4 things to know absolutely for an automated self storage or warehouse

First, an automated warehouse or self storage relies on new robotics technologies and digital or software platforms.

In addition, warehouse automation must fully integrate with existing tools such as Entreprise Ressources Planning (ERP).

This is because storage unit automation secures and optimizes processes and increases warehouse capacity and productivity.

Why is it important to automate your self storage or warehouse ?

Some of the main factors that encourage the exploration of new technologies by warehouses and logistics companies include:

  • Tensions in the labor market;
  • Prevention of occupational risks;
  • The increase in the cost of land;
  • Or even improving productivity.

It is true that new technologies are making warehouse management processes more efficient and drastically increasing productivity.

Likewise, the automation of tedious manual tasks makes it possible to focus on more complex or higher value-added tasks.

In reality, automation systems can take many forms in a self storage for example.

Thus, automated systems in logistics warehouses rely on modern, robotic equipment.

And sometimes, across the entire chain of managing stored items, from entry to the warehouse, through storage and through to exit.

What are logistics warehouse and self storage automation pros ?

  • The marked increase and productivity and precision;
  • Significant reduction in costs related to labor and operational errors;
  • Or improving security.

Indeed, this does not mean that the main purpose of robots is to reduce the workforce.

However, their role is to improve accuracy and productivity and reduce operating costs.

Also, some warehouse automation configurations cover everything from unloading trailers to fulfilling orders, without requiring employees.

Self storage providers who adopt automation technologies should drive efficiencies in their business.

What do automation configurations include ?

  • The WMS or the warehouse management software allow its management and precise control. Through a well-designed system and simple use, these solutions aim to optimize inventory management;
  • The preparation of orders via voice recognition;
  • Handling equipment to assist order pickers carrying heavy loads repeatedly;
  • The development of vertical warehouses, through the use of mechanized or automated pallet stacker cranes to store pallets at height;
  • Full automation of inventory making through the use of drones and radio frequency identification (RFID) chips;
  • Intelligent shelving whose role is to transport stored items to material handlers without human intervention.

What are the main types of logistics warehouse and self storage automation ?

Digital platforms

Digital automation uses data and software to reduce the time of manual or repetitive tasks.

It starts with a warehouse management system (WMS) that automates manual processes and data capture, inventory management, and supports data analysis.

These digital systems could easily integrate with other solutions to manage a self storage efficiently and automate tasks across different business and supply chain functions.

Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technology, such as mobile barcode or QR Code, are popular examples of digital warehouse logistics automation.

The benefits of digital process automation are numerous, and include:

  • The ability to integrate into logistics company management systems (ERP for example);
  • Improving security;
  • Greater efficiency in data management;
  • Reduced operational and legal risks;
  • Reduction of manual activities;
  • And the elimination of operational errors.

AIDC technology, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) and mobile barcode scanning, can improve the employee experience, improve customer service, and reduce operational costs associated with human error.

At first glance, implementing digital automation technology requires a significant initial investment. On the other hand, the return on investment can be quick.

Integration costs include hardware, software and support contracts as well as costs related to deployment projects and employee training.

Logistics Warehouse and Self Storage Automation

Physical automation

Its purpose is to enable the elimination of labor-intensive tasks that involve repetitive physical work and manual data entry and analysis.

For example, robots are one of the means to minimize the physical activities of employees and to improve the efficiency of workflow management processes.

The advantages of new technologies are manifold. Islands allow:

  • The further increase in the efficiency and capacity of the self storage or warehouse;
  • The reliability and scalability of services;
  • Improving performance;
  • Optimization of productivity;
  • And, operational costs reduction.

Also, do not forget to mention that any automation project will have an impact on the company’s investments and on its financial capacities for a certain period.

It is important to note that an automated self storage or logistics warehouse requires a more qualified workforce, and induces higher operating costs taking into account the maintenance of the equipment.

Highly automated systems are more suitable for warehouses with large volumes and where the existing space is sufficient to accommodate robotic equipment.

Some types of logistics warehouses or self storage units can improve their productivity and the quality of their processes without necessarily requiring physical automation.

Logistics warehouse and self storage automation types

Automation can be simple, it can be very advanced and more complex.

