Automation in the warehouse is becoming more predominant—automated storage and retrieval systems, automated guided vehicle systems, self-storage, and more are quickly changing how companies operate. But before jumping on the bandwagon and being dazzled by shiny new automation products, there’s a lot to consider. Below, we’ll discuss 9 of the most important steps to take and things to consider before making any major investments in automation products or systems.
- Get the buy-in of all involved
Consider all of the employees working in the warehouse whose roles and responsibilities will be changed as a result of adding automated products into the fold. You’ll need their buy-in as much as you’ll need the buy-in of company leadership. Once everyone is in on the investment, it’s time to assign roles to lead the implementation and training. You’ll need to be ready-to-go once the automation is in place.
- Gather the data before you invest
Data is crucial when it comes to automation. If you don’t have existing semi-automated systems, it can be difficult to handle a data migration to a highly-automated solution. Understand where you’re at in terms of the data you’re currently collecting—you’ll need this for calculating an ROI after your investment as well.
- Identify pain points and challenges
What are the existing challenges you’re experiencing in terms of production, picking, safety, etc. that you’d like to be addressed by investing in an automation solution? Have these pain points and challenges laid out and ensure everyone involved in the process understands the reasoning.
- Prepare for a learning curve
It’s almost a guarantee that not everyone involved in your warehouse operations will be tech-savvy. You’ll need to educate these employees and provide them with the tools they need to be able to understand the automation systems being brought in.
- Know and trace your entire process
Technology won’t do all of the work. While adding automation will likely improve your processes, you need to help by creating a well-defined process for the automation to fit into. If you experience changes in team members or other areas of your business, it’s crucial current process are documented and well-known in order to handle any turnover.
- Improve existing processes
Once your process is traceable, it’s time to improve upon it. Are there areas that need to be addressed within your warehouse before you bring in automation? Chances are, you’ll have multiple opportunities to create more efficient operations before you even sign off on an automation solution. Having your warehouse optimized and ready to go before you invest will help the on-boarding process run smoothly.
- Start small and be willing to scale
While it may be tempting to dive in head-first when it comes to automation, it’s usually advised to start small, but be willing to invest more in the future. If you are unfamiliar with highly-automated systems in your warehouse, the learning curve can be steep—starting small will help alleviate these initial challenges.
- Understand the ROI of your investment
Know the return on investment you’d like to achieve, and then the typical return on investment other companies similar to yours have seen. Have your traceable, laid-out process in front of you, along with existing data, to ensure you’ll be able to measure ROI accurately.