Tag Archive for: Automation

Maximizing Small-Footprint Warehouses with Automation Solutions

While automation solutions are often seen in large warehouses that turn over thousands of daily orders, smaller operations can equally benefit from the integration of automation technologies. With a smaller footprint and thoughtful design, tailored solutions can allow you to reap benefits such as lower labor costs, increased inventory control, and improved overall efficiency.

Why Automation Can Be Ideal for a Small Footprint

When assessing how automation could impact a small footprint, each square foot of space is even more valuable than in a large facility. Many automation solutions can be scaled to the unique size of your facility as well as the challenges your operation is faced with. The reliability and consistency that automation brings, coupled with simplified maintenance, make it an attractive choice for smaller organizations who need to achieve improved productivity and cost savings. Automation in a small footprint is often the ideal solution to maximize operational efficiency and gain agility to navigate the complexities of the modern supply chain.

Examples of Automation Solutions for Small-Footprints

As every operation’s needs are unique, there is no “best” automation solution for small footprints. However, there are popular solutions highlighted below that are designed with space-savings in mind.

High Density Storage & Picking Solutions

High-density storage and picking solutions are flexible, easily scalable options that fit most small-footprint warehouses. These solutions typically involve storing totes in a very dense storage system and having the totes brought to a picking station to allow items to be selected to fulfill orders. By definition, these are goods to person storage and picking solutions that help warehouse managers make the most of limited floor space. Small-footprint warehouses can significantly benefit from this high-density storage and picking solutions, as they enable businesses to overcome spatial constraints, improve productivity, and meet the growing demands of e-commerce and rapid order fulfillment while giving them the freedom to expand in the future to meet changing business needs.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)

AS/RS systems are designed to optimize vertical space in warehouses by automating the storage and retrieval of goods. These systems use robotic cranes and conveyors to move items between storage locations and picking stations. AS/RS helps maximize storage density and efficiency, making it suitable for warehouses with limited floor space.

Vertical Lift Machines (VLMs)

VLMs, or vertical carousels or lift modules, are automated storage systems that efficiently utilize vertical space. These machines consist of vertically arranged trays or carriers that can move up and down to retrieve and store items. VLMs are suitable for warehouses with limited floor space as they provide high-density storage and quick access to stored goods. Operators can request specific items, and the VLM retrieves them, reducing the need for extensive manual searching and inventory handling. This automation solution is effective for small warehouses aiming to optimize storage space and improve picking efficiency.

Storage Solution’s In-House Resources Critical for Design

The design of an automation solution in a smaller footprint requires an exceptional understanding of the existing operation to tailor a solution that matches the footprint and the products being moved. Storage Solution’s technology-agnostic approach, paired with our in-house team’s experience and skills, allows our team to find the most effective solution to your problem.

No matter the size of your warehouse, automation is not just a nice thing to have in the future but a must-have in the present to ensure your warehouse can scale and grow at its full potential. Our team is ready to help evaluate your existing operations, find the most prevalent bottlenecks, and design a solution that will alleviate operational challenges.

Ready to start the process of solving your operational challenges? Get in contact with a Storage Solution’s automation expert here!

Is Automating My Warehouse Cost-Effective

Finding the best automation solution for your warehouse involves many variables, but a key factor is understanding the solution’s return on investment to determine if it is cost-effective or not. As companies embrace the era of intelligent technology, strategic budgeting becomes crucial for successfully implementing and maintaining automated warehouse systems.

Understanding the Need for Automation

Before diving into strategic budgeting, it’s imperative to recognize the driving forces behind warehouse automation. Increased demand for faster order fulfillment, error reduction, and the desire to optimize overall operational efficiency while maximizing labor productivity are among the primary reasons businesses turn to automation. By streamlining processes through technology integration, companies can enhance productivity, minimize errors, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

Assessing Current Operations

CARES

The first step in strategic budgeting for warehouse automation is conducting a comprehensive assessment of the existing warehouse operations. This includes analyzing current workflows, identifying bottlenecks, and understanding the specific pain points that automation can address. A thorough assessment provides valuable insights into the areas where automation can make a significant impact, allowing for targeted budget allocation.

Setting Clear Objectives

Establishing clear objectives is paramount to successfully budgeting for warehouse automation. Whether the goal is to increase order processing speed, reduce labor costs, or enhance order

accuracy, defining these objectives helps prioritize automation investments. Each objective should be measurable and aligned with the overall business strategy to ensure a return on investment is possible.

Cost-Benefit Analysis 

Return On Investment Example

Conducting a detailed cost-benefit analysis is a critical component of strategic budgeting. This involves estimating the initial costs of implementing automation solutions, including equipment, software, and installation expenses. Understanding the impacts of long-term operating expenses should also be part of this process. Simultaneously, businesses must project the expected benefits, such as labor savings, increased throughput, and error reduction. A well-executed cost-benefit analysis aids decision-makers in determining the feasibility and potential return on investment for each automation initiative.

Prioritizing Investments

Not all warehouse processes require the same level of automation. Strategic budgeting involves prioritizing investments based on their impact on the overall operation. High-impact areas where automation can yield significant benefits should be allocated a larger portion of the budget. This prioritization ensures resources are directed toward initiatives aligning with the company’s overarching goals.

