Imagine walking into the warehouse of a company that has branches all over the world. You would imagine hundreds of workers in a single warehouse- scanning items, operating forklifts, updating IT systems- to ensure accurate distribution, delivery, invoicing etc. But what if you walk into that company’s warehouse and you don’t see any staff members- would its supply chain be standing still…. or would it be fully automated?
Supply Chain Optimisation is Changing
While manual labour still plays a big and crucial role in developing countries and small to medium retail enterprises, automation is taking warehousing by storm. We have all seen one of those movies where robots are taking over the world, either by being much more intelligent than humans or because they are evil (I,Robot- Will Smith) but the major benefit for companies that comprise large warehousing environments is that automation offers a reduced safety risk to workers and while it is unethical to force workers to triple their output volume in a day, robots have no feelings and can take your warehouse wherever you want it to go…. if the required software is available.
Will Robots Take over WMS?
While automation in warehousing is key to the future of supply chain optimisation, human labour and intelligence will always be the main driver behind fully automated warehousing. While you might have three hundred robotic machines ready to streamline your warehousing supply chain processes you still need the correct warehouse software to control and optimise those processes.
How to Go From Manual to Automated WMS
The degree of automation required in a warehouse is dependent on the type of warehouse, the number of links in the surrounding supply chain, the size, the goals and the technical environment. Some countries, such as most developing countries in Africa, still comprise warehousing processes that are mostly manual with a large number of manual laborers. The first step to go from completely manual to semi-automated is to ensure an adequate technical eco-system, by implementing the correct IT infrastructure.
The next step would comprise implementing logistics software. Warehouse software is crucial to ensuring that processes can be automated, and to streamline picking and delivery functionality. Further, to ensure integration with warehouse processes and transport, mobile software is needed and can make a remarkable difference in ensuring on-time deliveries, adequate communication and integrated communication between a warehouse, its drivers, its clients and surrounding stakeholders.
While robots will, most probably, never be able to take over warehouse management, automation will most definitely streamline it.