3 secrets to warehouse automation I learned working on an automotive factory floor
May 28, 2021
May 28, 2021
In the early part of my career, after being trained as an engineer, I worked at an automotive processing and assembling facility. We developed and manufactured components that control the climate delivery in an automobile. It was there on that factory floor where I first saw how people made purchasing decisions.
People would go about analyzing sourcing decisions differently, depending on their objectives and goals. Procurement may look at the bid price and the vendor’s viability as a business. An executive may look at the total cost of ownership, the flexibility and ease of scaling the operations. An engineer might look at how safely, effectively and durably the equipment will operate and how easily operators can be trained to run the machinery. The IT manager might first consider the ease of integrating into the operation’s management systems.
While doing recent research on streamlining warehouse automation, I recalled my factory floor experience and how problems came up when making equipment purchase decisions.
One of the key challenges I’ve seen with warehouse and operations investments has been attention-grabbing equipment that appears to be “cool and shiny.” Decisions made without the proper due diligence can have the opposite of your desired impact. In warehouses, that can happen with highly automated equipment or robotic equipment such as material-handling robots with an operational application in a processing facility.
There’s nothing wrong with robots, but when they’re purchased as one-off decisions you end up with a collection of shiny objects and no coherent solution to solve your issues.
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Decisions made without the proper due diligence can have the opposite of your desired impact.
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Without the proper framework, the deployment of robots can lead to unnecessary frustration especially by those using and supporting it day to day. That in turn can lead to wasted investments when companies simply don’t use the equipment they’ve purchased.
But this problem is avoidable. Here are three ways to ensure sure your organization is taking the proper steps when improving its warehouse operations.
Companies face immense pressure when it comes to automating warehouses because of the labor constraints or the multitude of automation technology solutions that exist as options. In today’s fast-paced world people want immediate solutions and, as a result, may make quick decisions. But it’s important to take the time to think more holistically rather than taking a point-solution approach.
It’s understandable why point solutions seem like they’ll solve an operational problem, but businesses must instead make decisions that enable them to become a more thriving and fulfilling place where automation unlocks greater and better returns. For example, integrating an automation solution to perform an operation such as a robot that picks goods from a storage shelf may not optimize the returns on your investments. Instead, a broader approach to automation integration that enables scalability and drives greater flexibility and visibility is a better choice.
Warehouse investments can be costly and the impact could be wide-reaching, so all the stakeholders involved from varying parts of the organization must collaborate more closely and look at the bigger picture before purchasing the next shiny object.
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