In the warehouse view, the Agilon automated storage system, pallet racks, and a lift are visible.

Do you know the key benefits of warehouse automation?

There are many things to consider when considering warehouse automation at your site. Depending on your situation, site, and operations, some benefits are more important than others.

Traditional key benefits

 Traditionally, the key benefits of warehouse automation have been:

  • maximizing space utilization
  • improving warehouse productivity and employee efficiency
  • better quality
  • more capacity and faster lead times, and
  • better safety

Warehouse automation emerges as a cornerstone of the 21st century, propelled by Industry 4.0 advancements. Automation drives unparalleled productivity and efficiency gains by relieving employees from mundane tasks and reshaping the warehouse landscape.

Automation is pivotal in improving quality by executing tasks based on pre-defined parameters. This eliminates the risk of human error that often accompanies manual processes. The accuracy of picking and inventory, which is crucial for successful operations, is significantly enhanced by automation. This, in turn, leads to improved customer satisfaction and reduced returns.

With automation operating typically faster than people, more capacity and faster lead times in operations can be achieved. Automated solutions can be wholly or partly operated outside regular working hours, drastically increasing the operations' capacity. More automation also decreases operators' independence, making your process more robust and resilient. Better safety is something that always comes with automation. The main reason for this is simple – fewer transactions and movements with operators.

Maximizing space utilization is one of the main drivers of automated warehouse operations. Square meters cost a lot, whether leased or owned. And there is always the question of whether to build more. This is why you want to utilize the space in the best possible way.

As businesses expand and space becomes constrained, assessing the existing facilities on-site becomes crucial. While it's common for this evaluation to be postponed until necessary, it's important to initiate this process proactively. This doesn't necessarily mean immediately buying or leasing a new building but starting by assessing your current situation and exploring future options.

New benefits through digitalization

WCS, WMS, ERP and beyond

Automated warehouses are typically controlled by WCS (Warehouse Control System), and warehouses are managed through WMS (Warehouse Management System) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).  The distinction between the system managing the warehouse automation is vital – that defines the scope for control or management. The benefit of WMS and ERP is that the systems can manage the whole warehouse, including manual storage. 

On the other hand, the scope of the system can also be understood as a two-dimensional picture with horizontal and vertical dimensions. The horizontal dimension covers the scope of the operations, meaning which areas of the site the system can manage. The vertical dimension covers the system perspective, meaning how deeply the system is integrated into the operations – meaning what you can do with the system.

The vertical dimension is interesting, especially now, when the transformation from Industry 4.0 to 5.0 is ongoing. Technology enables many things which were not possible some years ago. This gives a lot of new possibilities in using the modern systems at your site.

Do you know what is already possible?

Exploring the capabilities of modern automation

It is all about the process if you are looking for significant business benefits. The process can be changed entirely with the modern automated warehouse systems. And this usually requires new thinking as well. 

Traditionally, warehouse systems operated on a horizontal level. However, today's systems have evolved to incorporate a vertical dimension. This expansion enables your system to optimize purchasing and warehousing processes, manage inventory levels, initiate orders, and coordinate supplier shipments directly to your automated warehouse with minimal manual intervention.

With modern solutions, you can have your system controlling and managing your whole warehouse from a horizontal point of view. There is nothing new in that. But, with modern systems, you can have the system doing much more (vertical dimension). By this, we mean the system can take over the purchasing and warehousing. This means that your warehouse automation system also manages your inventory levels, sends orders, and receives shipments from suppliers directly to your automated warehouse – without any effort from your people. 

Suppliers can also be managed directly as VMI (Vendor Managed Inventory) or consignment stock suppliers, and the warehouse controls and manage the materials & suppliers. Automated warehouse access can be built at your goods receiving, so suppliers don’t have to come inside your premises. 


What is important for you?

We always start the process by understanding your needs. What is important for you? What is your target state and vision? After this, we will study your operations and process. We need to understand the whole process to add value for you. Just looking into one process or task leads to sub-optimization, and you might even worsen the situation in the big picture.

This is one of the pitfalls of automation. Another pitfall of automation is automating a bad process. In this way, you end up having a bad process executed faster. We always go through the process first, allowing us to offer complete solutions. And when changing the processes for the better – this is where the actual savings are!

Our takeaways for you

We have reviewed many kinds of sites and gathered tons of data, experience and lessons learned. We want to help you achieve the best possible results in your journey!

  • Understand your business needs. The world, customers, needs and businesses are changing faster than ever – don´t forget about future scenarios. Make sure other departments help you to paint the big picture.
  • Review your current facility thoroughly. You might find more floor space and cubic meters available.  You don´t need a football field for modern and flexible automated solutions; these can be fitted to small and complex areas.
  • Start from the process – your scope must be an end-to-end process. Lean tools help you to avoid sub-optimization. Renewing your process might end up renewing your layout and freeing up more space.
  • If you choose automation, ensure flexibility and scalability to adapt to changing needs.
  • Scope of automation. Warehouse automation can do more than pick materials. It can automate the entire process of purchasing and warehousing, as well as manage the manual warehouse. Ensuring that your automation system is compatible with your future automated material handling fleet is important.
  • Quality of the process. Make sure your automation enables the possibility to have 100 % accuracy in picking and inventory. This can be done by implementing automated checks during the process.
  • Urgency. Do you need the solution today or tomorrow? Modern automated solutions can be installed within 6 weeks of order. You can also be agile – start small and scale big, as these are modular and scalable.

Interested in how Agilon warehouse automation will benefit your business?

Explore how Agilon revolutionized material handling for our customers

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