How to Know When to Automate Your Warehouse

by Prime Robotics
April 29, 2024
warehouse with sunlight

Rapidly growing and looking to cut down expenses and increase speed? You might be automation-ready. This post breaks down a few key benchmarks when you are ready to automate your warehouse.

Warehouse automation is keeping supply chain management ahead of the curve. Many organizations wonder: How do I know when to automate my warehouse operations? Understanding the right time and circumstances to introduce automation can be challenging.  This guide will help you determine if now is the right time. 

What is Warehouse Automation?

Warehouse automation uses advanced technology to complete warehouse tasks and processes with little to no human involvement. The technology in these automated systems ranges from software solutions that manage inventory to autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that move products through a facility. These complex systems increase efficiency and reduce errors in warehouse operations, ultimately helping warehouses increase throughput and save on costs. 

Top benefits of warehouse automation include faster order processing, more accurate inventory management, reduced labor costs, and a safer working environment. If your business is looking to improve in any of these areas, warehouse automation may be the right next step. 

Signs You’re Ready for Warehouse Automation

If you’re contemplating implementing an automated system, it’s important to do an evaluation of your current operations. Assess existing processes and look at any inefficient or error-prone workflows creating bottlenecks and needing improvement. 

You’ll want to calculate the expected return on investment (ROI) of automating these processes to see how beneficial the implementation will be. Then, look at the types of automated technology that address these shortcomings, including the infrastructure needed in your warehouse to implement them. 

  1. Overflowing Order Volumes

If your business is growing rapidly and can’t keep up with order volumes, it’s time to consider automation. Automation helps manage increased demand while eliminating the need to hire more staff. The right automation systems will help you manage and monitor inventory—ensuring a well-stocked warehouse.  

  1. Delays in Delivery

Large retailers and shifts in the economy have considerably changed customer demand. Consumers want their orders to be delivered fast and accurately, and they want the businesses they purchase from to be reliable. If meeting these expectations is a challenge, automated solutions, such as goods-to-person autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and robotic picking arms, can help streamline order fulfillment processes. 

  1. Inventory Errors

Inventory management becomes more complicated as a business grows. Maintaining accuracy is essential to success. If your operation is finding frequent discrepancies between inventory records and actual stock, this may be a sign that it’s time for automated systems. Overstocking, stockouts, and lost sales from human error become few and far between with robust, real-time tracking provided by automation. 

  1. Rising Operational Costs

Manual warehouse operations tend to be more expensive than automated ones. Automation helps increase efficiency and reduce costs by minimizing the need for additional hires, work-related injury payouts, higher insurance, replacement of damaged goods, and refunds from order errors. Businesses struggling to handle increasing operational costs should consider the long-term savings automation may bring.

  1. Safety Concerns

Since automation reduces reliance on human workers, automated warehouse processes are safer than manual ones. Physically demanding labor is done by machines, rather than humans, minimizing the risk of work-related injuries. This also allows existing staff to spend more time on higher-value work and less time on tedious, repetitive tasks.

Planning for Warehouse Automation

Once you’ve determined your organization is ready for automation, it’s time to develop an implementation plan. Because these systems are complex and require integration with existing processes, businesses need to properly prepare their operations to ensure a successful implementation.

First, you need to set clear objectives. What do you want to achieve with automation? Whether you want to reduce delivery times, improve inventory management, or increase throughput 3X, identifying specific goals will help guide decision-making.

Once objectives are clearly defined, you need to get buy-in from stakeholders across your organization. Articulate your objectives and the findings from your assessment to ensure everyone is aligned. Be sure to communicate the project goals and desired outcomes with employees working in the warehouse as well as executives who will approve the investment. 

Use your objectives to determine which automation solutions are best suited for your warehouse needs. Consider working with an experienced automation provider who will help you make informed choices. Then, begin the implementation process in phases. Automating everything at once can become complicated fast—it’s better to implement one system at a time, training staff on each one before adding another. 

Implementing automation in phases also gives you time to assess how the new system works before introducing and investing in additional tools.

Challenges to Implementing Warehouse Automation

A few factors to consider before implementing a warehouse automation system are your budget, system compatibility, and workplace culture. 

The initial investment in an automated system can be high. However, this investment is often worthwhile due to the immense savings the system provides over time. You will need to consider your business’ budget to determine the level of investment you can put into a new system. 

If you already have automation of some kind in your warehouse, you need to assess if the new system is compatible with the existing one. Operations will not improve if the systems are not compatible.  Consult with your automation partner to learn more about the technology you’re considering to ensure compatibility.

Finally, implementing any new technology in the workplace will create a workplace culture shift. Employees need to learn how to work alongside and manage the technology. It’s important to provide training opportunities to help all employees learn the new system and how their roles and job duties will evolve as a result.

Final Thoughts

Deciding when to automate warehouse processes is a strategic decision that stands to significantly improve your operations. From increased efficiency to lower operational costs, automation provides opportunities for business growth. By recognizing the signs that your warehouse is ready for automation, you can strategically and effectively plan to transition to a new system. 

Warehouse automation is a big step, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Contact us today to learn how we can help you streamline your operations through automated warehouse solutions. 

Prime Robotics