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Editor’s choice


Unleash the full potential of warehouse automation


To take advantage of the benefits of warehouse automation, businesses must install secure and fail-proof industrial wireless networks. Here, Chris Wall, Rajant Corporation, explores a new form of industrial networking that revolutionises the way automated machines operate.


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s technology advances, so does the need for faster connectivity, networks, and communications


worldwide. Due to this, automated equipment is becoming the norm for warehouses. This need has been increasing since the turn of the century with the entry of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In 2016, worldwide sales on automated


equipment reached a value of $1.9 billion, and this is estimated to reach $22.4 billion by the end of 2021. It is evident to see the meteoric rise of this sophisticated technology, and the figures highlight that the demand for automation is only going to increase in the future. Increased automation in warehouses


worldwide is inevitable and will only continue to rise in popularity as demand soars for heftier workloads and greater efficiency levels. The overall direction will depend on how much technology the individual companies place in their respective warehouses. If owners are looking to increase their employees’ safety, it is the most logical route they will have to go down. In fact, a 2019 report stated that more than 15 per cent of US warehouses are using automated machinery, though only five per cent are fully automated currently.


THe Human-pRoof benefiTs To augmenTaTion As well as being generally faster, more efficient, and productive than the average person, automated technologies help keep warehouse employees out of harm’s way and reduce the risk of accidents in the workplace due to simple human error. Potential warehouse accidents can include slippages, heavy equipment falling, and even forklift malfunctions. Of course, these accidents can result in serious injury, risking employee safety, and would surely cost thousands in damages for the employer. These risks can be minimised by a touch of a button, as these challenging and dangerous tasks are performed by automated robotics. In 2016, there were five workplace


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injuries for every 100 full-time workers in the U.S warehouse/storage industry. As well as ensuring the safety of warehouse workers, automation can perform repetitive, high-volume tasks accurately, and provide operating inventory identification, data capture, and sortation for more precise, higher-output fulfillment 24/7. The efficiency of automation knows no


bounds once installed on a secure, industrial network. This machinery can work without interruption, with lunch breaks, work hours and an employee’s general needs made redundant. This, therefore, pays dividends as it can lead to an increased return of investment for warehouse owners, as full productivity is guaranteed.


ConneCTiviTy – essenTial To funCTion opTimally These automation benefits are nothing without a strong and consistent wireless network to retain connectivity. Machines can stop functioning when disconnected and when they do, this can completely halt production, which greatly impacts productivity and efficiency. If machinery breaks down, this can cause signal blockage and connectivity issues. Not to mention the astronomical price that the machines cost to make, the estimated cost of full automation for the average U.S warehouse is around a hefty $25 million, with just semi- automation an estimated $1-5 million. However, this figure is dependent on the size of the warehouse. Another major issue is temperature control and environmental conditions of the warehouse, risk of automated machinery overheating can cause breakages and serves as a general safety hazard. Effective automation and connectivity is essential for any fast-paced warehouse to maximise cost and workload impact. Connection needs to be solely tailored to the demands of industrial warehouse operations in order for the potential of automation to be fully utilised. The core solution is figuring out how to


maintain dependable, reliable and wide- ranging communications across all aspects


April 2021 Instrumentation Monthly


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