The world is heavily focused around technology. The modern phone is a media player, Internet browser and photo studio. Brick-and-mortar customers use computer terminals to check out items themselves. Inventory warehouses employ new technology to simplify processes and speed-up workflow.
The goal of warehouse automation is to best utilize manpower and resources to minimize cost and create a competitive advantage.. Sometimes this means finding a machine to physically handle objects, other times it means computers are processing data on their own.
Inventory Picked and Sorted by Robots
Machines are a common fixture in warehouses. Inventory management facilities feature conveyor belts to centralize sorting and employees operate forklifts and cranes to carry objects too heavy or cumbersome for human beings.
New technologies use machine strength to transport objects without a human guiding the activities. Tech In Asia featured the story of Grey Orange, an Indian robotics manufacturer selling new warehouse tools. Currently, Grey Orange has three products for warehouses. First, a machine called the profiler, which measures weight and dimensions for each product using sophisticated analytic scanners. Second, the sorter is a machine that segments inventory based on predetermined logistics. It can profile and route thousands of packages per hour and work in conjunction with the profiler.
Finally, there is the butler, a robotic inventory worker. The butler can travel through warehouse aisles picking items for orders or placing materials on shelves. The machine is an intelligent forklift. Butler uses a barcoding system to collect information and report performance to warehouse supervisors.
These tools are top of the line and used by major corporations that have to move large inventories on a daily basis. The automated performance of the machines allows the companies to focus human abilities on more important tasks.
Human and Machine Working Together
There is a fear robotic workers will replace human employees. Some companies, however, use machines to make daily performance more productive for their warehouse staff. The Wall Street Journal said food manufacturers use automated tools in the warehouse so employees can put their efforts to better use.
New tools allow labor allocation based on a worker's ability. An inventory system that uses forklift and other machines for heavy lifting can put people to work sorting through items or preparing smaller shipments. Particular orders and special client demands may not work in automated processes. Employees can handle a diversity of tasks, plus with the strenuous manual labor performed by machines, any type of person is able to work in the warehouse.
An inventory management system that can support a diverse warehouse, split between different performance zones, ensures a company's resources are not wasted on tasks that don't suit the hardware. Different tools are needed for each section and every warehouse can profit from the right pieces of tech.
Tech Working Smarter, not Harder
Not all tools used in the modern warehouse are huge machines designed to lift massive orders. Mobile devices created to simplify inventory procedures are often carried by employees.
Large automations are great for huge warehouse operations, but smaller companies need scalable solutions. Logistics Managers said most companies favor implementing mobile data capture tools that automate information as opposed to machines that perform physical activities. Businesses need cost-efficient equipment simplifying performance by making procedures smarter. Instead of employing robots to transport inventory, barcode scanners and voice picking technology gives employees the ability to move quickly and more productively through a warehouse.
An RFgen Software case study examined how a medical device reprocessor adopted barcode scanners and integrated them with their JD Edwards EnterpriseOne ERP solution to automate inventory identification and data capture. These data collection tools cut down on the manpower needed to constantly re-enter inventory information into the centralized company system. Within a month, the RFgen implementation team designed a workflow that streamlined processes and created a technology-assisted warehouse that functioned 24/7.