What is the benefit of automation in the warehouse?
The main advantages and disadvantages of an automated high-bay warehouse compared to manual solutions:
Advantages of automation
Automated high-bay warehouses can be up to 45 meters high. In terms of floor space, they therefore have a very large storage capacity. In double- or triple-deep storage, several load carriers stand one behind the other in the rack. This allows the capacity of the high-bay warehouse to be increased even further.
The higher throughput capacity without additional personnel leads to lower unit costs. In multi-shift operation, this effect is even greater. Due to the lower space consumption, the operator saves on imputed costs.
The quality of deliveries is determined by their completeness and packaging quality and ensures customer satisfaction and a low returns rate . By systematically guiding the picker and checking his work as well as possible, picking errors are reduced to a minimum. A carton that is as close-fitting as possible, protective filling material, neat gluing and labeling are evidence of professionalism.
Speed is playing an increasingly important role. In an automated environment, it only takes a few minutes for a tote to be retrieved and arrive at the picking station. As a result, the company with a large range of articles can offer its customers much shorter response times than with a purely manual warehouse. To optimize turnaround times, the entire workflow from ordering to shipping must be continuous and coordinated.
Ergonomics depends to a large extent on the design of the picking and packing stations. At workstations where material is served automatically, there is an opportunity for ergonomic optimization. Article and order containers as well as the necessary auxiliary materials are arranged in such a way that distances, movement sequences and gripping heights place as little strain as possible on the employee.
Disadvantages of automation
An automated intralogistics solution requires a higher investment. How high the costs turn out to be depends on the degree of automation and the structural conditions. In view of the operating cost savings (mainly personnel costs), the investment pays for itself after a few years. For the individual calculation, the lower space consumption also plays a major role.
An automated logistics system works with defined load carriers. Containers, trays, pallets and skeleton containers have fixed dimensions and a maximum load. This imposes certain restrictions on the range of articles. If performance requirements change seriously, the logistics system may have to be adapted. However, there is also the possibility for automated systems to scale performance, e.g. in a shuttle warehouse.
Technology can fail: Trained maintenance personnel are needed to minimize the impact to operations in the event of a failure. Very few malfunctions are due to errors in the system technology or software. Rather, misaligned light barriers and improperly loaded pallets are among the classic causes of malfunctions. Plant visu and analysis tools in the warehouse management system help in troubleshooting.
A high-bay warehouse places higher demands on the structural condition of the floor slab. In addition, fire protection measures are usually more complex.
An automated logistics system usually consists of many individual trades that are closely interlinked. The time required for planning, implementation and commissioning should be estimated at at least 12 months.
If, after an initial assessment, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, it makes sense to look more deeply into the planning of a high-bay warehouse. To give such a planning process more structure, we have developed the three-phase plan, which can be a guide for you.
When the question arises as to the efficiency of intralogistics, automation is often seen as the panacea for increasing it. But how many companies in Germany have automated to date? What are the reasons for or against automation? And what about the willingness of those responsible to invest?
Unitechnik surveyed more than 100 participants from companies in various industries in February 2021. 71 participants answered the survey completely.
Download the study free of charge. Unitechnik has created a white paper on the same topic. This can be used as a guide to determine which level of automation is suitable for your own company.
Our white papers
- Royal road to WMS replacement
- Automation in intralogistics
- AGV versus stationary conveyor technology
- Digital twin in intralogistics
- Modern IT and AUT concepts for Logistics 4.0
- Stacker crane versus shuttle
- Selection of order picking systems