The warehouse industry has seen huge changes in recent years with the introduction of various technologies and automation solutions. Warehouse automation refers to the use of software, equipment, and machinery in warehouse operations to reduce human intervention and increase efficiency. This article will analyze the differences between automated and manual warehouse processes and the benefits automation provides over traditional manual methods.
What is warehouse automation?
Automation in warehouse operations can be divided into two types: digital automation and physical automation
What is digital automation?
Digital automation in warehouses refers to the use of software and computerized systems to manage and optimize warehouse workflows. This includes warehouse management systems (WMS), order management systems (OMS), inventory management systems, robotic process automation, analytics software,.... These digital systems analyze historical data, track inventory, route orders, and schedule shipments to streamline warehouse operations with minimal human involvement.
Ezbuy Japan is one of the first companies to apply intelligence software into warehouse fulfillment and opreation in Japan.
What is physical automation in the warehouse?
Physical warehouse automation utilizes automated equipment like conveyors, sorters, pickers, and robotic arms to mechanize the physical labor of warehouse tasks like picking, packing, palletizing, storing, and retrieving inventory. This warehouse automation reduces the need for manual labor and cuts down the time taken to complete repetitive, labor-intensive warehouse activities through the use of technology.
How does warehouse automation work?
Warehouse automation integrates intelligent software with automated machinery and robotics to bring higher efficiency and productivity to all aspects of warehouse operations. The automated systems are integrated together and can communicate with each other and with the warehouse management system. The WMS arranges and optimizes the automated processes by providing directions to the automated equipment based on incoming orders and warehouse data. This enables seamless functioning of warehouse automation.
Comparing warehouse manual operations with warehouse automation
Manual warehouse operations are labor-intensive, repetitive, slow, and prone to errors. Humans have physical limitations that prevent peak efficiency and accuracy when performing repetitive manual tasks all day long. Fatigue sets in that increases the chances of errors happening. Processes that rely solely on manual labor tend to be slower, less accurate, more physically demanding, and more costly in terms of labor requirements.
In contrast, automated warehouses utilize the consistency, speed, and accuracy of machines to achieve much higher levels of efficiency and throughput. Intelligent software optimizes workflows and removes bottlenecks. Automated picking, transport, palletizing and storage solutions work round the clock at peak speeds without any of the limitations of human workers. This enables automated warehouses to handle higher volumes with greater speed and accuracy.
According to research, warehouse automation reduces operation costs by 25% to 50% while increasing productivity by up to 400% to 600% compared to manual operations. Automated warehouses can deliver 2 to 3 times more orders daily compared to traditional warehouses. Automation also improves accuracy to above 99% and cuts down on order cycle times.
However, the choice between manual operations and warehouse automation depends on various factors such as the industry, the scale of the business, financial resources, and business goals. Automation can improve efficiency and accuracy but may require a larger initial investment and may not be suitable for every situation.
Types of warehouse automation technology
The world of warehouse automation includes a variety of advanced technologies, each designed to make warehouses more efficient and productive. These technologies include:
- Warehouse management system (WMS): Software that manages and tracks inventory while optimizing the storage and order fulfillment activities in a warehouse.
- Automated storage and Retrieval systems (ASRS): Computer-controlled systems that automatically place and retrieve loads from specified storage locations.
- Conveyor systems: Enable automated movement of items between loading docks, sorting systems, picking stations, and staging areas in the warehouse.
- Pick-to-light systems: Provide visual pick instructions to warehouse workers to optimize the efficiency of order picking.
- Warehouse robotics: Robots automate warehouse tasks like lifting, transporting, picking, packing and palletizing. Popular examples include articulated robotic arms, mobile robots, and collaborative robots.
- Warehouse execution systems: Optimize and synchronize workflows between equipment, robots, and human workers on the warehouse floor.
Benefits of implementing warehouse automation
The automation of warehouse operations brings about a multitude of valuable advantages:
- Increased throughput and processing speeds: Automation enables faster processing, movement, storage, picking, packing, and shipping of inventory leading to exponential improvements in daily order volumes.
