In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, warehouse automation has become a strategic imperative for companies seeking to stay competitive and boost operational efficiency. However, deciding where to start with your warehouse automation project can be a daunting task. To help you navigate this journey, we’ve created a comprehensive checklist that will guide your team in identifying the processes that are ripe for automation.
Checklist at a Glance
- Collect Process Maps
- Analyze Current Performance
- Rate for Stability, Standardization, and Predictability
- Determine Automation Feasibility
- Calculate ROI
- Create an Execution Plan
Step 1: Collect Process Maps
Begin by gathering process maps for each operational area of your warehouse, from receiving and putaway to picking, packing, and shipping. These maps provide a visual representation of how each task is performed, including the manual labor hours and time required for completion. Depending on the complexity of your warehouse, you may need to create maps for subprocesses as well.
Step 2: Analyze Current Performance
Examine the performance of each process to identify inefficiencies and areas heavily reliant on manual labor. Review error logs and performance metrics to pinpoint processes that are prone to errors or bottlenecks. These are the processes that should move up on your priority list so that highly skilled and creative tasks can become the focus for employees. Clearly outlining the processes an employee will be removed from will help influence employee adoption throughout the automation project.
Step 3: Rate for Stability, Standardization, and Predictability
Evaluate each process based on its stability, standardization, and predictability. Well-defined and standardized processes are more suitable for automation. Develop a scale (e.g., 1-10) to rank each characteristic for every process on your list.
Step 4: Determine Automation Feasibility
Our experience with clients shows that at this stage, it’s beneficial to bring in an automation partner or expert. They can provide insights into the feasibility of automating each process based on your process assessments and current warehouse layout, taking into account available technologies, integration complexities, and cost considerations. Their expertise will be invaluable in making informed decisions.
Step 5: Calculate ROI
Calculating the ROI for automation projects can be complex. An automation partner can assist in assessing the costs, integration challenges, and other factors that affect ROI for each potential automation solution. Understanding the financial implications is crucial in determining the viability of automation.
Your automation partner will also assist in the critical role of building your business case, helping you address components such as total lifecycle value, strategic workforce planning impacts, and others.
Step 6: Create an Execution Plan
Once you’ve identified, documented, and analyzed the processes and calculated ROI, it’s time to create an implementation plan. This plan should outline how and when the selected processes will be automated. Collaboration with your automation partner is essential to ensure a smooth transition to automation and the realization of the overall business benefits through improved operations.
These six steps can be applied to any process you’re considering for automation. It’s essential to confirm the readiness and feasibility of automation before proceeding. Once you’ve completed this checklist and have a clear understanding of which processes should be automated first, you can embark on your warehouse automation journey with confidence.
Remember that warehouse automation is often best approached in phases, allowing you to build on your successes and continually improve your operations. By following this checklist, you’ll be well-equipped to make informed decisions that drive efficiency, productivity, and operational excellence in your warehouse.
Ready to talk to an automation partner? Contact our team of experts.