Warehouses are experiencing a continuous increase in investment, driven by increasing levels of Robots For Warehouse Automation Online within the warehouse as well as the integration of supply chains. According to a study, almost 80% of warehouses are “still manually operated with no supporting automation.” Mechanized warehouses (those that use conveyors, sorters, goods-to-picker solutions, and other mechanized equipment, but not necessarily “automated”) account for 15% of total warehouses. In comparison, only 5% of the entire current Autonomous Warehousing Solutions Online are automated according to Logistics IQ.
Anatomy of warehouse operations
Some different processes and operations make up the entire ‘Warehousing’ process. Warehousing refers to the activities involving the large-scale storage of goods in a systematic and orderly manner and making them available for delivery whenever needed. AI robotics for Order Fulfillment and a Distribution Centre (DC) are, in essence, the same physical system,
With the main difference being that the Robotic Warehouse Systems Alberta focuses on storage processes, while the DC focuses on efficient and cost-effective order fulfilment processes. A DC can be defined as a facility that is used for the receipt, temporary storage, and redistribution of goods according to customer orders as they are received. We can classify warehouses into three broad categories:
- Distribution warehouses
- Contract warehouses
- Production warehouses
According to the material flow principle, warehouse activities are classified into four stages
- Order picking
The order picking process is one of the core warehouse activities. This task is where items requested by the customer are retrieved from the storage area and made available for shipping for order fulfilment. This process is the most critical (in terms of warehouse operations) as well as the most labour-intensive in a manual system, or the most expensive one in an automated system. It can consume up to 60% of all work activities in the warehouse, while the cost of the OPP may be as much as 55% of the total operating cost of the warehouse.
In the order picking process, an order picker (person in the manual system or automated machine system) starts and ends the cycle at a point, which is called the Pickup and Deposit (P/D) point. The picker receives the information about the items to be picked, travels to the locations, searches for and finds the correct position, extracts the items, returns to the original point and deposits the load there, then starts a new cycle. This entire process of travelling to the location of the item and searching for it and returning can take a long time and depends on the order picking policies, storage policies, warehousing technologies, warehouse layout, and warehouse automation levels. In a typical warehouse, the order picker can walk six miles a day. The breakdown of warehouse activity costs by rate may be, for example:
- Shipping: 20%
- Receiving: 10%
- Storage: 15%
- Order picking: 55%
The time spent on activities related to order picking is equal to 75% of the total time spent in the warehouse. The result of value stream mapping for OPPs is as follows:
- 10%: searching (which is non-value-added)
- 5%: writing (which is non-value-added)
- 25%: picking (which is value-added)
- 60%: walking (which is non-value-added)
Here only 25% of the order picking time is considered as a value-added time, and 75% of this time is considered not value-added. Automating the order picking process requires the same warehouse automation stages and equipment types regardless of whether you operate with a 2-tier or a 3-tier system. The equipment can be broken down into the physical structures and mechanized solutions on the one hand and software on the other. Automating the warehouse processes increases operational risks following from lower flexibility. Therefore, even before designing a warehouse layout and implementing automated solutions, there should be careful planning of the whole supply chain that should extend beyond the scope of the warehouse itself. Large retailers are well-positioned in this regard as they have a higher degree of influence on their suppliers, allowing them to start logistics planning there, as well as design and implement their automation solutions with these factors in mind.
Globally, the warehouse stock and operations are mostly still manual, with WMS and AIDC solutions being the most widely adopted. However, the bulk of automation technologies that are currently coming up are still slow on the uptake.