Warehouse work is some of the toughest and most essential work available. With the increased popularity of online shopping and the necessity for certain items to always be in stock at stores across the country, warehouses and distribution centers are under more pressure than ever to increase efficiency and cut costs.
There’s a lot of hype around warehouse automation, but is it worth it?
The initial investment in automated machinery for warehouse applications is often what holds owners and managers back. Machines cost a good amount of money upfront, and people purchase them in hopes of a more efficient operation; therefore, saving on the back end.
It’s much easier to justify hiring additional labor as the initial cost is far lower, but the efficiency is also lower.
For high volume facilities, investing in machinery often makes sense. For lower volume operations, it may not. It depends on output and current production costs.
Training, Upkeep, and Labor Costs
When you make the switch to automation, there may be some growing pains within your facility. You have new responsibilities and difficult decisions to make.
- You need less manual labor, so you may cut back on working hours.
- You need to train people on how to use the machine which takes time.
- You need to factor in the cost of regular maintenance for the machine.
While there is a lot of extra training hours and machine maintenance costs to consider, the lowering of labor costs in high-volume operations can make it well worth the investment. There is a way to integrate warehouse automation without starting a stir in your workforce or books, but it must be done gradually and carefully.
Return on Investment
The return on investment your automated machines can provide depends on the way you use the machines. If your operation produces a large volume of items, you’ll be able to use these machines in an efficient and productive manner. Lower producing facilities or facilities that do not use the machine in the best capacity could end up losing money on the deal.
It’s all about how it’s implemented within the existing processes and the facilities’ willingness to adapt to the change of automation.
There are plenty of factors affecting warehouse automation. Is it worth it? The answer is: it depends. For many operations, the benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages. For other operations, the initial investment isn’t worth the output in the long run. Take a look at your own operation and weigh both sides of the argument to determine if automation would benefit your facility or not.