising space and reducing manual handling.

  2. Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs): AMRs are self-navigating robots that transport goods and materials within the warehouse, performing tasks like picking, replenishment, and inventory movement.

  3. Conveyor Systems: Conveyor systems automate the movement of products within the warehouse, facilitating the efficient transfer of items from one location to another.

  4. Pick and Place Robots: These robots are designed to pick items from one location and place them in another, aiding in order fulfilment and reducing manual labour.

  5. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs): AGVs are mobile robots that follow predefined paths or markers on the floor to transport goods, making them valuable for materials handling and goods transport in the warehouse.

  6. Real-time data platform: An autonomous data-capturing robot, working as a typical AMR, that feeds an online platform allowing organisations to give a visual representation of their warehouse operations and understanding of inventory and resource, with detailed location occupancy information, enabling rapid identification of inaccuracies.

What are the benefits of automation?

Automation has become desirable for the warehousing industry as it’s challenged with labour costs, labour shortages, and increased throughput requirements. On top of that, the current advancements in automation, which have brought about lower costs and scalability improvements, are also conveniently supporting the change towards innovative approaches in warehouses and the logistics industry in general.

Automation and robots are changing the way the industry operates - improving efficiencies and sustainability, and making work safer and more rewarding in a wide range of roles across the industry sectors.

To dive deeper into the transformative impact of automation and robotics in warehousing, explore our comprehensive white paper on Robotics and Automation: A revolution in logistics and warehouse management

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This company has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 849938