- Improved accuracy: Warehouse automation virtually eliminates errors in order processing and inventory handling, improving accuracy to over 99% in most cases.
- Greater scalability: Automated solutions can be scaled up or down more easily to match business growth and seasonal peaks in order volumes.
- Enhanced worker safety: Automating highly repetitive and dangerous manual tasks reduces workplace injuries and creates a safer working environment.
- Reduced labor costs: Automating manual labor results in smaller workforce requirements and significantly lower labor costs due to higher productivity per worker.
- Lower operating costs: Automating manual processes cuts down warehouse operating costs related to labor, inventory management, order processing, and material handling.
- Maximized storage density: Automated storage and retrieval solutions enable optimized use of vertical warehouse space for increased storage density.
- 24/7 operation: Automated equipment and robots enable round-the-clock operations without any downtime.
- Real-time data insights: Automated systems provide real-time data on inventory tracking, orders, equipment performance, delays, bottlenecks etc.
- Enables new warehouse strategies: Automation capabilities support newer fulfillment strategies like same-day shipping and just-in-time logistics.
Cost analysis for warehouse automation implementation
Implementing warehouse automation requires significant upfront capital expenditure. However, the investment pays off in the long run through substantially lowered operating costs and increased revenues.
According to data, setting up automated systems in a 500,000 sq. ft. warehouse costs between $20 million to $30 million. This includes automated storage and retrieval systems, robotics, conveyors, sorters, pick-to-light systems, software, controls,... Most companies see ROI in 2 to 3 years after automation systems become operational.
Ongoing operating costs are much lower compared to manual warehouses. Labor costs can be reduced by 50% to 70%, while order processing costs drop by 20% to 40%. Greater storage density increases capacity 2X to 3X with the same footprint. Higher accuracy leads to 5X fewer errors that have to be corrected manually.
Increased throughput of automated warehouses enables revenues to grow substantially without any expansion. Processing volumes can increase 4X to 6X using the same resources. This leads to profits multiplying even as automation investments are being paid down.
If you are a small business owner looking to streamline your operations without the investment in an expensive modern warehouse, consider the advantages of outsourcing to an automated warehouse solution like Ezbuy Japan.
Ezbuy Japan boasts a comprehensive network of state-of-the-art warehouses strategically located across Japan, designed to cater to the needs of businesses seeking efficient storage and order fulfillment services. What sets us apart is our commitment to digital warehouse automation.
Our cutting-edge technology stack includes robust Order Management Systems (OMS), Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), and sophisticated barcode-based inventory tracking. This digital infrastructure ensures seamless, real-time control over your inventory, order processing, and shipment tracking.
Here are some compelling reasons to choose Ezbuy Japan's warehouse fulfillment services:
- Cost-efficiency: By outsourcing to Ezbuy Japan, you eliminate the capital expenditure associated with building and maintaining your own warehouse. This translates to significant cost savings, allowing you to allocate resources where they matter most.
- Precision and accuracy: Our advanced systems are designed to minimize human errors, ensuring that your orders are picked, packed, and shipped with the utmost precision. Barcode technology guarantees accurate inventory management, reducing the risk of stockouts or overstock situations.
- Time-saving: With Ezbuy Japan, you can focus on core business activities while we handle the intricacies of warehouse management. This allows you to dedicate more time to strategic growth initiatives.
- Global reach: Leveraging our warehouse network gives your business access to a broader customer base, as we facilitate international shipping and order fulfillment, opening up new markets for your products.
- Customer satisfaction: Quick and accurate order fulfillment leads to happier customers. Satisfied customers are more likely to become repeat buyers, helping you build a loyal customer base.
In today's competitive business landscape, leveraging digital warehouse automation is a strategic move that can significantly enhance your operational efficiency and competitiveness. By choosing Ezbuy Japan, you're not just outsourcing warehousing; you're investing in a smarter, more agile future for your business.
Experience the benefits of cutting-edge technology, cost savings, and operational excellence with Ezbuy Japan's warehouse fulfillment services. Let us be your partner in achieving greater success and growth. Get started with us today and watch your business thrive.