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Autonomous Operations – Bringing efficiencies to Warehouse Operations

Autonomous Operations – Bringing efficiencies to Warehouse Operations

29 September 2022

By: Anuraag Bhatnagar

Digitization and Automation has been gaining momentum like never before.  Global pandemic further accentuated this need. In addition there is shortage of manpower. Talented people look for more challenging work rather than doing repetitive mundane tasks, consumer’s expectations are ever rising. 24×7 operations with expectations of zero tolerance for errors, are ever increasing. There is need to address these needs quickly. Fortunately technology developments have advanced bring various options to choose from. Autonomous operations have been adopted by manufacturing for years and the pace of automation continues to grow.

Automated Operations  allows processes to run independently without human interference. Operations dynamically adapt themselves to environmental changes thereby eliminating the need for labour intensive tasks. Operations are enabled with end to end automation with zero touch processing, adding value to business and human well-being. Autonomous System can achieve a certain objective in a dynamic environment by collecting information of ever-changing situation and analyzing over a period of time without any human intervention. Automation has been successfully applied in industries for years with use of Robots and mechanical arms etc. More recently we have seen Autonomous operations being applied to driverless cars. Though we still wait to see mass adoption.

An industry which is in clear and urgent need for Autonomous Operations and is a topic of our interest for this blog is Warehousing. Increased e-commerce activity, shorter delivery time expectations and near real time asset management, among other requirements, are pushing boundaries of human intervention in warehousing processes.   Automated processes have a potential to bring multiple productivity and efficiency benefits such as, worker’s safety, reduced operational costs, faster quality service and remote operations.  Importance of Automated Operations has been significantly triggered by  rapid rise of e-commerce during the Pandemic. There is a severe impact on Supply Chain Management. It involves not only logistics of procurement of goods to delivery but also material handling, tracking information and orders, fulfilling orders quickly, etc.

Warehouse Management encompasses all the processes involved in running day-to-day operations of a warehouse. Autonomous Operations can improve warehouse management and enable an efficient supply chain. Basic warehouse processes can be independently coordinated with minimum or no human assistance.  Warehouse Processes such as., Receiving, put away, Storage, Order Management, Picking, Packing,  Shipping activities can be automated to a large degree. Technology is available today to address most of these processes. Automation also helps in collecting automated, authentic and error free data which further enhances analysis based decision.  inventory placements, real time inventory data tracking of items, reduces operating cost by analyzing best locations for products and equipment, improved Demand Forecasts by assessing current movements of materials and historic trends, traceability of items and many more possibilities. 

For People involved in the operations, well-being improves significantly as they can be moved from doing mundane tasks to higher value add activities.

In a series of blogs we will be further looking deeper into Warehouse  Automated Operations, its maturity model and series of steps an organization can go through in their automation journey. We will also look at various technologies available today supporting the Automation journey.

The opportunities are huge and the journey has just begun.

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