Numina Group Blog

How End-to-End Warehouse Automation Can Future-Proof Your Company

January 2, 2024

¹Retailers faced a decidedly different sales growth picture in 2023 compared to 2022, with the National Retail Federation reporting a modest 3% to 4% growth YOY for 2023 – a growth rate last seen in 2007.

Numerous factors, including economic uncertainty, price-conscious shoppers, increasing competition, and a general increase in operating costs, are just a few reasons for last year’s predicted sales slowdown. As Forbes describes, retailers are facing VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and an ambiguous environment¹ that is not likely to disappear soon.  

How are companies dealing with these challenges? Through old and new strategies. Many businesses rely on temporary staffing to handle spikes in order volume, but it’s a fix that only adds to companies’ concerns about already hefty warehouse labor costs.

According to a 2023 benchmark report by AutoStore, 27% of business leaders in North America, as well as 34% of those in the Asia Pacific fulfillment sector, cite rising labor costs as a substantial challenge for warehousing operations.²

Companies also constantly analyze their warehouse operations to improve efficiency and increase throughput. Indeed, order fulfillment productivity can be enhanced by analyzing workflow, eliminating redundant tasks, and reducing workers’ “touches” to process orders.

In a manual or partially automated warehouse, process improvements can boost throughput – but only to a point.

How End-to-End Warehouse Automation Solves Escalating Labor Costs

These process improvement efficiency gains are eclipsed by the results achieved when technology is deployed to replace manual processes. An end-to-end, fully integrated warehouse automation system can double or triple warehouse productivity, dramatically reduce labor costs and ensure the company is well-positioned to absorb sudden increases in order volume.

For example, in a traditional warehouse environment, paper-based picking workers have pick rates between 60 – 100 picks per hour. Workers’ pick rates typically increase by 70% or more when paper-based picking is replaced with voice-picking technology.

When several Numina clients have deployed voice picking in high-velocity, properly SKU-slotted pick zones, they have increased workers’ pick rates to 230 – 300 lines per hour. They were also able to reduce seasonal labor and annual overtime costs.

Benefits like these are achievable and have been the experience of many Numina customers. However, getting there requires planning – including a detailed audit of the company’s current operations, yielding an end-to-end warehouse automation design plan that will guide the right combination of warehouse technologies.

Learn more about Numina’s Warehouse Automation Design Services.

Warehouse Technologies to Consider

While there are many ways to automate a warehouse, the foundation should be an end-to-end warehouse automation platform, such as Numina Group’s RDS™ Warehouse Execution & Control Solution (WES-WCS), a comprehensive warehouse execution software platform with the right tools and flexibility to automate your warehouse.

The following technologies can also be added to the WES-WCS platform for high-yield efficiency gains.

Voice Picking Technology to Accelerate Picking

Today’s pick-by-voice technology is quick to deploy and immediately increases picking productivity while reducing picking labor needs. A voice-directed pick, pack, and ship order fulfillment solution outperforms manual processes like paper-based picking or RF terminal-based picking and yields 25% to 30% productivity gains and picking accuracy rates of 99.9%+.

In addition to improving pick rates, voice-picking technology enforces a uniform work output with the most efficient and accurate order-picking process. When combined with barcode scanning validation via mobile, hands-free computers, it further accelerates throughput by eliminating the need for workers to read check digits.

Advanced voice technology, such as Numina’s Victory Voice™ Suite, is speaker-independent and easy to learn, which virtually eliminates operator voice training and enables new and temporary workers to become instantly productive.

Pick-by-voice solutions are well suited for omnichannel picking, e-com, B2B fulfillment, and orders that require the capture of lot code, serial numbers, and sell-by data. 

Voice-picking technology yields a 12 to 18-month return on investment (ROI).

Material Handling Technologies to Reduce Manual Processes

Numerous traditional material handling automation technologies are proven to increase productivity and accuracy and lower seasonal labor requirements to meet peak demand. Solutions include pick-to-light systems, voice-picking technology, conveyor systems, document print-fold-insert systems, print-and-apply labeling, and parcel manifesting.

When these technologies are integrated with mobile warehouse robots to work with employees in pick, pack, and ship operations, efficiency gains are further multiplied.

Numina customers deploying this combination of technologies have achieved 2X to 3X increases in productivity while reducing warehouse labor costs by 40 to 50% or more.

Warehouse Robots to Eliminate Non-Productive Work Tasks

Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and goods-to-person (G2P) solutions are also being widely implemented by companies to manage labor shortage challenges. Studies show that AMRs can eliminate up to 40% of non-productive daily work across the entire order fulfillment operation. 

For example, by combining traditional technologies with pallet and tote-based automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that work alongside employees, non-value tasks such as walking and cart pushing can be eliminated. The entire spectrum of DC work becomes less strenuous and demanding, making it easier to attract, train, and retain associates.

When AMRs are used to automate picking operations, the efficiency gains are tremendous. Consider the comparison:

  • Individual worker pick rates in manual paper-based operations average 60 – 100 picks/hour, with low primary pick accuracy rates due to human error and additional labor hours required for QC and secondary checking.  
  • The de facto standard rate obtained from the latest generation robotic G2P picking systems is between 250 to 350 items per person-hour at a pick station, with picking accuracy of 99.9% or better and eliminating labor for QC and secondary checking.

G2P storage and picking systems provide compelling ROIs and are being widely deployed by small, medium, and large businesses with B2B, e-commerce, and omnichannel order fulfillment operations.

Buyers can now choose from various robotics based G2P solutions that combine warehouse automation software with autonomous mobile robots from firms such as Geek+, Addverb, Grey Orange, and many other vendors worldwide.

All-in-One Pack-and-Ship Automation to Reduce Labor Costs by 70%

The efficiency improvements and labor savings gained by automating picking operations can be further maximized by automating the last 100 feet of a DC’s fulfillment operation with all-in-one pack-and-ship automation.

Pakt™, Numina’s all-in-one pack-and-ship solution, automates manual packing and manifesting tasks such as tote-based picking, order packing, keystrokes, hand weighing and hand-applying shipping labels, and packing slip documentation.

Pakt is a post-pick, end-of-line solution comprised of:

By automating these tasks, Pakt yields a 5X increase in pack and ship productivity and reduces labor costs by 70%.

End-to-End Warehouse Automation to Control Costs and Future-Proof Your Company

Warehouse automation, when managed by a flexible WES-WCS platform that integrates and synchronizes workflow using technologies such as those discussed above, offers the most compelling results in controlling operating costs, and optimizing warehouse operations for current and future growth.

Numina Group can show you how to define, design and implement the right combination of warehouse technologies for your operations. Our warehouse design serviceswarehouse automation software, and extensive systems integration expertise deliver solutions proven to execute complex order fulfillment requirements that improve warehouse productivity and enhance customer service.

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About the Numina Group

The Numina Group is a top-tier designer and integrator of warehouse automation solutions, offering decades of experience in warehouse design, warehouse software, material handling equipment, systems integration, and implementation services for mid-to-large-sized enterprises.

Our team has designed and successfully implemented over 1,000 warehouse automation projects in diverse warehouse environments throughout North America.

Contact us to schedule a complimentary on-site warehouse assessment today.

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