6 Myths About Automation of the Intralogistic Processes

Warehouse automation has many advantages: it increases the efficiency and speed of order processing, helps to reduce costs and reduces the number of human errors. However, there are still doubts about the necessity of warehouse automation. 
SSI SCHÄFER's expert shares his opinion on some popular misconceptions about automation and explains why they don’t reflect how things actually are.

MYTH №1: EVERYONE NEEDS AUTOMATION

To companies that attempt to follow the latest trends, it might seem that the implementation of automation is necessary for all the warehouses without any exception. That's not true. There’s no need to automate warehouses with a low assortment, low number of goods or small storage capacity, since the effect of this will be insignificant. If there are no plans for future expansion, it is much easier for companies to process and complete small quantities of orders manually.

MYTH №2: AUTOMATION OF ALL PROCESSES TAKES TOO MUCH TIME

It may seem that the full warehouse automation is quite time-consuming because of several reasons. First, you should define the equipment needed, then develop the first design concept, select the solution that suits your expectations and budget, sign all the necessary contracts and only then start the installation and commissioning processes. The site works stage could cause money losses if the existing warehouse workflow stops even for short breaks. However, the automation can be planned that way, so it wouldn’t affect current operations. This can be achieved thanks to the advantages of automated systems: optimized storage space, scalability of the solutions and ergonomics. Reorganizing a traditional static warehouse would take more time, so in case of green field project it’s better to consider installing an automated system from the very beginning.

MYTH №3: AUTOMATION LEADS TO LOSE OF CONTROL OF THE PROCESS

Even if the automated system is properly designed and implemented, it only helps to eliminate many problems in the warehouse management system. The software monitors and shows the most accurate data on available stock items, or, for example, can detect a decrease in operator’s productivity at peak times and quickly redistribute their workload by sending employees from other sites. It also provides managers with recent information on all processes, goods flow and the system status.

MYTH №4: AUTOMATION REQUIRES EMPLOYEE REPLACEMENT

Automation or re-equipment of the warehouse to a more modern one, does not necessarily imply additional costs for the training of employees or their replacement. Automated warehouses are easy to use, so operators can easily learn the instructions and it does not require a lot of experience. When a new employee has to learn the location of each product or good, modern interfaces are simpler to work with compared to traditional warehouses. The number of possible errors due to the human factor is reduced to a minimum. Another important advantage of automation is the increased safety level. For example, automation is crucial for warehouse operators working in high-bay storage areas. The goods-to-man concept allows to minimize any risks by delivering goods directly to the operators working station.

MYTH №5: THE INTEGRATION OF ALL PROCESSES INTO A SINGLE SYSTEM IS TOO DIFFICULT

Surely, there is one hidden thing people sometimes forget about. Migrating to a highly automated warehouse system may also require the data migration. If a company has been using both manual and semi-automated systems to manage warehouse activities for many years, it is likely that there is much information accumulated during this time. Most of the time, this area of implementation is underestimated, so you need to think of it and be prepared for it in advance. If a company already uses any WMS then this integration is usually much smoother and faster.

MYTH №6: AUTOMATION IS ALWAYS TOO EXPENSIVE

The initial cost of the automation may indeed seem exaggerated, but at the same time you expect returns on investment quite soon. In most cases, the costs are fully paid off within 3-5 years, while the installed automated warehouse equipment will function for much longer. One important thing you should take into consideration is the quality of the equipment. Poor quality can lead to costly downtime in the future, so make sure your picking, handling and other systems are of the highest quality. A gradual integration of automated systems will also allow to distribute investments over time by automating the warehousing processes step by step and slowly increasing the processing performance.​​​​​