Warehouse automation is projected to surpass human labour in terms of output and monetary value over the next few years. Businesses worldwide are automating warehouses in response to changing operational environments. Increasing labour expenses, a labour shortage, and increased throughput needs are just a few of them. Furthermore, innovations in automation, such as lower costs and increased scalability, greatly boost warehouse automation.
However, outside Amazon and retail giants, to what extent are warehouse automation strategies currently being used by UK Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and how could this change in 2022?
The size of the organisation and the complexity of its supply chain are the key determining factors over how much businesses invest in warehouse automation technology. It’s probably fair to say that automation is still in its infancy in the UK warehousing sector, and most logistics SMEs are, at best, ‘partially automated’.
The Covid Effect
However, the pandemic and the challenges of lockdown has made a growing number of businesses give serious thought to the benefits of automation – and, at the beginning of 2022, there are more businesses with a clear timeline and budget in place for automation than there were in the years before Covid.
At the same time, certain automation strategies are becoming more reliable, more affordable, and easier to implement, increasing their appeal to cautious businesses with a modest budget.
Some Warehouse Technology Developments To Look Out For In 2022 Include:
Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. Machine-to-machine technology enables warehouse devices to communicate with one another. M2M applies to equipment as diverse as pallet machines, packing machines, and conveyors that track orders. This technology works in tandem with a warehouse management software system to collect and transfer data.
Interoperability. Connecting different warehouse systems can pose a challenge because of their varying data formats. Interoperability comes in handy by enabling the smooth data transition from warehouse systems and software. To facilitate warehouse system and software interoperability, hardware solutions must be adaptable and compatible with accompanying software.
Real-time tracking. Warehouse automation has significantly changed inventory management practices because everything is automated and shown on smartphones, computers, and tablets in real-time. These technologies make it possible for procedures to run more efficiently by minimising human contact and error.
Blockchain is an online database that stores data permanently and incorruptibly on cloud-based servers. Blockchain has been used in Bitcoin and is gaining popularity in warehouses because of its ease of use and accountability. Blockchain will benefit warehouse management practices in various ways, including improved data verification, transparent inventory data management, and tracking shipments or buying patterns.
What Impact Will Robots Have on Warehouse Design?
Robotics is perhaps the most exciting and least understood aspect of warehouse automation. Warehouse robotics includes semi-autonomous and self-operating machinery that supports, rather than replaces human operators – not quite Star Trek but certainly something that will influence warehouse design practices over the coming decade.
Most larger UK warehouses exceed 32 feet in height and occupy massive space. Much of this space is underutilised and it all comes at a significant cost in a country where commercial space is at a premium. Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) enable picking inside the tight confines of racking walls, allowing better use of space, and opening the door to smaller and more affordable warehouse solutions for SMEs.
Find Out More
To find out more about warehouse automation and how it can support your improvement strategy, please get in touch with one of our planning consultants today for an initial assessment of your needs.
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