The warehouse is a customized storage building. Though it can be broadly categorized as an enlarged storage space, a warehouse facilitates a business or an organization to store goods for some time and prepare them to get transported to their required destinations.
As a place for storage, the warehouse has to necessarily concentrate their utmost priority on security, convenience, and being as spacious as possible. According to the extent of the owner’s resources, the site and contemporary building technology should be utilized.
Before mechanized technology was developed, warehouse functions were entirely reliant upon human labor and the workforce that was efficient in using mechanical lifting aids like pulley systems. But with the advent of technology and the appearance of automation, automated technology has replaced erstwhile technology and also manual labor wherever possible.
Warehouse automation is basically a three-step process and it can be achieved quite easily.
Data collection automation :
The very first section that the warehouse should try to automate is data collection and the data entry process. Since time immemorial, it has been seen that in warehousing operations the required data has been collected through handwritten notes on paper or manually typed data entry. This data is then stored either in a digital platform like a spreadsheet or a database or physically in a folder or any convenient location in the warehouse. The reports suggest that until 2016, nearly 60% of warehouses still employed the usage of physical processes or manual labor in their inventory control workflow.Where data collection accuracy starts, however, is in receiving goods and entering the data pertinent to those goods that will provide for operational ease of the warehouse in the future.
By automating the processes which control data collection, that opportunity for human error is negated almost fully or partially, thus decreasing the chance that the product will be improperly received, stored, transferred, picked, packed, or shipped across to the respective customer. Data collection automation involves the execution of a system where the information corresponding to the incoming shipments is taken in via a barcode scanner and is then transported via the software to the data repository, like a central database or an ERP system. Since the data capture process is free from manual recording processes, captured data is cleaner, often up to a 100% and extremely efficient.
Automating Inventory Control :
Inventory data is totally dependant on the quality and precision of the data that has been collected and is pertinent to the reception of goods until prior to their transport to the inventory. Since data collection is automated and the efficiency and the accuracy of this data can be guaranteed, it can now be put to use in inventory control processes.
Automating inventory control usually takes the form of an inventory management system (IMS) which can be defined as a software platform that provides the ability to achieve complete visibility into the inventory as it flows through various sections of the warehouse. Although there are many IMS solutions out there, some specific software is more suited to smaller retail and online businesses while certain other enterprise platforms are developed specifically with the requirements of larger companies in mind.
IMS software provides innumerable additional advantages that serve the regular warehouse work:
- Significantly higher rates of inventory accuracy
- Storage of limited inventory on-hand, thus reducing overhead costs
- Inventory visibility for maintenance of optimum stock levels
- Faster pick, pack, and shipment
- Automated cycle counts that are completed in hours instead of weeks
- Partial or full traceability in accordance with government regulations
- Ease in the issuance of inventory, parts or other materials
Implementation of the warehouse management system (WMS) :
A warehouse management system, or WMS, can be defined as a software platform that takes control of and thereby automates internal warehouse logistics that allows the software to make intelligent, real-time decisions that direct worker operations throughout the warehouse with maximum potency. Research indicates that WMS solutions are a viable means to provide the best method ever for cutting off the cost associated with distribution while simultaneously improving service.
A WMS helps to assume control and henceforth track and put a trace on the movement of materials in the concerned warehouse or distribution center, but with far more functionality and operational flexibility than inventory control systems. Inventory control applications provide the outline, whereas a true WMS software provides a higher level of control and resource utilization for product mobility and storage in and around the warehouse.
Warehouse automation can direct the earnest efforts of the enterprise to reach unimaginable levels of customer satisfaction which is impossible to achieve through human-directed work by itself. Automation is not only the future of warehousing operations but also the badge that the modern warehouse and manufacturing operations should proudly furnish to the world.