Warehouses have traditionally been huge spaces rammed to the rafters with racking full of stock and operatives scurrying around on fork lift trucks. As technology continues to advance in all areas of our lives, what does the future hold for an automated warehouse?
How can robotics automate a warehouse?
Robotics can help to streamline operations in several ways. They’re integrated with back office systems, so they automatically know when a last-minute order comes in and can quickly switch priorities accordingly.
They have a wider range of capabilities than a forklift truck, allowing them access to storage areas at much greater height. This allows for more efficient use of space as racking and shelving can be installed at much higher levels.
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Another area in which robotics can assist warehouse operations is in the reduction of accidents and injuries. According to the Health & Safety Executive, there were more than 8,000 accidents in the warehouse and storage sector in one year alone; more than 1,500 of these were classified as major. Automated equipment can be used for tasks that are more dangerous or time-consuming for humans, such as counting stock at heights.
Do manual warehouse operations still have a place?
Yes, they do. Robotics and electronics have their strengths, but they are inherently pre-programmed within certain parameters and cannot deal with the unexpected.
An uneven floor surface, a spillage or a damaged package is likely to throw them off course.
Although it may be some time before humans are entirely replaced by robotics, automated retrieval systems and drones and a more automated warehouse is certainly on its way.
There are potentially some exciting benefits, but there are also some real challenges to be overcome before embarking on any form of automation. Understanding what is unique about your operation and how any form of automation may need to be customised to suit will be really important. Of course, there is also the cost to consider. While there might be huge savings to enjoy in the longer term, there is no denying that the initial outlay may be extremely high.