Imagine a forklift truck rolling down a narrow aisle guided automatically as it places inventory onto the racking systems along the way. The racking is standing over 40-feet tall over the warehouse floor. At the same time miniature robots are transporting the outgoing inventory to the appropriate fulfilment stations. All this makes it possible to pick 2,400 orders every hour. If you think that sounds like some kind of futuristic distribution centre or warehouse, you’d be wrong, because that’s what modern distribution centres can be and are like.
Automation is altering the way traditional warehouse facilities work, and companies are trying to maximise their throughput, while improving the accuracy of orders. They are doing this by using MH equipment, also known as materials handling equipment, along with robotic applications and high-speed conveyors.
At this point in the year, companies and warehouses, and especially distribution centres for eCommerce business are trying to recover from the massive amounts of orders they handled over the holiday season.
Retail orders can increase by more than 10 to 20% in that period.
A Practical and Sensible Solution
So how do most distribution centres and eCommerce sites deal with this spike in demand towards the end of the year? Patagonia, the outdoors clothing and accessories retailer looked to Dematic to help them upgrade their outdated conveyor system. Their new system allowed the DC for the company to divide up and separate the bigger and heavier cartons that were being delivered to stores and the smaller ones that were going to catalogue and website customers. With these upgrades, the accuracy of orders and the man-hour efficiency of their distribution centre increased by around 20% as power consumption reduced by 30%.
Evolution in Automation
It’s not just these high-speed conveyors that are leading the way in automation in DCs. There are other cutting-edge supply chain solutions being used to such as Robotic applications, RFID scanning, wearables, spares and accessories for extreme safety, and gadgets controlled by voice, AGVs for retrieval and storage, put/pick-to-light.
Although the likes of RFID have been around since the Second World War, it really wasn’t until the turn of the century that it was more user-friendly and affordable to be used in handheld applications. robotics has also been around for some time. With GM using assembly robots since 1961 in the manufacturing of vehicles. However, vision-guided robots have become a real force for good in modern DCs, being used in goods-to-person applications, pallet stock solutions, put-away and retrieval functions and for loading and unloading.
Amazon has really been the industry leader in terms of using robots for fulfilment. With Walmart following closely behind.
All of these developments don’t mean that warehouses and distribution centres don’t have to worry about safety anymore. In many ways, safety is even more paramount, as there is an increase in automated machinery and human staff too. Professional safety racking companies, therefore, like Racking Spares still have a place in this side of business.