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PLANNING FOR SUCCESS Ensure your customers avoid the common pitfalls of


warehouse automation


It is easy to demonstrate the benefits of warehouse automation to customers but with a huge range of technologies available to achieve similar outcomes there are a number of potential pitfalls. To help you and your customers avoid some common mistakes, here are our 10 top tips


1. CONSIDER THE ENTIRE PRODUCT SUPPLY CHAIN TO IDENTIFY THE BEST AREAS TO AUTOMATE It’s easy for facilities to focus too heavily on their own portion of the supply chain. Before embarking on any improvements, it’s worth establishing if your upstream suppliers can perform certain activities more cost effectively. If they can then it might be worth a little extra expense to save time and management expenses. Conversely, if performing certain tasks at their facility results in significant savings downstream, then it’s worth investing more in those tasks. Many eCommerce and retail organisations are already taking this into consideration by using 3PLs to manage certain aspects of their supply chain.


2. AUTOMATE WHERE IT MAKES SENSE BUT


UNDERSTAND THE ROI There is a common misconception that technology will do all the work and ROI will follow. The reality is that even the best designed systems cannot be successful unless they are supported by well thought out processes. In addition, not every process is better when it’s automated, some are much more successful when performed by human hands and eyes.


3. OPTIMISE EXISTING PROCESSES FIRST, THEN LOOK AT HOW YOU CAN AUTOMATE THEM Before ploughing straight into automation, it’s valuable to map out all of your customers’ existing processes first and evaluate whether there are ways that you can improve those processes. There might be a better way of doing something without the need for automation but equally, there is no point automating a process that is flawed in the first place.


4. LOOK FOR WAYS TO MINIMISE UNNECESSARY STEPS


When you map out existing processes, try and identify any duplication or reworking of tasks. Many picking processes are littered with repetitive processes that can be eliminated with automation. For example, many facilities will use one team member to pick items from aisle locations and into a


6. OPEN THE CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN EMPLOYEES AND DEVICES Whichever approach your customers take when implementing automation solutions, it is critical to ensure that every aspect integrates and communicates effectively with other parts of the business. Bear in mind that real- time communication and systems integration may be required between multiple levels of the supply chain in order to fully support an omni-channel strategy and cope with the increasing influx of data.


7. DON’T FORGET THE RETURNS PROCESS It’s easy to focus on helping customers get items picked, packed and out of the door but the demand for reverse logistics is gaining momentum. Just like a comprehensive insurance policy, having a well planned and executed returns process is vital to minimising potential loss of revenue for your customers. The longer it takes to get a product back into the supply chain, the higher the probability that demand will dissipate, leaving companies with aging stock that has to be discounted.


8. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE It’s a common misconception that in order to see significant improvements you need to completely re-write all of your


Solutions in WAREHOUSE & LOGISTICS


cage and deliver them to a central area for another team to pick against specific customer orders.


5. START SMALL AND BUILD A SCALEABLE SOLUTION Going from little or no automation to advanced systems can often be a mistake. Not only are the cost implications significant for the end user, this approach often puts too much pressure on resellers and systems integrators for the delivery of the system. In most cases it is advisable to start with smaller but scaleable automation systems that can evolve as businesses and business processes mature. In order to do this effectively though, you still need to work with customers to understand what their ultimate vision is to ensure the systems you propose are futureproof.


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