So, you want to automate. That’s great news.
There is much to be gained from implementing a sound automation solution that increases efficiency, reduces your reliance on manual labor, and results in a smoother-running, more profitable warehouse.
While warehouse automation integrations can take time, with careful attention to detail and problem-solving, the benefits of the solution can be fully realized.
This overview identifies many of the most common challenges faced by warehouse professionals who undertake automation projects targeted at improving key functional areas of the warehouse, including:
- Inventory management
Regardless of what aspect of your warehouse you hope to improve with automation, chances are you will encounter challenges. The good news is that by anticipating challenges and having a strategy for overcoming them, you can expect a successful, high-impact warehouse automation solution.
Challenge #1: Cost Justification
Implementing automation in a warehouse typically involves significant upfront investments in equipment, technology, software, and integration. Additionally, ongoing expenses related to maintenance, training, and potential system upgrades should be factored into OpEx analyses.
When the time comes to secure funding for a warehouse automation project, it should be clear what the ROI will be, over what time period, and exactly where the return is coming from.
Challenge #2: Integration with Existing Systems
Compatibility, customization, data synchronization, process dependency, and legacy infrastructure (among others), are all challenges faced when integrating into existing systems during factory automation projects.
To overcome these challenges, it is essential to engage experienced system integrators, automation vendors, and IT professionals with expertise in integrating different systems and technologies.
Thorough planning, collaboration, and testing are crucial to ensure successful integration while minimizing disruptions to existing operations.
Challenge #3: Workforce Transition and Training
While this isn’t a universal truth, it’s generally accurate: warehouse workers are leery of automation unless it directly benefits them in an obvious way.
Getting workforce buy-in on an automation project can go a long way, but the effort can’t stop there. It’s also important to have a transition plan in place, complete with training that is customized to the new automation solution and inclusive of any changes it will cause elsewhere in the warehouse.
Challenge #4: Regulatory Compliance
The industrial regulatory environment is always changing. Any new automation systems need to adhere to specific operational standards, or the warehouse will be deemed non-compliant, and operations are brought to a screeching halt.
Keeping up with regulatory updates and ensuring ongoing compliance throughout the lifecycle of the automation project requires dedicated resources and continuous monitoring. These resources can be specific to data privacy and security, safety, the environment, or local/industry-specific regulations.