Is there a new world of automated forklifts upon us? Will we even need humans to operate forklifts once the automated robots take over? Warehouse operations are more complex today than they have ever been. In today’s fast-paced business climate, customers increasingly demand and expect more from their warehouse and distribution centers. Customers today are finicky. They expect to receive their orders as quickly and accurately as possible, while receiving the highest level of service. Switching to automated forklifts may be you only way to keep up with these demands. If you are looking for more information about how your business can keep competitive, contact Wayco. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and help you create an effective solution to your warehousing needs.
Amazon: An Automated Warehouse in Action
Amazon is a great example where automated robots are used effectively in a warehouse setting. These automated robots carry bins of product that people have ordered online to the associates who then pick out the item that their customer has ordered. Instead of humans walking to find that item, the item comes to them now. By a scanning QR codes to detect their path and moving in different directions within a grid, these robots cleverly move to where they are needed. It is impressive to see several robots, each carrying about 700 lbs of materials, each one waiting their turn to be sorted.
It is a real challenge to have different machines move around on their own, in a given space, especially since each one weighs about eight tonnes. By using built-in sensor technology, the robots don’t crash into each other, even though they’re moving at 8 km/h. Tens of thousands of items leave Amazon each day – and for those who use Prime delivery in the GTA, they get their packages at their door mere hours later.
Will Automation Take Away Jobs?
The working relationship between man and machine is part of a typical day at a Amazon. Automation has allowed a quicker turnaround in supply and shipping in places. Some have argued that the use of machines in warehouses will take away jobs. On the contrary, Amazon says they have been able to grow their workforce because of the use of robotics. Amazon’s New Jersey automated center has the largest workforce with more than 3,500 full-time employees. Brampton has 700 full-time employees, with an additional 200 hired last month, working in this 855,000 square feet. Amazon has opened a fulfillment center every year in Canada since 2011, starting with Mississauga, then growing into a second Brampton location and Milton, plus two warehouses in British Columbia.
Westfalia: Optimize Your Warehouse
Westfalia is an automated storage & retrieval system that combines software development with machinery from pallet flow systems, conveyors, order pick systems (pick-to-light, pick-to-voice, etc), layer forming and robotic palletizers, automated parking systems, and stainless steel case packing, stacking and handling equipment. Westfalia’s flexible automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) consists of a variety of computer-controlled systems for automatically placing and retrieving loads from defined storage locations. The computer determines where in the storage area the item can be retrieved from and schedules the retrieval. It directs the proper automated storage and retrieval machine to the location where the item is stored and directs the machine to deposit the item at a location where it is to be picked up. A system of conveyors and or automated guided vehicles is sometimes part of the AS/RS system. These take loads into and out of the storage area and move them to the manufacturing floor or loading docks. To store items, the pallet or tray is placed at an input station for the system, the information for inventory is entered into a computer terminal and the AS/RS system moves the load to the storage area, determines a suitable location for the item, and stores the load. As items are stored into or retrieved from the racks, the computer updates its inventory accordingly.
They have the ability to adapt to changing market conditions now and in the future implementing warehouse solutions to manufacturers and distributors utilizing a variety of loads. Westfalia’s theory is “Warehouse storage space is expensive, so it makes sense to make the most of your warehouse storage capacity in order to reduce carrying costs and increase material handling efficiency.”
Recently a private label bottled water industry installed an AS/RS system for their residential and retail clients sizes ranging from single servings to five gallon bottles. Now it operates in one aisle, each capable of handling two pallets at a time. Rack entry vehicles quickly and smoothly store and retrieve pallets from the four level rack which holds over 6,500 pallet positions in 10 pallet deep storage lanes. In a few short months, a marked improvement in safety has already been noticed due to significantly fewer forklifts being used for warehousing. An updated accurate full inventory can be obtained with a push of a button!
