There are numerous warehouse automation examples since the industry has been on a steady climb, with labor shortages and supply chain issues forcing more organizations to automate their workflows. But what is warehouse automation? It’s the use of technology and automation systems to improve the efficiency, accuracy, and safety of warehouse operations—opening up numerous opportunities for facilities to drastically increase productivity with much less manual output.
There are many different types of warehouse automation systems available, each with their own unique set of features and capabilities. Here are some of the most common examples of warehouse automation.
Automatic guided vehicles (AGVs): These self-guided vehicles are used to transport materials and products within a warehouse, without the need for human intervention. AGVs can be programmed to follow specific routes, and used for tasks such as transporting goods from one location to another, delivering goods to specific production lines, or loading and unloading trucks and trailers.
McKinsey predicts autonomous vehicles will deliver up to 80% of all items in the future, including the use of drones which may seem far-fetched but are currently being tested by several companies for last-mile delivery. One such example is Walmart, who has stepped out in front of even Amazon to take the lead in drone delivery, making over 6,000 drone deliveries in all of 2022. Amazon only started offering drone delivery in December of last year.
Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS): These systems use cranes or robotic arms to automatically store and retrieve products from a warehouse. ASRS are used for tasks such as storing and retrieving pallets, cases, or individual items, and can be programmed to work with a wide range of different types of storage systems, including racks, shelves, and storage containers.
Warehouses known as ‘fulfillment centers’ are now featuring more robots, lifting equipment, and sorting systems aimed at accelerating the handling, movement, and inventory management of products. Amazon and other companies are utilizing these technologies extensively. Meanwhile, in the UK, online grocery retailer Ocado is using highly sophisticated automated racking systems to enhance inventory picking, reinforced by intense data collection all across their supply chain.
Pick-to-light and Put-to-light systems: These systems use lights and displays to guide workers to specific locations in a warehouse to pick or put away products. Like ASRS, these systems can also be programmed to work with many types of warehouse storage systems.
RFID technology and barcode scanning: RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology and barcode scanning are used to track products and inventory within a warehouse. RFID tags can be attached to individual products, and can be read by RFID readers to track the location and movement of products within a warehouse. Barcode scanning can also be used to track products and inventory, and can be used in conjunction with other warehouse automation systems, such as ASRS and pick-to-light systems.
Robotics and drones: Robotics and drones are increasingly being used in warehouses to automate a wide range of tasks, including packaging and sorting. Robotics can be used to perform tasks such as palletizing, packing, and kitting, while drones can be used for tasks such as inventory management and order fulfillment.
Retailers like Walmart and Target are implementing autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in their warehouses to increase efficiency and reduce labor costs, while e-commerce giant Alibaba is using automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to transport goods in its warehouses. Automotive manufacturer BMW is also utilizing robots for tasks such as handling car parts and assembling components.
Conveyor systems: Conveyors are used to move products through a warehouse, from receiving to shipping. Conveyor systems can be integrated with other warehouse automation systems, such as barcode scanners, to automate the movement of products through the warehouse.
Automatic packing and palletizing systems: These systems are used to automatically pack and palletize products for shipping. The systems can be programmed to work with a wide range of different types of products and packaging materials, and can be integrated with other warehouse automation systems, such as conveyors and barcode scanners, to automate the packing and palletizing process.
Voice-directed picking systems: These systems use voice recognition technology to guide workers through the picking process. They can be programmed to work with the various types of warehouse storage systems and can be integrated with other warehouse automation systems, such as barcode scanners and pick-to-light, to automate the picking process.
Automated sortation systems: Automated sortation systems are used to sort products within a warehouse. There are different types of sortation systems available, such as cross belt sorter, tilt tray sorter, and bomb bay sorter. These systems can be integrated with other warehouse automation systems, such as barcode scanners, to automate the sorting process.
Automated guided carts (AGCs): Similar to AGVs, AGCs are used to transport materials and products within a warehouse without human input. AGCs can be programmed to follow specific routes and can be used for tasks such as transporting materials to and from production lines.
Whether you’re looking to transport goods from point A to point B without adding headcount to your warehouse team, or need automated support retrieving or sorting products, these examples of warehouse automation show the capabilities that robotics can bring to your facility.
If you’re ready to tap into the power of warehouse automation, set up an appointment with a Vecna Robotics automation expert today.