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Automation and robotization of warehouse processes

The development of modern companies is largely determined by the development of technology. It has been undergoing dynamic development for many years, providing entrepreneurs with modern solutions. Today, many processes can be automated, reducing human effort. Skilfully used technologies, such as automation and robotization, create an opportunity to increase efficiency in numerous areas of operations, including warehouse processes.

How can these innovative solutions be used in warehouse management and what are the benefits? In the following article, we will take a closer look at this issue.

Automation and robotization. What are they?

Automation and robotization processes are of great importance for the functioning of many modern, companies, including companies that specialize in providing solutions in the area of e-commerce warehouses. We are talking about technologies that include robots, computer programs, as well as specialized information systems. They are aimed at replacing human work in individual tasks and sometimes even in entire processes.

Automation is a complex concept that is difficult to define unambiguously. Quite generally, it can be defined as giving a specific process an automatic character and mechanizing a given activity. This, in turn, leads to its automatic implementation. Automation is closely related to the use of technology and machines to perform those tasks where human intervention is necessary. Automation plays a key role in processes such as picking, sorting in the area of postal warehouses, courier warehouses, logistics and e-commerce.

Robotization, on the other hand, means nothing more than the use of robots, manipulators and various types of accompanying equipment during the production process. Its purpose is to enable the implementation of selected processes with little or no human intervention. Robotization combines mechanical and electrical engineering and software that are used to create robots. These, in turn, are focused on fast and very precise performance of tasks, including, for example, enabling quick and accurate selection of products for shipment.

It is worth emphasizing here that automation and robotization are not the same terms, although they are commonly used interchangeably. The main aspect that differentiates the two terms is the level of human involvement in a given activity. While automation is usually aimed at supporting human work, robotization is able to replace it completely in some cases. Robotization can handle much more complex tasks than automation alone. Here, robots perform tasks, and in the case of automation, technology and machines are used.

To put it another way, robotization is a component of automation. Although it seems to be more advanced, in reality it does not exist without automation. Automation, on the other hand, can occur without robotization, which makes the latter a concept with a much narrower meaning.

Graphics showing the storage process

Today's warehousing industry

It is estimated that the current condition of the Polish warehouse market is stable. However, this does not mean that companies operating in this industry do not have to face various challenges and difficulties related to warehouse processes. Galloping inflation, rising costs, and sometimes staff shortages and employee turnover are the main factors that reduce the efficiency of warehouse operations. These are problems that are difficult to overcome using only standard warehouse processes.

In response to these challenges, companies specializing in the e-commerce warehouse automation industry are focusing on innovative solutions for internal transport, sorting, picking, and distribution. Picking, i.e. the process of order picking, is a key element in e-commerce warehouses, and its efficiency directly affects customer satisfaction and the profitability of operations.

In order to stay on the market, companies need to increase their efficiency, speed of operation, as well as improve the precision of their warehouse operations. All the more so as the competitiveness in the industry is increasing. Investments in advanced picking, sorting automation and robotization technologies are the key to ensuring the highest quality of services in this sector.

Automation in warehouses. Which processes can be automated in logistics and warehousing?

Automation in warehouses allows for effective processes in which some of the logistics activities carried out in an automated manner are increased. This means that human participation in them is either unnecessary or limited to a minimum. What processes are we talking about exactly? Operations such as receiving loads, transporting and storing goods, completing them and preparing them for shipment, completing them and preparing them for shipment can be automated.

In particular, picking, or order picking, is one of the most important processes in e-commerce warehouses. Thanks to advanced robots, it is possible to pick orders quickly and precisely, which translates into greater efficiency and customer satisfaction. In addition, automatic sorters enable efficient sorting of products, which is crucial in the distribution process.

A graphic showing a cross-section of a warehouse

Benefits of implementing automation. Which areas are worth automating?

Skilfully implemented automation can bring a number of benefits to modern companies and improve warehouse management processes. It is able to increase the level of safety and eliminate downtime. Automation also allows managers to deal with staff shortages, while ensuring they can work around the clock, seven days a week. Thanks to it, individual actions can be carried out much faster, and at the same time accurately, which allows you to exclude potential errors. It is also worth bearing in mind that automation facilitates the optimal use of warehouse space. This is due to the fact that thanks to its implementation, there is no need to leave larger, free spaces that were previously intended, m.in, for forklift trucks.

So, what areas of activity are worth automating? The basis of warehouse automation is such tools and technologies as: stacker cranes and containers, automated guided vehicles (AGVs, AMRs), conveyors and conveyors, high-performance automatic sorters and automatic racks. At the same time, it should be emphasized that the creation of an efficiently functioning automated warehouse does not necessarily mean the need to use all of the above devices. Depending on the specifics of a given warehouse, individual of them can be used.

In the context of logistics warehouses, it is worth paying attention to the following areas for automation:

  • Picking: Advanced picking robots allow for fast and accurate order picking.
  • Sorting: Automatic sorters guarantee efficient sorting of products, which is crucial in the distribution process.
  • Internal transport: Transport robots, such as AGVs or AMRs, enable the efficient transport of products within the warehouse.
  • Warehouse management: Modern warehouse management systems (WMS) allow you to optimize your warehouse processes and make better use of available resources.
forklift graphics

What challenges await companies introducing automation?

The automation process often appears to be a technology that will revolutionize the functioning of modern companies. However, you should be aware that its implementation is associated with certain difficulties and the need to create a well-planned strategy. Hasty, ill-considered actions can do more harm than good.

