“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” Bill Gates
When applied correctly, material handling automation can have an immense improvement to your operation. The number of functions that can be automated in a facility is endless, but the motivation for why companies choose to automate can amount to some basic core reasons. Five of the main factors that drive the decision for material handling automation are:
- Reduced Labor and Operational Costs
Is your business struggling to find labor? You are not alone. 77% of companies are struggling to find the needed talent to fill their open positions. This means, that filling these open positions is also costing companies more than ever before. The hourly rate for warehouse employees has increased by over 10% in the last five years. With rising labor costs and an industry-wide turnover rate of greater than 30%, the need for automation in material handling is evident.
Safety has always been a major decision driving factor in the design of material handling systems. Ergonomics and a focus on keeping associates and heavy equipment separated have long been driving factors in material handling systems design. The advancement of today’s technology has opened the doors for incorporating material handling automation to promote a safer work environment. In today’s warehouse, automation is both capable and often associated with a positive return on investment for tasks that were purely manual in the past. Incorporating automation to help with things like repetitive tasks and material movement has become commonplace.
Providing a safer environment through material handling automation does not stop at injury prevention. The pandemic introduced a new level of employee safety that can be obtained through material handling automation; employee wellness. For many, the days of side-by-side or assembly line type operations, are over. Automation has proven to help disperse the workforce and limit the possibility of mass exposure.
- Increased Throughput
What happens when you mix an eCommerce boom with the rising customer expectation of next day (or same day) shipping? You either get overwhelmed or you adapt your systems to handle the increased demand. One of the most effective ways to get increased throughput is by increasing the level of material handling automation in a facility. Whether it is hardware to handle the additional volume, software changes to help streamline automation or a combination of both, automation is key to increasing throughput without additional labor.
- Reduced Human Error
Errors hurt your bottom line and your reputation with your customers. The busier people get, the more errors are made. Material handling automation can be a pivotal component of reducing errors. Automation can be applied to help reduce errors throughout a facility, including the picking, packing, quality assurance, and put-away functions.
- Space Savings
Building square footage is an increasingly valuable commodity. Dense storage systems paired with automation help companies get the most out of their building by reducing the storage footprint required by about 40% when compared to traditional storage methods. Going vertical with an automated storage solution to maximize the cubic storage in a space helps both new buildings and existing facilities minimize the footprint required.
The goal of any business is to be profitable while providing a positive customer experience. Automating the material handling functions in a facility can be a key factor in delivering those essential goals. Using less labor to safely increase throughput with fewer errors in a maximized space is important for any company to take a look at the many usages of material handling automation.