An automated warehouse can provide a wide range of benefits for businesses that operate a warehouse or distribution center that include increased efficiency, reduced labor costs, improved inventory management, increased safety, scalability, 24/7 operation, improved accuracy, reduced costs, and increased overall productivity. While we’ve yet to find a silver bullet for the complex challenges hitting warehouses and distribution centers these days, an automated warehouse is quickly becoming the next best thing.
Labor shortages currently make it difficult to find and retain skilled workers. The rise of direct-to-consumer sales—now 17% of all online sales in the U.S.—is increasing the volume and variety of goods handled in warehouses and supply chain issues; well, it’s hard to meet the demand for fast delivery when your inventory isn’t what it needs to be.
“Direct-to-consumer sales are now 17% of all online sales in the U.S.”KPMG
Automation offers a new kind of resilience when facing these challenges by reducing the dependence on a specific group of employees and increasing your operational efficiencies— helping you rapidly adapt to the fast-paced, rising demand.
Implementing the right automation solution is often an unfamiliar task, though. It’s not a road many have walked, and differing opinions on how you should do it, paired with the fear of a high-cost, lengthy deployment, can make it look unappealing.
Enter the Vecna “From No Bot to Robot” approach. It’s the 5 steps to an automated warehouse that get you started immediately and at scale within 12 months of your initial deployment.
Step 1: Assess
We first pinpoint the issues within your supply chain network and match them with solutions on the market, focusing on things like inventory levels, where most of your labor is allocated, and so on. Then, using this information, we identify a scalable segment of your network where automation would be most beneficial, develop a specific use case, and select a solution that will show a solid return on investment.
Inspiring this are use cases, and challenges we know can be solved through automation. Starting with a proven solution takes much of the guesswork and worry out of the equation and gives you the confidence to know your initial deployment will succeed.
Step 2: Plan
After identifying the appropriate mobile robot type for your workflows, we assess how the robots integrate with your team, facility, and systems. We collect data such as CAD drawings, customer routes, travel distances, and throughputs. This information determines the number of robots needed for each workflow or route.
We then establish success criteria among stakeholders and test the robots in real-world environments to ensure they meet expectations. Instead of starting with one or two robots, we suggest starting with at least three to better understand traffic and interactions between the robots and human workers.
Keep in mind that multiple mobile robots don’t mean more capital expenditure than you initially expected. Our Robots as a Service (RaaS) model means you can quickly deploy your initial fleet without a significant upfront cost and can scale or upgrade as you need for one low annual fee.
Step 3: Deploy
During the deployment, we not only install the robots but also train and onboard local staff to ensure they feel confident in using them, which promotes the adoption and successful operation of the robots. Our deployment process follows a six-step approach that aligns with a production use case that directly contributes to business value. Those steps are listed below:
Planning: we hold a kickoff meeting to review the concept of operations and plan for any necessary IT or WMS (warehouse management system) integration.
Mapping: the robots are shipped to the site, and during installation, we collect a map of the floor through the robots.
Configuration: we set up the network, work on the map collected in step 2, and prepare for on-site installations and training.
Installation: we tune and test the robots and conduct multiple training sessions. We also involve the PCC (Pivotal™ command center team), so they understand the process and can easily take over after go-live.
Staff preparation: we prepare the site staff for the process after go-live, involve the PCC, and conduct mock go-live scenarios and exception training.
Support: we provide 24/7 support and use Pivotal™ Insights to review site data. We also continue to make software improvements as needed.
It’s important to note that deploying robots is more complex than just dropping them off and expecting everything to work perfectly. We have a roadmap in place to make the deployment process as smooth as possible and involve customer success teams to help clients understand every aspect. After go-live, we have weekly customer calls to ensure everyone is on the same page and everything is running as it should.
Step 4: Learn
During the deployment process, we actively involve both floor staff and senior management to encourage open communication and address any concerns. We schedule multiple training sessions to ensure all staff are adequately trained and comfortable with the robots and system.
Investing the time to get your employees onside and offering them the opportunity to train and build their skillset around this technology can help them understand the personal and organizational benefits, making them feel more invested in the process and leading to more positive results.
Once the robots are in production and go-live has been achieved, we transition to our customer success managers, who provide ongoing attention and support. We conduct regular check-in meetings where we review robot performance metrics, address any outstanding issues or topics of discussion, and work closely with our 24/7 support team PCC to monitor system performance and ensure it meets expectations.
Step 5: Scale
When introducing automation to multiple facilities or expanding automation within one facility, it is beneficial to use a pilot site as a starting point to understand where similar automation can be implemented in your network.
We suggest developing a centralized automation strategy from the beginning to plan the initial rollout and help determine which use cases to prioritize next. Additionally, utilizing the pilot site as a showcase or demonstration site can allow all stakeholders who aren’t yet familiar with the robots and their functionality a chance to see them in action. This helps reduce their wariness while increasing adoption and allowing these plant managers and executives to observe the successful deployment and prepare for their future rollouts.
While there is no single solution to the battle with supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and the increased volume and variety of goods that need to be moved and handled at a near-breakneck pace, an automated warehouse gives you the advantage of resiliency and efficiency you need in that ring.
And, Vecna’s “From No Bot to Robot” approach is the proven automation adoption roadmap you can rely on to make your implementation a successful fit for your business—getting you quickly started today and allowing for optimal scale tomorrow.
For a more in-depth review and discussion about Vecna’s approach to deploying warehouse automation, watch our multi-part From No Not to Robot webinar series posted to our Resource page here: https://www.vecnarobotics.com/resource-filtering/?filter-resource-type=webinar
If you are ready to get started with an initial assessment, contact us today to set up an appointment with a Vecna Robotics automation expert.