The Complete Guide to Warehouse Automation

Building the Warehouse of the Future

In today’s competitive business landscape, automation is no longer optional. In order to prepare for the future, companies across a wide range of industries are rapidly deploying cost-effective automated solutions to reduce labor costs and maximize ROI. The warehouses of the future are being built today, and the companies that don’t adjust will be left behind.

There are many types of equipment, software and logistical solutions that go into warehouse automation. In other words, automated warehouses are the result of many systems working together, rather than any single factor. From storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) to packaging equipment, automating operations around a warehouse improves efficiencies wherever possible. What’s more, warehouse automation can improve production accuracy, as human error becomes less of a hindrance to a company’s warehouse operations.

Just as the industrial revolution transformed productivity worldwide, the automation revolution is expected to create new opportunities for businesses. In turn, customers will have higher expectations as companies transition to highly efficient automated warehouse solutions. To make the most of these expected shifts, it’s crucial to start thinking about automation today. You can gain an advantage over your competition by planning how automation will fit into your warehouse now before others realize the importance of automation in the years to come.

How Do Automated Warehouses Work?

An automated warehouse uses connected technology to reduce the effort necessary to keep operations moving. To get the most out of an automated warehouse, it’s important to take scalability into consideration from the very beginning — you don’t want to be stuck completely replacing your equipment and software down the line.

There are two main types of warehouse automation technology:

Process Automation: Your warehouse contains endless amounts of data, but how you collect and analyze that information significantly impacts warehouse efficiency. Process automation includes all of the equipment, hardware and software used to create a snapshot of a warehouse’s status. Warehouse inventory, for example, is faster to process with a system of bar codes, scanners and automated computer programs in place.
Hard Automation: The automated robotic systems in a warehouse are referred to as hard automation. These systems make sense for warehouses with high-volume needs, as they reduce the manual labor necessary for a business. Without the need for time-consuming tasks once handled by humans, businesses that utilize hard automation can quickly streamline their operations.

Robotic solutions in automated warehouse

How Warehouse Automation Transforms Businesses

You might be aware of warehouse automation, but do you know the impact it will make on your company? Warehouse automation technology often surpasses business owners’ expectations. Here are three reasons why:

1. Greater productivity

Automating the most mundane tasks of warehouse operations will always mean an increase in productivity. Lag time created by human-operated tasks — fulfillment, for instance — has now been almost completely eliminated by robotics, moving more product through the chain at a faster rate.

As materials, and ultimately products, are tracked with customized automation systems, managers are now empowered to meet greater demand and significantly shorten the order-to-cash cycle.

2. Lower costs

Labor costs are typically the greatest expense for any business, so warehouse automation proves to be an increasingly compelling option for any warehouse manager or contractor. While upfront costs can seem daunting, businesses that have adopted automated warehouse systems have consistently reported impressive returns on investment.

3. Shift in Employee Focus

Warehouse automation means minimizing time spent on menial tasks and making room for important ones. With increased accuracy and efficiency, business owners can focus on critical things like data analysis, business forecasting and the development of important client relationships. The goal of warehouse automation is not a total replacement of human workers, but instead, a way for employees to shift the focus to tasks that will bring greater value to their organizations.

Equipment Used in Warehouse Automation

There are many types of equipment that can be included in the category of warehouse automation. The solutions you choose depend on your application, production volume and a host of other factors. We are available to answer any questions you have about a specific type of automation equipment and can help you start planning the solutions that will make the biggest impact for your business.

Robotic Palletizers

From palletizing downstream to depalletizing front-of-line products, robotic palletizers get the job done faster and more accurately than a human ever could. We offer robotic palletizers that can handle both full pallets as well as individual boxes, bags, pails or drums.

We take every factor into account when planning a robotic palletizer, including:

  • Payload
  • Reach
  • Duty
  • Cycle time
  • Floor space

If you’re optimizing your product line, time is money. It’s crucial to develop scalable processes when growing your business. We make scalability a top priority with our robotic palletizers, which will save you time, accelerate your operations and improve accuracy at your warehouse.