First of all, you should be aware that even the most advanced automation processes, such as automatic sorters, are always supervised by a human. Therefore, it is of great importance to properly train employees in new technologies, such as automatic picking or sorting systems.

There are still costs that entrepreneurs planning to automate warehouse space have to take into account. Implementing this technology is an investment. In order for it to be profitable and the costs to be recouped, the entire process should be carefully planned. It should also not be forgotten that the new systems should be properly integrated with the old ones, which will ensure smooth and high efficiency of the warehouse.

Do you want to automate your warehouse?

Automation in practice

Warehouse automation solutions are becoming more and more popular in countries around the world every year. This proves that innovative technologies pass the test, and their implementation improves not only the operation of warehouses, but the course of entire logistics processes, making them more efficient.

According to data presented by Research and Markets, Research and Markets, in 2020 alone, the value of the logistics robot market reached nearly USD 1.85 billion. It is estimated that by 2026 this amount will increase to $2.35 billion.

On the other hand, the Global Industry Analysts report indicates that an increasing number of entrepreneurs are opting for warehouse automation. According to forecasts, the Logistics Process Automation Market Growth Rate (CAGR) will reach 10.4% between 2020 and 2027.

In fact, companies are using modern technologies for order picking to meet growing market expectations. By automating activities such as picking, segregation or internal transport, companies can manage their warehouse more effectively and increase the efficiency of the entire goods delivery process.

How does robotization work? What tasks do robots perform?

As mentioned above, robotization is one of the components of broadly understood automation. So what tasks can be entrusted to robots in the warehouse area? They are great, m.in, for handling racks. Special lifting vehicles, such as pallet trucks or stackers, are then used.

Robots are great for handling racks, m.in. Special lifting vehicles, such as pallet trucks or stackers, are then used. However, in the area of e-commerce, where the dynamics of processes is crucial, robots play an even more important role. They are irreplaceable in picking processes, where precision and speed are crucial.

Robots can also be used to transport goods, both within the warehouse and between the warehouse and the production floor. In companies such as PURU, the supplied robots are also used for order picking, which can take an automatic or semi-automatic form.

However, the automated warehouse management process does not end with robots. Technologies such as automatic sorters or picking systems allow for even more effective warehouse management, adapted to the specifics of the e-commerce market.

Automated Warehouse Management Process Examples

Companies all over the world are turning to automation. In the area of logistics warehouses, where dynamism and precision are key, advanced warehouse management technologies play a key role.

One example is WebMakers' partner PURU, which specialises, m.in, in providing solutions for e-commerce magazines. The company has advanced picking technologies that allow for efficient and precise order picking. Thanks to automation, PURU's technology solutions are able to meet the growing demands of the market, providing fast and accurate service to various customers operating in the e-commerce and distribution industries.

photo of mushiny

Another example is the use of automatic sorters in the process of sorting goods. Thanks to them, it is possible to quickly and precisely divide products, which is crucial in the dynamic world of e-commerce and distribution.

photo of the inpost sorter

Depending on the specifics of a given warehouse and market requirements, companies can adapt and modify their processes using different technologies and solutions. The key, however, is to properly adapt the technology to the specifics of the business and market requirements.

Prospects for the future

There are many indications that automation and robotization are the future of many industries. It will be no different when it comes to logistics and warehouse processes. Automation brings excellent results in this field, which is why it will only be implemented more often and willingly. Robots will become increasingly important in this field, as they are already able to effectively operate warehouses, and their operation is still being improved.

Companies should be aware that modern warehouse management comes with completely new standards. These, in turn, are determined by economic processes on a global scale, the market situation, as well as the needs and expectations of consumers themselves. These are the factors that give rise to the need to implement increasingly complex and technologically advanced activities. Automation and robotization may soon prove irreplaceable in performing difficult, complex tasks.

Summary

Modern technologies, such as automation and robotization, bring revolutionary changes in the functioning of warehouses, adapting them to the growing requirements of the e-commerce market. Thanks to them, processes such as picking or sorting become more efficient, precise and fast. Although advanced technologies bring many benefits, it should not be forgotten that control over even the most automated processes still remains in the hands of humans, who play a key role in the entire warehouse ecosystem. However, the dynamic development in this area brings new revolutions every year, and with each passing year the human participation in these activities will decrease. The implementation of modern technologies in warehouses is not only a response to current market challenges, but also an investment in the future.

Thanks to the cooperation between WebMakers and PURU, which focus on innovation, we are able to comprehensively provide advanced solutions in the area of order picking, both in terms of software and hardware. Together, we are able to overcome many challenges and benefit from the synergy of software and device experts and robots. This translates into higher quality of service and customer satisfaction.

The article was created in collaboration with Puru Sp. z o.o. - Polish manufacturer of conveyors and an integrator of intralogistics systems.

PURU Company is a dynamically developing firm specializing in advanced technologies, operating in the warehouse automation system integration industry, headquartered in Warsaw. This company is of key importance in the logistics sector, especially in the e-commerce area. Its activities are primarily focused on the integration of sorting and internal transport systems used in distribution warehouses and e-commerce. PURU collaborates with international companies providing warehouse solutions, thereby being able to offer diverse, high-quality systems and tailor them to the needs and capabilities of the client. Puru is also a manufacturer of conveyors.

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