Basic automation systems use scheduling systems and material handling equipment to reduce repetitive tasks.

While advanced automation systems take advantage of artificial intelligence and robotics.

The categories of logistics warehouse automation are described below.

Basic automation

This type of self storage automation refers to simple technology that helps employees complete tasks that would otherwise require more manual labor.

For example, moving products from one point to another using a conveyor or a carousel.

System automation

This type of system uses software, machine learning, robotics and data analysis to automate tasks and procedures in a self storage.

For example, a logistics warehouse management system reviews all the orders that need to be filled in a day, in order to pool tasks and reduce travel and order preparation time.

Mechanized automation

This type of logistics warehouse and self storage automation uses robotic equipment and systems to take the place of certain activities normally performed by employees.

For example, robots that load autonomous mobile shelves.

Advanced automation

Advanced warehouse and self storage automation combines mechanized warehouse robotics and automation systems that can replace labor-intensive human workflows.

For example, a fleet of robotic forklifts that use advanced artificial intelligence, cameras and sensors to move around a warehouse and communicate the location of each forklift to the digital tracking system.

What are Logistics warehouse and self storage automation technologies ?

There are many types of warehouse automation and a wide range of warehouse technologies and systems available in the market, which can be implemented separately or as a cohesive whole.

These different warehouse automation and self storage technologies are described below.

Goods-To-Person (GTP)

It is one of the most popular methods of increasing efficiency and reducing congestion.

This category includes conveyors, carousels and vertical lifting systems.

When properly applied, GTP systems can double or triple the speed of warehouse picking.

Example of the principle of Goods-to-Person (GTP)

Automated Storage and Recovery Systems (AS / RS)

AS / RS are a form of goods-to-person fulfillment technology that includes automated systems and equipment such as material transport vehicles, transport shuttles, and mini-loaders for storing and retrieving products.

Example of an automated storage units and retrieval (AS / AR) system in a logistics warehouse

Automated Guided Vehicules (AGV)

This class of mechanized automation has minimal on-board computing power.

These vehicles use magnetic tapes, wires or sensors to travel a fixed path inside the logistics warehouse.

AGVs are limited to large, simple self storage environments designed with this navigation layout.

Complex logistics warehouses with a lot of human traffic and space constraints are not suitable for AGV.

Example of automated guided vehicles (AGVs)

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR)

AMRs are more flexible than AGVs, and use GPS systems to create efficient routes within the logistics warehouse.

AMRs use advanced laser guidance systems to detect obstacles to navigate safely in dynamic, high traffic environments.

Plus, they’re easy to program with routes and easy to set up quickly.

Example of an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) in a logistics warehouse

Pick-To-Light and Put-To-Light systems

Pick-to-light and put-to-light systems use mobile barcode readers synchronized with digital light displays. Their roles are to lead warehouse preparers to store or retrieve the selected products.

Therefore, they can significantly reduce:

  • Travel times;
  • Product research;
  • And human errors in high volume logistics warehouses.

Example of a Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light system in a logistics warehouse

Voice Picking and Tasking

The use of voice-activated warehouse procedures, also known as pick-by-voice, uses voice recognition and command software.

With this, the system creates optimized picking paths to direct warehouse and self storage workers to store or retrieve products.

This method eliminates the need for portable devices such as RFID or AIDC scanners, so preparers can focus on their task with improved safety and efficiency.

Example of Voice Picking and Tasking in a logistics warehouse

Automated storing systems

First, automated sorting is the process of identifying products on a conveyor system for re-routing. The latter is done using RFID, barcode readers and sensors.

In short, warehouses use automated sorting systems for order fulfillment, receiving, retrieval, packaging or shipping.

Example of an automated sorting system

To conclude

The efficiency of logistics warehouses and the costs associated with their operation have become essential factors in the success of a business.

It is true that logistics is a strategic process for which logistics warehouse automation solutions may be the most suitable solution.

In addition, it is imperative to move towards an automated logistics warehouse, if you are looking to:

  • Increase the capacities of your logistics warehouse;
  • Have high flexibility;
  • Secure your processes;
  • Reduce operational times and errors;
  • And build a strong relationship with your customers.