By choosing RMH for your robotic palletizer application, you’re at an advantage:

  • RMH works closely with your team to customize their robotic palletizer to meet the exact needs of their applications.
  • Our robotic palletizers serve as a turnkey solution that will seamlessly integrate with your currently implemented processes.
  • We never outsource our robotic palletizer design and installation. You will have a single point of contact from start to finish when implementing your robotic palletizer.
  • Our full-service approach means we will design, build, implement, program, and provide all of the necessary equipment needed for robotic palletizing.
  • Your team will receive training to get the most out of your new equipment.

As a FANUC Integrator, our robotic palletizer specialists are using the latest technology to help your business grow. If you’re ready to scale through robotics and material handling, our experts are ready to give you the equipment to succeed.

Product Identification and Coding

There is an untold amount of data just waiting to be leveraged in your warehouse. This includes product traceability and identification data such as barcode labels. You can accelerate your workflow by creating product identification and coding that tracks which items are moving in and out of your warehouse. Having an organized coding system means you can instantly trace and identify where an item or product is stored in your facility for improved inventory management. Streamline your traceability processes with customized product identification automation.

We offer many types of product traceability and identification solutions for businesses:

Added: These solutions also come with a variety of marking options including: continuous inkjet small-character coding, high-resolution case printing, laser coding, drop-on-demand inkjet printers, thermal inkjet, thermal transfer printers and print verification systems.

Whether you’re just starting to automate your warehouse or you need some help replacing an older system, we can improve your organization’s capabilities with complete product marking and coding system solutions.

Liquid-Filling Automation

Whether you’re dealing with beverages, chemicals or oils in your warehouse, liquid-filling automation is what you need to streamline the process. There is a wide range of applications that make use of liquid-filling automation, and they all have one thing in common — a goal to make filling containers with liquid products faster and easier. Liquid-filling lines require a smart, efficient approach that is scalable for future needs.

Adding liquid-filling automation presents many logistical challenges. At RMH Systems, it’s our goal to seamlessly integrate a system into your operations. Some of the ways we ensure a smoother transition include:

  • Providing specialists for any type of liquid-filling automation system need
  • Providing the material handling and integration engineering that many liquid automation companies lack
  • Serving clients across the country in states including Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas City and Western Illinois for over 80 years for in-line or rotary-filling applications

By adding efficiencies to your operations through liquid-filling solutions, you will improve productivity, and in turn, increase your ability to drive revenue.

Vertical Lift Module Storage System

Automated storage solutions are designed to help warehouses save room and eliminate human error. That’s where Vertical Lift Module systems come in.The towering stature of the VLM makes use of ceiling height and works quickly and accurately to shelve & retrieve product in greater density by storing on both sides of the module. To retrieve product, it shuttles multiple-capacity trays carried by a toothed belt drive to quickly access and pick units. It then delivers the product ergonomically to meet the height of your employee.

Many VLMs offer customizable features to meet the needs of your warehouse including:

  • Integrate with custom robotic system for complete automation
  • Single or dual tray delivery
  • Manual or automatic tray extraction
  • Custom pick and put to light configurations for efficient order picking and fulfillment/placement

On top of the greater level of accuracy, better ergonomics, cost savings, and greater efficiency, VLMs are a safer and more secure option for warehouses, eliminating some of the more dangerous tasks that employees have to take on with manual systems.

Additional Solutions

These are just some of the solutions that add up to total warehouse automation. We are here to help you take every facet of your warehouse productivity to the next level. Get details on the additional changes that can help you achieve a more efficient and productive warehouse that’s set up for future success.

Learn More About Automation

Future Outlook

There’s no getting around it — automation is inevitable. From picking systems in distribution centers to label tracking in the pharmaceutical industry, today’s businesses are quickly adopting the technologies that will provide improved efficiency and accuracy in warehouses. Automation technology can also respond to unpredictable events such as system shutdowns and outside factors, adding predictability to productivity. When paired with human intelligence (your team’s ability to make quick decisions and build relationships), automation stands to become a core component across many industries. By integrating automated labels, bar codes, inventory trackers, robotics, conveyor systems, fulfillment tracking, or storage systems, businesses can create growth-oriented strategies with their improved production capabilities.

Ready to find an automation solution that makes sense for your business? We’re here to help. Get in touch with our team to start the conversation.

Contact Us About Warehouse Automation