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3 Signs it’s Time to Bring Automation and Robotics into Your Distribution Network

Automation and Robotics into Your Distribution Network

The buzz around automation and robotics in the supply chain is louder than ever, yet many businesses are still in the early stages of adoption. In fact, research suggests that currently, more than 80% of warehouses lack any form of automation. So, how do you know when the time is right to introduce automation and robotics into your distribution network? Let’s explore some key indicators, along with insights from industry experts from Robust.AI, Advanced Intralogistics, and Locus Robotics.

Indicator 1: Difficulty in Hiring

According to John Moretti, Head of Product at Robust.AI, one clear sign that the time is right to introduce automation and robotics into your distribution network is difficulty in hiring new labor. Rising costs and the need to fill dirty or dangerous jobs further support the case for automation. Additionally, the lengthy training time required for new employees to become productive can be drastically reduced with automation, allowing for quicker onboarding and increased efficiency.

Indicator 2: Space Utilization Challenges

Randy Marble, Senior Software Sales Consultant at Advanced Intralogistics, emphasizes the importance of space utilization in distribution centers. As companies grow and volumes increase, instead of expanding physical space, automation offers a solution through dense storage options like vertical lift modules. These systems optimize storage space and improve accessibility by bringing products to the worker, rather than the worker searching for items.

Indicator 3: Labor Availability

Steve Simmerman, Head of Global Alliances at Locus Robotics, highlights the ongoing challenge of labor availability in distribution centers. It’s not just about labor costs but the sheer difficulty in finding available workers. This scarcity of labor makes automation an attractive solution for streamlining operations and maintaining productivity.

Benefit of Automation and Robotics

One thing our experts all agree on is that introducing automation and robotics into your distribution network enables many benefits, including: 

  • Automated Order Picking
  • Reducing Travel Time and Labor
  • Sorting and Packaging
  • Inventory Management
  • Warehouse Optimization
  • Scalability and Flexibility
  • Data Analytics and Insights

But deciding on what to implement can be challenging. Robotics is rapidly evolving, with many companies offering various solutions. However, it’s essential to remember that robotics is a tool, not the end goal. The ultimate goal of a distribution operation is to fulfill orders accurately, quickly, and cost-effectively. Each of these factors—accuracy, time, and cost—can be objectively measured.

To determine if robotics are the right solution, start by identifying the specific problems you want to address in your warehouse operations. Once you understand your warehousing and distribution requirements, you can consider all viable solutions, from manual to automated, including robotics. By objectively comparing the business cases of various options, you can select the most effective solution that best satisfies your defined business requirements, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Conclusion

The signs are clear: the time is right to bring automation and robotics into your distribution network when hiring challenges arise, space utilization becomes a concern, and labor availability is scarce. These factors, coupled with advancements in technology and the need for greater efficiency, make automation an increasingly compelling option for businesses looking to stay competitive in today’s market. But automation and robotics can require a significant investment, so take the time to make an informed decision. For more expert tips on the adoption of automation and robotics, check out our Ask the Experts video here.