Conventional x Automated Warehouses
A conventional warehouse or a fully automated unit?
The word Warehouse comes from the Arabic Al-mahazán, which means “attic”. From the small spaces between the ceiling and the roof to the large distribution centers of today, many centuries have passed. Storage units have gained the status of a crucial tool in modern logistics. And the possible modalities of Intralogistics were gaining technological refinements as the flow of products became more intense. Currently, many entrepreneurs are in doubt: after all, what is better? A conventional warehouse or a fully automated unit? Depends on what business we’re talking about.
Let’s start with conventional warehouses. They are usually large sheds that may or may not have metal shelves inside. Depends on the product in stock. The daily operations performed do not depend on robots, but on human beings properly trained for the different functions present in Intralogistics. Of course, machines will be needed to move products, such as forklifts, for example. It is also possible to install conveyor belts here, which in Logistics we just call Conveyors. But in everything manual work prevails. If you have access to cheap land and don’t have a large flow of products, it may be the best solution. It is usually cheaper and presents numerous alternatives to speed up the work. It all depends on what commodity we are talking about (weight; dimensions; shelf life of the products; possible packaging restrictions, such as refrigeration and fragility; inventory turnover; flows in and out of stock).
Among the methodologies that can be applied in the internal space, we have the Porta Pallets, a system that prioritizes vertical storage, widely used in supermarkets and product distributors, as it can serve to store items of different genres and types on site. In addition to the conventional model, we have the Dynamic (verticalized system that allows the stacking of items, so as not to transfer the weight to the goods, avoiding damages.), Flow Rack (this system allows internal movement both manually and by equipment, but to be implemented, inclined tracks with plastic casters must be installed, allowing gravity to do part of the work, by a FIFO – First In, First Out.) and Push Back operation (based on the LIFO – Last In, First Out methodology. means that in this system the last goods stored will be the first to leave.
Basically, conventional warehouses are cheaper to install, but they require a large investment in labor. Even here, it is advisable to use management software to facilitate inventory control and day-to-day work. Automated warehouses are supported by the latest technology, both in automation and robotics. Such units can be built in conventional spaces or in a specific structure, such as a self-supporting warehouse, 10, 15 or 30 meters high, optimizing the use of land (indicated for regions where the square meter is very expensive). But how do you know whether or not this is an option for your company? The Solística blog gives some guidelines. You can easily opt for automation when:
- “The movement and volume of goods are high, with very varied products;
- Orders are prepared or loads are consolidated that require classifying and ordering products;
- It seeks to optimize the process to reduce costs;
- It is necessary to maximize the use of space with vertical solutions;
- If you want to have a more accurate inventory control that allows you to apply just-in-time logistics;
- And when it is estimated that the return on investment can be achieved in less than four years.”
Within an automated warehouse, you absolutely need robust control and management software, such as a WMS. Also interesting is the acquisition of an AS/RS (Automated Storage/Retrieval System), which consists of automating the loading, classification, storage and shipment processes through the use of robotic equipment and management software. With this automated collection and storage system, the need for manpower is reduced and productivity and efficiency are increased, as it can operate constantly to ensure that the work is done on time and well.
In addition to conveyors, automated warehouses can count on stacker cranes, robots moving loads, AGV System (system of automated guided vehicles consisting of small wagons or forklifts that move transporting products through the warehouse), vertical or horizontal carousels, shuttle vertical Lift Module (or VLM, a solution for storing small and expensive items in countless racks within automated equipment), and warehouse product location systems such as Pick to Light (or PTL) and Pick to Voice (or PTV) ). It all depends on your need and available capital. But as for the investment, don’t worry. Making a budget is the best way.
And what are the advantages of a warehouse with so much technology? Are several:
- Fewer accidents involving people;
- More suitable working conditions for employees;
- Continuous operations, as machines are not limited to time;
- Reduction of labor costs by reducing the number of people in the operation;
- Accurate knowledge of inventory levels so as not to fall into shortages, excess products or aging of the goods;
- Optimization of storage space, using high-rise vertical systems.
- Decrease in maintenance costs, thanks to reduced damage to goods or structures.
- Greater safety and less contamination of the cargo, as it is not exposed to human manipulation.
- Elimination of human errors in documentation, which can mean delays in the processing of goods.
- Improved delivery time and accuracy.
- Better level of specialization and training of the workforce, which offers more professional services, which makes it more efficient and productive.
In summary, it is worth investing in a good warehouse, whether conventional or automated. There are many possibilities between these two options. Want to know which ones? Keep in touch with us. Águia Sistemas is a national leader in Intralogistics solutions, both for conventional and automated spaces.