Adapting to Scalability

Warehouse automation should not be viewed as a one-time investment but rather as a scalable solution that can grow alongside the business. Strategic budgeting considers the scalability of automation systems, allowing for future expansions or modifications. This approach ensures that the initial investment lays the foundation for long-term success without the need for substantial reinvestment in the future.

Continuous Monitoring and Optimization

Investing in warehouse automation continues after the initial implementation. Continuous monitoring of automated processes is essential to identify areas for improvement and optimization. Allocating a portion of the budget for ongoing maintenance, software updates, and employee training ensures that the automated system remains efficient and aligned with evolving business needs.

By adopting a forward-thinking approach to budgeting, businesses can unlock the full potential of warehouse automation, achieving operational excellence while staying ahead in modern supply chain management.

Our team looks forward to evaluating your existing operations to show you the potential returns of implementing automation into your operations. Click here to get the process started today!

Applications of Vertical Lift Modules

The quest for efficiency, accuracy, and productivity is an ongoing journey in modern logistics and warehousing. Warehouses and distribution centers are continuously evolving to meet the demands of a rapidly changing marketplace. One technology that has made a significant impact in this transformation is the Vertical Lift Module (VLM). VLMs are dynamic, automated storage and retrieval systems that provide flexible solutions for various applications.

Dense Storage of Slow/Medium Moving SKUs

VLMs are adept at maximizing space utilization. Storing slow or medium-moving items within their compact vertical structures frees up valuable floor space that can be utilized for fast-moving goods or other operations.

Batch Picking of Small Cube Items

VLMs are ideal for batch picking. They automatically retrieve the required items from their vertical shelving, ensuring a faster and more accurate picking process. This results in reduced labor costs and improved order fulfillment times.

Tool Crib Storage

VLMs can serve as an efficient tool crib for organizations that require easy access to tools and equipment. Tools are securely stored within the VLM, and authorized personnel can request and retrieve them at the push of a button.

Manufacturing Line-Side Storage

VLMs placed near manufacturing lines provide quick access to essential components and materials, reducing production downtime and optimizing workflow.

Work Cell Storage

VLMs can be integrated into work cells, providing compact, organized storage for materials and components needed in production processes. This streamlines the work cell’s operations.

Point of Use Storage

VLMs placed at points of use within a facility provide easy access to frequently utilized items, improving worker efficiency and reducing the need to travel long distances within the warehouse.

E-commerce Fulfillment

VLMs are instrumental in e-commerce warehouses where the demand for quick and accurate order fulfillment is paramount. They facilitate fast access to a wide range of SKUs, enabling faster picking and packing.

Spare Parts Storage

Storing spare parts can be challenging, especially when they come in various sizes and shapes. VLMs ensure that these parts are organized and accessible, reducing downtime in maintenance and repair activities.

Kitting Components Storage & Picking

VLMs excel at storing kitting components for assembly and manufacturing. They help in maintaining inventory accuracy and simplifying the kitting process.

Retail Back Room Storage for Small Items

In retail environments, VLMs provide a neat and organized way to store small items in the back room, making restocking and inventory management more efficient.

In the competitive world of logistics and warehousing, adopting Vertical Lift Modules has become a strategic advantage. As warehousing demands evolve, VLMs will undoubtedly remain at the forefront of this transformation.

Interested in learning how VLMs can transform your operations? Contact one of Storage Solution’s automation experts here!

 

Typical Bottlenecks Created by Peak Season

As the holiday rush approaches, businesses are gearing up for the high-octane marathon of orders. But with the exhilaration of peak season comes the daunting challenge of navigating bottlenecks. While you might not be able to implement solutions to remedy these challenges for the holiday season already upon us, we’ll explore four bottlenecks created by peak season to be on the lookout for.

Unlocking the Power of Storage Space

Picture this: a warehouse bursting at the seams with holiday goodies. Limited storage space can be a significant bottleneck during peak season – the solution? Think vertical! Embrace the art of vertical storage to optimize every inch of your warehouse, or consider offsite storage facilities to ease the load. A well-thought-out warehouse layout can also work wonders, ensuring that your storage space dances in harmony with the influx of inventory.

Streamlining Order Picking Processes

The heartbeat of any warehouse operation, order picking, should be as seamless as a perfectly wrapped gift. Inefficient order-picking processes can lead to delays and errors, the last things you want during peak season chaos. Enter batch picking and zone picking – superheroes of efficiency. By grouping orders intelligently and assigning dedicated zones, you’re not just picking orders but conducting a symphony of productivity. Integrate pick-to-light systems or embrace the power of voice picking for an extra layer of efficiency.

Mastering Inventory Management

In the world of warehousing, accurate inventory management is the unsung hero. Imagine the chaos of running out of a best-selling item or drowning in excess stock. The key is investing in an advanced inventory management system that embraces real-time tracking. Embrace barcode scanners or RFID technology for accurate counts, ensuring that your inventory dances to the rhythm of demand, not the chaos of mismanagement.

