How the Right Warehouse Automation Decisions Can Solve Your Labor Woes

As the economy roars back to life, manufacturing, distribution, and warehousing operations face long-term challenges in attracting and retaining qualified workers.  The temporary labor pool, which many companies rely on during peak periods, is also shrinking. With a near-record number of job openings in this sector, companies are not able to hire the labor they require, resulting in the “strongest wage growth we’ve seen in half a century,” said Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist.

 

 

Higher wages will eventually put pressure on profit margins. Labor costs add up quickly. Higher wages, combined with the costs of continuous recruiting, incentives, and training all cut into profitability.

“Labor costs are sticky, according to Jonathon Golub, chief equity strategist at Credit Suisse. Unlike temporary increases in raw materials or goods impacted by bottlenecks in the supply chain, labor costs remain on a company’s balance sheet.”

Invest in Warehouse Automation Rather than Spending More on Labor

Instead of chasing the elusive labor market, many distribution operations are choosing to invest in material handling automation technologies. It’s a wise approach – warehouse automation systems can double or triple warehouse productivity.

However, to win and adapt to the changing labor market, distribution operations must first have a design plan that outlines leaner, less labor-intensive order fulfillment processes.

Traditional material handling automation technologies such as conveyor systems, voice picking systems, pick to light, and automated parcel manifesting using print and apply labeling are proven to increase productivity and accuracy and reduce reliance on temporary workers to meet peak demand season.

Combining traditional warehouse technologies with pallet and tote-based automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), along with warehouse robots such as Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) that can act as collaborative robots working alongside warehouse employees, eliminates non-valued tasks such as walking and cart pushing.

The Powerful ROI of AMRs and Other Warehouse Robots

Studies show that AMRs can eliminate up to 40% of non-productive daily work across the entire order fulfillment operation and boost efficiency. The latest generation of collaborative robots are flexible and easy-to-deploy solutions that can automatically pick up and move dozens of orders at a time, creating a highly effective work environment that operates with 30-40% fewer workers. As a bonus, the entire DC’s work becomes less demanding and lowers strenuous work, making it easier to attract, train and retain associates.

Robotic automation, when applied correctly, can reduce the cost of traditional material handling automation. This requires using the right blend of technologies integrated into a united warehouse automation solution focused on streamlining and eliminating non-valued labor. Implementing AMR collaborative robots and pick and pack automation technologies such as pick by voice, AMRs, and pack automation is a proven strategy to increase productivity while reducing labor costs by 40-50% or more in manufacturing and distribution operations.

 

Why Voice Picking Technology is a Go-To Solution:

  1. 12 to 18-month return on investment (ROI)
  2. Pick by voice is quickly deployed, resulting in immediate increases in picking productivity and order accuracy. It is well suited for:
  • Omni-channel picking
  • Business-to-business fulfillment (B2B)
  • E-commerce fulfillment
  • Applications that require the capture of lot codes, serial numbers, and “sell by” date data
  1. The latest generation voice picking technology is speaker-independent and eliminates operator voice training so that new and temporary workers become instantly productive. Items can be picked directly to shipping carton or as mixed case pallet pick applications.
  2. Voice-directed pick, pack, and ship order fulfillment outperforms manual processes like paper-based picking or RF terminal-based picking with 25% to 30% gains in productivity and accuracy rates of 99.98%+ with no secondary inspection.
  3. Pick by voice enforces uniform work output with the most efficient and accurate order picking process. Barcode scanning as a validation step eliminates the need for workers to read check digits. Employee work tasks can be captured by RDS’s labor management module, which measures and reports worker productivity and provides additional tools to analyze order fulfillment operation costs.

 

An order fulfillment operation is a three-component process that requires balanced order flow and the right technologies to eliminate labor and bottlenecks in the operation.

Pack and Ship AutomationFaster picking requires automated pack and ship technologies, including in-line pack area automation lines that combine:

  • Scan-weigh-audit
  • Pack sheet print and insert
  • Void fill and auto carton taping/sealers
  • Automated print and apply labeling
  • Manifesting

Automation in packing can increase daily shipment capacity, eliminate overtime, and cut labor costs by 50%.

Numina Group has developed RDS, a robust, modular, scalable real-time Warehouse Execution and Control Software to manage the integration of multiple technologies, providing unparalleled flexibility and scalability. RDS™ integrates with all existing and homegrown WMS/ERP systems to control tasks, execute business rules, and provide real-time control of material handling automation.

Investment in Warehouse Automation is Now More Justifiable 

If you operate a 3PL, E-Com, Omni-channel fulfillment center or manufacturing distribution operation, investment in automation is now more justifiable, with a faster ROI than ever before. To compete in the on-demand market and to remain profitable, a warehouse operation needs to be less dependent on manual processes.

Numina Group can show you how to make this happen. As a warehouse automation company with 35 years of experience, we offer the in-depth application know-how and software expertise necessary to ensure that your automation investment is successful.

We collaborate with clients to define and develop order fulfillment process improvements. As an independent system integrator, we help you evaluate, select, and implement the optimum blend of automation technologies for your operation.

With this approach, we’ve helped numerous companies reduce their dependency on an unpredictable labor market, quickly adapt or scale to meet changes in demand, and increase throughput and profitability across their entire distribution operation.

The Numina Group is here to help.  Call (630) 343-2600 or Fill out a Contact Form to arrange a complimentary site consultation.