CeMAT Insider

Logistics Automation: 3 Things to Know

Posted by CeMAT Team on 27-May-2016 09:15:17


This is a guest post that has been provided by Mohammad Shaban, Logistics Consultant for Bastian Solutions.

Peace of mind, organisation, simplicity. These are things we all strive for in life, in work, and of course, within the four walls of a warehouse or distribution centre. To achieve these goals in your operation, here are 3 steps to help you achieve logistics automation in your supply chain. 

Step 1: First Things First – Control Your Inventory

Start out small. Implement a Warehouse Management System (WMS) that can help facilitate the major processes within the four walls of your warehouse. From the time the truck arrives, the WMS should be able to receive product in, intelligently put it away to stocking locations, and allow you to see what and where your inventory is in the building.

You know where inventory is and the quantity on hand, giving you ultimate control of your warehouse.

No longer are you surprised by stock outs and, and your new customer, Tina, won’t be angrily calling and asking, “WHERE IS MY TRACKING NUMBER, WHY HAVEN’T MY ITEMS SHIPPED YET”.

Step 2: Automate Your Process

Receiving and stocking is now a breeze, thanks to the new and shiny WMS of yours. However, you are still constrained by the low throughput rates of manually picking orders. Resources are walking around most of the day. They arrive at the location and glance back and forth between the location number barcode on the shelf, and the location printed on the paper.  A few seconds later, Tom is looking for an item. He sees the aisle number is 3, but in reality, the number is a smudged 8. Now Tom is walking another 5 aisles to pick the wrong product.

Tina is not going to be happy if Tom places the wrong size shoe into her order. Implementing automation into your process will help assure that Tom (and other employees) will no longer misread labels and deliver the wrong product.

Here is what you need:

A WMS that can provide a mobile suite of software that can run on any device with an internet connection. There are many ways to pick product in the warehouse. Each warehouse is a unique situation, and the process must be studied carefully in order to design the right picking process.

Step 3: Get Ahead of the Curve – Goods-to-Person

Now that business is booming. It is time to capitalise on efficiency.  The next step will be implementing a goods-to-person technology; the “Tesla” or “Lamborghini” of order fulfilment. Goods-to-person is a modern method of order fulfilment.  The product is moved directly to the operator, who can then pick what is needed to fulfil orders.  It allows for an increase in efficiency and accuracy of the picking process.

  • Ideal for ergonomic picking
  • Easily scalable
  • Produces a smaller footprint and uses less space

No longer are you looking at dull rack with wasted space. Bring in the best of the best–goods-to-person technologies.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

Are my employees still walking around too much? Walking in the warehouse for your employees is a non-value add process (fancy jargon for not doing anything productive). Instead, they could be:

  • Fulfilling orders
  • Restocking the warehouse
  • Loading a truck
  • Organizing/Cleaning

Convert that non value-add, to a value-add process.

This is where intelligent routing on conveyors comes in to play. Believe me, I know what you are thinking! Expensive and inflexible. Yes, but if designed the right way, it can make a huge difference on your productivity and accuracy. Imagine being able to route cartons to specific picking/stocking zones directly with no human interaction. Tom is not looking at where this batch of orders now needs to go. The WMS and Warehouse Control System are now in charge. They make real-time decisions on where to fulfil the orders traveling on your new shiny conveyor network.


Topics: Logistics Automation, Warehouse