The logistics industry is undergoing a technological revolution. Spurred on by the pandemic, more and more companies are investing in automated solutions to grow their businesses and cope with increasing demand. This is particularly true for warehouses and fulfilment facilities in which efficiency and accuracy is key.
With challenges along the supply chain as a result of Brexit and the pandemic, demand for warehouse automation has been spurred on, said Jason Dyche, director of automation at UK based Big Box Automation, that specialises in innovative technology led solutions for warehouse automation.
“Due to the events of the last 18 months, the pandemic, Brexit and shortage of labour including drivers, there is interest is in all aspects of our goods to person/sortation and automated guided vehicles (AGVs),” explained Dyche.
“My general view is that companies were planning on introducing aspects of automation in the next 7-10 years however the reality is that organisations are reviewing areas of automation and efficiency through their business with the view to act more quickly, even immediately.
“Warehouse automation is inevitable especially in manufacturing, e-Commerce and time challenging sectors.”
Big Box offers automated solutions in the form of robotic handling, e-fulfilment and scanning. Robotic handling solutions replace manually operated Mechanical Handling Equipment with robotic operated machinery. The company offers Autonomous Lift Trucks (ALT’s) – these can be seen as direct replacements for the pallet trucks, stackers, reach trucks and very narrow aisle vehicles.
They also offer Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR’s), which are intelligent individual robots engineered to move a diverse range of inventory payloads – on pallets, racks, cages or trolleys – amongst zones in a warehouse.
E-fulfilment technology can merge with warehouse staff to streamline processes. For example, the Ranger Goods To Person Fulfilment Robot operates in combination with GreyMatter, Big Box’s dedicated operational management software and the human workforce to perform warehouse movement, delivery consolidation, packing and sorting for dispatch.
A seat at the automation table
“Big Box customers range from small and medium-sized enterprises through to manufacturing and global business’ as well as e-Commerce. Every customer has different challenges so Big Box works in partnership with the client to provide the “right solution”. This could be scanning, picking, automation, mezzanine floors and temporary warehouse buildings,” said Dyche.
SMEs, 3PLs, Blue Chip companies and e-Commerce businesses most certainly have a seat at the automation table. Being proactive today means being less reactive tomorrow.
Although interest in warehouse operations has been peaked during the pandemic, it has not been without its complications. “The pandemic has affected everything,” said Dyche. “From site visits and restrictions to lead times and the way we communicate with clients but we are flexible and versatile so we’re ready to provide options and alternatives for our customers.
Unsurprisingly it has been the industries that have performed well that have invested in automated processes.
“Working in the home delivery and e-Commerce sectors there has been dramatic uplift in orders. This has been seen especially in scanning and picking solutions where you can save 3-4 seconds per pick and return on investment can be as quick as 3-6 months,” said Dyche.
Technology is changing
The warehouse automaton sector is constantly changing as new technologies emerge. “Technology is changing and developing faster than ever,” explained Dyche. “For example AGV’s can now lift pallets at 11.5 metres high working with the latest software decreasing accidents and increasing capacity working around the clock.”
When it comes to research and development, Dyche noted that each client’s needs are different and therefore require a unique approach to fit in with their goal. “Because of this, we visit the site, listen, review and then provide options on best practice and products bespoke to the budget and company strategy. We also offer Lean Six Sigma, a service which looks to remove waste, reduce variation and optimise operational efficiencies.
“Big box has over 20 years’ experience in intralogistics, buildings and automation across many sectors. We work with a number of partners so we can assess each client’s challenges and brief and provide a bespoke solution which works. Through our knowledge and expertise Big Box provide the right solutions within budget and to meet objectives.”