Warehouse Automation Can Cut Long-term Costs
One fact exists, warehouse automation stands as one of the last areas where long-term costs can be significantly reduced. Many vendors with automated robotics have undergone numerous tests with their automation and have found that it operates almost flawlessly. As in all major capital purchases, cost is a big consideration. It is important to remember that over a 25+ year life cycle, the initial cost lessens when taking into account the annual profits, which are usually related to labor cost reductions, a smaller footprint, and higher customer service levels. So basically a 25+ year life cycle can be achieved in 5 years or less. Warehouse automation can give a company new opportunities for higher productivity, better space utilization and greater economic justification.
What Purposes Do Automated Forklifts Serve?
But let’s go over exactly what automated equipment can do and what they can not do in the whole warehouse process. Automated robotics has allowed a quicker turnaround in supply and shipping in places. Robotics can boost your productivity, reduce product damage, and optimize your facility, reducing costs and increasing efficiency and profitability. One fact exists, warehouse automation stands as one of the last areas where long-term costs can be significantly reduced.
Another great factor is safety, it will eliminate fork truck related accidents as well as eliminate any facility and equipment damage by conventional fork trucks. There is also a reduction in mis-shipments and product loss with automated machinery. Bottom line is that they can achieve a higher customer satisfaction levels which in turn will create future growth. But don’t worry about machines taking over. The cool thing about humans is that we are still needed to operate the machines; to actually get things done. Plus, who’s going to repair these automated forklifts when they need maintenance; and someone has to drive the product to the customer or check the product for damage.
What you need to know before buying
Substantial benefits and significant labour savings can be provided by automation. Unfortunately, if you make the wrong choices, you can burn a hole in you wallet getting little, if any improvement over what could have be done with traditional solutions. To determine whether or not they are right for you, you will need to weigh the benefits and drawbacks and decide whether they would hinder or complement your business.
Here are a few simple rules to help you make a decision when investing in automation:
Purchase high-quality equipment
Design for expansion
Remember that long term planning automation occurs over the course of several years
Training Costs for new equipment’s operational and safety procedures
Calculate the cost savings
Personnel should be part of the project team from the start; do not wait unit system goes live
Be proactive; it’s less expensive to follow recommended preventive maintenance schedules
Select your vendor carefully; check references and experience
Make a list of the benefits
Where to buy
Automated solutions can solve challenges today and ensure that you’re ready to react more quickly to business disruptions. Labour costs are rising and automated forklifts are ideal for tasks that are tedious and labour intensive, but do not require much skill like Diematic Mobile Automation. These mobile robotic automated guided vehicles can move and transport items within production, warehouse and distribution environments. Maybe you need a solution for warehouse space? Earlier we talked about warehouse solutions from Westfalia Innovative Solutions custom automated storage and retrieval solution a leading provider of logistics solutions with over 100 installations in North and South America. Today, the sales of automated forklifts vendors are on the rise. You can purchase them from companies such as Transbotic, Diematic and Kollmorgen . These are just a few vendors, but remember what you need to know before buying.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Automated Forklifts
To help you determine whether or not they are right for you, here are some of the major benefits and drawbacks of using Automated Forklifts.
Repetitive – with little variation, shift after shift
Optimized space utilization
Reduced labor and equipment costs.
Less product and waste damage
Lower maintenance costs
Lower energy costs
Safety eliminates truck related accident
Of course, there are some disadvantages to using robotics. These include:
Can’t always adapt to changing situations
Product label could be unreadable, show as an error
Initial cost of equipment is high
Not suitable for non-repetitive tasks
Potential Job Losses
Hiring or Training Skilled Staff
Possible down time due to malfunctions
Canadians may be slowly outsourcing themselves to robots – and that may have a significant impact on the economy, according to an automation expert. Right now, drones are being tested for deliveries, eliminating more potential jobs. With this growing boom, the last decade has seen Automated Forklifts become integrated in many industries outside of distribution and manufacturing—such as retail, the military, and even healthcare.