Building a smart warehouse no longer requires major investment

Adoption of smart warehousing solutions is growing rapidly as warehousing efficiency, along with streamlining other processes, becomes a more important priority for both retailers and logistics providers.

Warehouse automation is nothing new, but many factors are driving escalating adoption across the supply chain. For example, labor issues over the past three years have put pressure on warehouse productivity and profitability as labor availability remains low and wage rates continue to rise.

In short, automation technology is helping alleviate these challenges. However, you cannot throw automation into the mix and expect results. Warehouses vary in size, complexity, and pain points. The warehousing needs of consumer goods companies are very different from those of e-commerce.

Automation is not a one-size-fits-all solution, so we recommend partnering with someone who knows automation best.

As warehouse automation experts, Ryder works closely with warehouse operations to provide automation solutions that fit their profile.

Gary Allen, Ryder’s vice president of supply chain excellence, said the challenge is to scrutinize what technologies are in place today and what technologies are coming. He said to ensure that only solutions that have been proven to solve the problem and provide sufficient returns are offered. About investment.

But piecing together automation technology — integrating robotic picking arms into autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) or autonomous forklifts on traditional mechanized conveyor lines — is easier said than done. Because automation is more than just physical, it also requires robust data integration.

Therefore, it is important to design automation with sufficient flexibility and scalability. Because Allen said what dynamically changing companies don’t want to do is invest millions in fixed warehouse automation—a solution that can’t be easily updated.

Thankfully, investing tens of millions of dollars is no longer a prerequisite to building a smart warehouse. In fact, businesses of all sizes can invest heavily in AMRs, sensors, automated identification tools, and other technologies.

According to Allen, automation is ripe for industries such as retail and e-commerce, which have a large number of Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) and can effectively implement AMRs and automated forklifts in their operations. That’s it.

But Allen points out that today’s augmented technologies, such as sensors and wearables, fit nearly every profile.

“Even though the number and volume of SKUs are decreasing, some of the new technology around robotic pickers and AMR is starting to fit the profile,” Allen said, adding that AMR is now more efficient across its million-square CPG warehouse. It describes being able to handle heavy pallets feet.

This may come as a surprise to many companies who have been led to believe that automation requires a large capital investment. This is perhaps because it is perpetuated by large-scale projects such as Amazon’s “fully automated” warehouse that presents a grandiose view of automation. But the reality is that automation today is more accessible, flexible, and cheaper than it used to be.

Ryder’s investment in automation has increased significantly over the past five years. Allen attributes this largely to having the right people with the right knowledge.

“We have a dedicated team of automation specialists who are experts in automation,” says Allen. “They have a responsibility to look beyond Ryder’s industry verticals, whether it’s e-commerce, consumer goods or automotive, to understand what’s going to happen in the future, not just the technologies that are proven today. there is.”

Additionally, Ryder builds proprietary modeling and simulation tools to ensure each use case is profitable and meets client productivity expectations.

Allen points out that about 15 to 20 percent of Ryder’s roughly 400 warehouses use some form of automation technology, while the typical non-e-commerce company has automated only 10 percent of its warehouses. did.

“We run about 20 to 30 different automation deployments across our network in a given year,” says Allen.

He expects automation technology to become more flexible and cheaper in the next three to five years. “We believe customers will continue to expect the use and adoption of automation, and ROI expectations will continue to decline.

“We will continue to invest in automation not only by strategically partnering with leading providers, but also by investing in expertise and facilities and continuing to invest in research and development.”

Click here for more FreightWaves content by Jack Glenn.

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