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Here are six warehouse mistakes and the automated solutions to solve them through technology. Inventory management has always been challenging, and current logistics trends make it more difficult by the day. Fortunately for warehouse managers, help is at hand from the ever-evolving world of warehouse automation. 

1. Failure to optimize picking paths 

Labor is the main cost component of a warehouse, with an impact far in excess of many businesses’ calculations. IDC believes warehouses undercount human labor costs by as much as 50%, and picking often accounts for up to 50% of all warehouse labor costs. So optimized operations are essential for minimizing profit loss. 

Picking path optimization software is one solution to the problem. Advanced path planning establishes ideal routes for order picking. 

Automated mobile robots (AMRs) improve human picking, shortening picking routes and walking time. Collaboration between humans and AMRs is optimal for increasing warehouse efficiency and speed. For instance, when preparing a grocery order, an employee can fulfill part of the order by choosing fresh products while the robot picks out the canned and packaged goods. 

2. Reliance on manual forklifts 

Manual forklifts require fuel, guidance, and human operators. They are dangerous pieces of machinery: it is 90% probable that a forklift will be involved in a severe or fatal accident during its working lifespan. And up to 70% of their total operating costs can be attributed to the driver. 

In contrast, driverless forklift AMRs are ready for immediate deployment. They use sensory data: an AMR’s intelligent pallet detection means it can reposition pallets placed askew without human assistance, facilitating effective pallet pick-up. When a pallet is not in the correct drop zone, the robot will search unassisted in nearby zones.  

AMRs are unimpeded by human mistakes and avoid obstacles and people; they can navigate safely through a warehouse without accidents. Robots are a safe alternative to manual forklifts. 

3. Poor inventory tracking 

Warehouse mistakes that inadequate inventory procedures cause include incorrect stock levels, obsolete inventory buildup, and disrupted working processes. Expenses increase, revenue is lost, and productivity suffers. 

Automation advantages are limited if functions are separate. A warehouse management system (WMS) unifies automation processes and enables KPI tracking. AMRs equipped with integrated barcode scanning can also improve inventory accuracy and increase efficiency, ending laborious manual stock-counting. 

4. Substandard safety procedures 

A well-organized warehouse is not necessarily safe, and an employee injury sustained during warehouse work can cause litigious problems for the company. If the environment is unsafe, workers will slow down, and productivity will decrease. 

AMRs enable the automated transportation of goods, pallets, and other storage units. This efficient labor method separates people from warehouse traffic, thus reducing the risk of accidents.  

AMRs also do not suffer from fatigue and are happy to take care of physically strenuous tasks that can lead to employee injuries. Robots with LIDAR (light detection and ranging) units and security cameras have 360-degree visibility of their surrounding environment and can reliably avoid obstacles with real-time situation analysis, even at 24/7 operations.  

5. Untrained staff 

Without sufficient training, employees often make costly process or safety mistakes. As a result, quality and efficiency suffer. Companies often blame budget and time restraints, but accidents due to inadequate training can cost employers dearly.  

Staff turnover is also an issue, with a significant cost to a company when an employer leaves their employment, and training a new employee can be both time-consuming and expensive. 

Autonomous robots reduce repetitive and dangerous human warehouse work. AMRs can also help with staff training by guiding workers to locations within the warehouse. AMRs decrease staff overtime by covering for humans who are unavailable for extra work. 

6. Retaining paper processes 

Traditional paper-based processes are slow, and utilizing multiple steps increases the chance for mistakes. However, warehouses have long used paper-based documentation — breaking that habit can be challenging. Here’s how to upgrade with automation: 

  • A warehouse management system (WMS) will unify your automation efforts. Most WMSs can direct employees step-by-step and to access information from wherever they are in the warehouse.  
  • Most handheld devices work with WMS systems allowing viewable changes in the warehouse system immediately after data input. 
  • An automation upgrade may be as simple as mirroring your current system with a warehouse device, or you may decide that a warehouse process restructure is appropriate. 

Put automation to work 

Switched-on businesses are exploring and investing in automation and robotics right now. It’s a trend that will only increase — global warehouse automation is on course to double by 2025

Understand your operational pain points to see where quick automation gains can be achieved. Match those pain points with available resources from automation providers that can offer fast ROI and easy wins; this will help with operational efficiency improvements while also addressing labor shortages. 

Cost savings, increased safety, and higher efficiency are undeniable benefits of a carefully planned warehouse automation system, representing a perfect opportunity for you to solve problems fast and thrive in challenging times. 

If you’re ready to get started with an initial assessment, contact us to set up an appointment with a Vecna Robotics automation expert.