Maintenance Q&As

What is warehouse automation?

Answered July 16 2019

Warehouse automation includes all the software, hardware, people, and processes that are required to automate warehouse tasks to improve efficiency and accuracy. This may involve everything from labeling inventory items, capturing warehouse data, automated storage and retrieval of items, and back-office report generation.

A wide range of technological and robotic solutions are available today, allowing businesses to pick and choose the best warehouse automation tools for their particular needs. According to Supply Chain Management Review, all businesses should perform a data-driven assessment before making a large investment in warehouse automation technology.

Components of Warehouse Automation

Nearly all components of warehouse automation address warehouse-related tasks that are repetitive, require a great deal of time, and are subject to human error.

For example, a company may hire people to walk through a warehouse to pick ordered items off a shelf and then record the information. This process is slow, repetitive, and error-prone. Today, modular shelving systems and warehouse robotics can easily automate this picking process.

Another example revolves around inventory management. Manual counting and recording of inventory has historically been a time-consuming process with lots of potential errors. Today, technologies such as barcoding and RFID allows rapid scanning and accurate recording of inventory items.

Automated warehouse vehicles and back-office data integration also play an important role in overall warehouse automation today.

Smart Decisions

Once you determine which warehouse automation technologies your business wants to invest in, it’s important to make smart related decisions.

For example, if you determine that automated vehicles are needed, you may need to reconfigure your warehouse aisles and vertical shelf design to accommodate. Barcoding technology requires accurate labeling and trained employees to ensure you don’t lose inventory during the tracking process.

Investing in barcoding or RFID technology requires compatibility and integration with your CMMS or centralized computer system.

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