Many businesses are experiencing changes as a result of the uptake in eCommerce, and logistics automation is no exception. We spoke with Marcus Rose, Sales Manager at Custom Automation about the biggest trends and benefits when implementing logistics automation, and not surprisingly improved safety, improved efficiency and a reduction in costs seem to be the winning factors for more efficient supply chain management.
Question: What do you think will be the biggest automation trends in 2016?
Answer: Automation is a constantly evolving industry, as technology advances, we are able to further customise our offering to our clients to better suit their needs.
As internet-based software applications (WMS & ERP) continue to change the way business is conducted, a big trend for 2016 is creating a WLAN that is capable of providing totally wireless and reliable communication between operational equipment, warehouse management software (WMS) and management (ERP) software. This can be a challenge. You’d be surprised how many companies are still operating as best they can with an inferior residential type wireless network and putting up with regular drop outs. With the increase in mobile devices being used by sales people, customers and operators alike, it’s imperative that the WLAN is sufficient to support reliable communication right through the production and warehousing areas of the business to ensure a smooth flow of information and maximise supply chain efficiency.
One of the first steps in the planning process for any automated solution by Custom Automation is to assess the suitability of the WLAN and take steps to ensure that reliability and efficiency will not be compromised by avoidable problems such of communication drop-outs which in the end, cost clients money.
Question: What are the biggest opportunities?
Answer: With the falling AUD and the ever increasing costs of manufacturing abroad, there is likely to be a continued trend of re-shoring manufacturing, similar to what we’ve seen in the USA in the last 12-24mths. But companies who choose to stay or indeed return to manufacturing in Australia will be keen not to repeat the mistakes of the past and put operating systems, automation and software in place to ensure that operations are productive, efficient and cost effective.
Virtually every manual task can be successfully and reliably done by automation, and with the continual fall in technology costs, ROI periods are ever reducing. For example; there are humanoid robots out there now that can complete repeated packing tasks for little more than a 6-12mth ROI. There are Automated Guided Vehicles’ (AGV’s) like our Daifuku SmartCart that can complete many of the intra-logistics tasks of a manually operated forklift or buggy for around $60-70K.
These advances in technology shouldn’t be seen as threat to jobs, they should be seen as an opportunity for companies to improve efficiency by automating mundane tasks which people don’t want or need to do and therefore freeing up employees and employers to focus on the more interesting and important aspects of the operation. It also helps to protect companies from the likely upcoming labour shortage in Australia.
Question: Can you provide any case studies of successful implementation of automation?
Answer: We recently completed a job at a truck manufacturing company which really pushed the limits of what our Automated Smart Carts had done. With some clever engineering and in-house testing we created a smart, safe and economical solution where two Smart Carts work in tandem to move large (up to 12 meter/ 4 tonne) chassis down a production line.
This allowed the client to remove manual handling of heavy loads and overcome a major OHS issue.
Question: What benefits will businesses see if implementing logistics automation?
Answer: Improved safety, improved efficiency and the all important increased bottom line.
Question: What are the most important considerations when choosing automation software?
Answer: Be certain that the software and hardware you choose is right for your application.
Don’t be drawn in by the cheapest price. The cost of getting a job done cheaply is often far more expensive in the long run than getting it done right the first time.
Question: There is a rising shift in the adoption of goods-to-person automation, what kind of shuttle systems offer the most flexibility to implement this successfully?
Answer: There are so many different options for the storage/retrieval aspect of goods-to-person systems. Every provider can make an argument as to why their system is the most effective option for a particular application and all look impressive. A consultant or an independent integrator like Custom Automation can help by providing impartiality in the selection process to weigh up the pros and cons of each system to ensure that the client ends up with the best result for them, and not the best result for the provider.
Question: What lies ahead for the future of logistics automation?
Answer: Reducing the number of times a product is handled from production to consumption is the name of the game. Once a business has exhausted all options in making the operation as lean as possible, automating as many of the remaining tasks as possible is the next step. As technology evolves, and the costs continue to fall, there are opportunities across all industries for automating the intra-logistics parts of their business using Automatic Guided Vehicles, Conveyors, Picking Systems, Palletising Robots, Picking Robots, ERP/WMS software, Barcodes, RFID technology.
It’s an exciting time in the world of automation and we’re wrapped to be a part of it.
About the author:
Marcus Rose is Sales Manager at Custom Automation Australia. He is passionate about two things, seamless processes and the Richmond Football Club. With vast experience in the logistics and electrical industry, he is enthusiastic about what lies ahead in the future of Automation.