From Manual to Marvelous: Embracing Warehouse Management System Automation – Edition 1

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Robotics and automation play a transformative role in the way warehouses and distribution centers operate within Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). By incorporating robotics and automation technologies into WMS, businesses can achieve higher efficiency, accuracy, and productivity in their warehouse operations. And that’s what we will delve into in this blog post.

First things first, why do enterprises need Warehouse Management System Automation? The short answer is because they enable warehouses to meet the demands of today’s fast-paced e-commerce and supply chain environments while enhancing overall operational performance by increasing efficiency, accuracy, scalability, and safety. It has made warehouses more adaptable to the demands of modern supply chains, including e-commerce and rapid order fulfilment.

In the realm of modern Warehouse Management Systems, a couple of areas play significant roles in helping businesses improve their overall operations and efficiency:

Material Handling Equipment (MHE) – MHE refers to the various types of machinery and devices used in warehouses and distribution centers to move, store, and manage materials and products efficiently. Businesses can take their warehouse operations and overall productivity up a notch by integrating MHE with their WMS.  

Warehouse Control System (WCS) / Warehouse Execution System (WES) – WES is a software solution that bridges the gap between Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and automation systems, such as Conveyors, Sorters, Robots, AGVs, and AMRs, at the operational level of a warehouse. WCS, on the other hand, operates at the equipment control level, managing the movements and actions of material handling equipment (MHE) and other automated systems, including conveyor systems, sorters, robotic arms, AGVs, and AS/RS, depending on client requirements and operational design.

We’ll now take a look at some key aspects of robotics and automation in WMS:

key aspects of robotics and automation in WMS

1. Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS or AS/RS or AS RS):

This is a sophisticated robotic system that automates the process of storing and retrieving goods from designated storage locations within a warehouse or distribution center. The primary purpose of ASRS is to maximize space utilization, improve inventory management, and enhance order fulfilment efficiency. Other benefits include:

  • Automated Retrieval
  • Picking and Retrieval
  • Replenishment
  • Storage and Organization
  • Real-time inventory Tracking

2. Goods-to-Person (GTP) for Order Picking and Packing:

In this system, the worker does not physically pick or move products for an order. The GTP system presents user with Tote/Cubby/Chute and user picks the required units and returns the Tote back to storage. Most popular GTP systems these days are:

  • AGV
  • ARM

AGVs, or Automated Guided Vehicles, follow predefined paths and may require software and infrastructure adjustments to change routes. They excel in tasks with static routes, such as transporting pallets between set pick and drop zones, commonly used in automotive, 3PL, and e-commerce industries. In Warehouse Management Systems, AGVs automate material handling, boost efficiency, cut costs, enhance safety, and offer a flexible and scalable solution for warehouse operations.

AMR, or Autonomous Mobile Robot, operates independently without human intervention, dynamically navigating warehouses. They find applications in versatile industries like automotive, e-commerce, retail, and healthcare. AMRs, such as mini-load AS/RS cranes, shuttles, carousels, or VLMs, efficiently retrieve and deliver stock to workers at pick/pack stations, reducing travel for operators and labour costs. Sortation and Transportation AMRs handle tasks like order sorting and inventory transport between fixed points.

3. Conveyor Systems:

Automated conveyor systems transport goods within the warehouse, eliminating the need for manual material handling. Conveyor systems can be designed to handle different types of products, ensuring a smooth flow of goods throughout the facility.

4. Sortation Systems:

Robotic sortation systems automate the process of sorting and routing products to their appropriate destinations, such as shipping lanes or specific storage locations. This improves order accuracy and accelerates order fulfilment. The store order fulfilment process generally adopts unit sorters from popular vendors and demand from ecommerce customer forces organization to adopt manual and automated put walls.

5. Pick to Light Systems:

Pick to light systems help in improving warehouse operational efficiency by guiding user through picks with the help of lights and LED panels. Typically, PTL systems are strategically deployed for inventory items categorized as fast-moving within the warehouse with one to two users per designated zone. This approach not only streamlines the picking process but also ensures a high degree of accuracy and efficiency in managing high-demand inventory.

How can Acuver Help?

The highly skilled and experienced team from Acuver’s WMS can help you save money and time by navigating you through the vast array of cutting-edge technologies to find the offering best suited for your business. Our technology experts help in integration with any automation system with Manhattan WMS. Also, can help in developing small customization around MHE integration with WMS.

In the next edition of this post, we will see how Automation works with Manhattan WMS, its configuration steps, challenges associated and how to manoeuvre around them.

Author: Gyana Ranjan Muduli

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