When considering the best way to improve the efficiency of your warehouse operations, it may be tempting to jump straight into automation. However, before committing to the significant expense and potential disruption that automation can bring, it can be useful to optimize your warehouse first using data analysis and other tools.
Optimize and Learn
Optimizing your facility before automating provides several benefits, such as gaining valuable insights into what’s working and what isn’t, creating more space for product, improving workforce productivity, and enhancing overall efficiency, all of which are essential to understand and do before implementing any large-scale automation. Here are a few ways to optimize your warehouse before automating:
- Collect data and analyze it: Solid warehouse operations data reveal inefficiencies and guide future decisions about what solutions to implement to solve existing problems. Data reports provide you with detailed information on worker productivity, equipment age, and projected business growth, among others.
- Reassess fleet and labor force size: Good data can also let you know if your fleet is right sized. Do you have the right number of manual handling lift equipment? Do you need more forklifts? Do you have the right number of people working in the right areas at the right times? Do you have seasonal surges? Are you growing?
- Use the right equipment: Determine the necessary equipment for your warehouse’s operations and invest accordingly, from storage to movement and everything in between.
- Evaluate your space: Making the most efficient use of your space is a key to effective warehouse management. Are you using the best racks and storage systems for your inventory? How are your aisles and walkways? Are offices located on the floor where supervisors can see what’s going on? Are you making use of vertical space?
Automate to Move Forward
After optimizing your warehouse, automation may still be an excellent option. Automation uses technology to improve your current processes, with the ultimate goal of reducing costs, increasing productivity, and making your warehouse more flexible and scalable. Automation done effectively maximizes human activity, allowing your warehouse processes to function more productively. By optimizing before automating, you will see more clearly where automation solutions have the potential to make the biggest impact.
Optimizing first gets your operations as they stand now to the best place you can. It helps you avoid implementing costly automation solutions in situations where optimization would have done the trick. It can be tempting to see automation as a fix-all tool; when you get a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But automation is an expensive tool best reserved for taking an optimized warehouse to the next level.
Optimize, then automate.