Ensuring Quality Control Triumphs 

While the holiday season is a time of joy, quality control issues can be the Grinch stealing your peace of mind. Ramp up your quality control measures to ensure that every product leaving your warehouse is nothing short of perfection. Regular checks and balances paired with technology such as barcode scanning can be your best allies. After all, in the hustle and bustle of peak season, quality should never take a backseat.

As the curtains rise on the peak season spectacle, let your warehouse steal the show with impeccable efficiency. Remember, a strategic symphony of technology, training, and tactical planning is the key to triumphing over bottlenecks.

Vertical Lift Modules

In the ever-evolving landscape of warehousing and logistics, the need for space optimization, efficiency, and automation has never been greater. One popular solution in the industry is the Vertical Lift Module (VLM). Learn how VLMs are making a significant impact on the industry and why they are becoming synonymous with intelligent warehousing.

Space Efficiency

Vertical Lift Modules are champions of space optimization. VLMs provide a game-changing solution in a world where every square foot of warehouse space matters. These systems take storage to new heights—literally. By utilizing vertical space, they maximize storage capacity while minimizing the warehouse’s footprint. With VLMs, the sky’s the limit regarding storage possibilities.

Increased Storage Density

Storage density, an area where VLMs excel, is crucial in modern warehousing. VLMs allow you to store many items densely, reducing the amount of space needed compared to traditional shelving or racks. This solution enables warehouses to store more inventory within the same area. It’s like tripling your storage capacity without expanding your warehouse.

Enhanced Order Picking Speed

Speed matters in the world of e-commerce and rapid order fulfillment. VLMs offer a crucial advantage by automating the retrieval of items – meaning no more searching through shelves or walking long distances. VLMs bring the required inventory right to the operator’s fingertips, which translates to faster order fulfillment, higher productivity, and happier customers.

Reduced Labor Costs

Labor costs can be a significant portion of an operation’s expenses. With VLMs, automation plays a crucial role in reducing these costs. By automating the retrieval and storage of items, VLMs lessen the need for labor. This not only saves money but also minimizes the risk of human error in the order fulfillment process.

Scalability

As your business grows, your warehousing needs may change. VLMs offer scalability as a fundamental feature as these systems are modular and can be expanded or modified to accommodate changing storage needs. This adaptability ensures that your warehouse can evolve alongside your business.

Increased Order Accuracy

Order accuracy is a top priority in warehousing, and VLMs excel in this regard as well. Automation minimizes the potential for errors in the order-picking process, resulting in more accurate and reliable operations. With VLMs, you can significantly reduce order discrepancies and customer dissatisfaction, improving your business’s reputation and customer loyalty.

By implementing Vertical Lift Modules, warehouses are turning a new leaf regarding storage efficiency, productivity, and cost savings. These systems are helping businesses thrive in the competitive world of logistics by making their operations more innovative, agile, and better equipped to meet the demands of modern commerce. If you’re in the warehousing business, it might be time to take your operations to new heights with Vertical Lift Modules.

Interested in learning how Storage Solutions can help you integrate a VLM into your operations? Click here!

In-house_Controls

Embarking on a warehouse conveyor project often means your integrator is entrusting engineering and controls work to subcontractors, which can often come with a set of challenges. Below, we uncover common hurdles – from communication gaps to differing work methods – that can impact project success. Finally, we cover how Storage Solutions’ in-house engineering and controls team avoids these challenges to ensure a seamless project from start to finish.

Communication Issues

Despite clear initial agreements, the intricate nature of project requirements can sometimes lead to misunderstandings between the customer, integrator, and subcontractors. This misalignment can stem from differing interpretations, inadequate documentation, or evolving project needs. As the project progresses, these disparities can amplify, resulting in a significant gap between what was initially envisioned and what the subcontractor ultimately delivers. This miscommunication not only hampers project efficiency but also jeopardizes the achievement of desired outcomes, underscoring the critical need for meticulous communication and ongoing collaboration.

Adapting to Needs in Real-Time

As projects evolve, the need for quick and precise adaptations often arises. However, the involvement of subcontractors can complicate this process, leading to delays in decision-making and execution. The coordination required to align subcontractor actions with project alterations can result in a slower response time, impacting the overall project timeline and potentially diminishing the ability to address emerging issues swiftly.

Post-Installation Support

In many instances, subcontractors might not be contractually obligated or well-equipped to provide complete post-installation assistance. This can result in unresolved issues, prolonged downtime, and frustrated stakeholders who anticipate ongoing support. The mismatch between these expectations and the subcontractor’s capabilities underscores the necessity of clarifying post-installation responsibilities and ensuring a holistic approach to project execution that extends beyond the initial implementation phase.

At Storage Solutions, we address these challenges through our in-house engineering and controls team, with decades of experience providing exceptional customer service. Using our proven processes, we achieve consistent communication with our internal teams and customers. We understand the frustrations that come along with a lack of support and provide a higher standard of post-installation services to avoid the challenges altogether. Moreover, we possess the capability to engage the appropriate personnel to optimize your operational efficiency from the initial design, displaying the flexibility to accommodate modifications as deemed necessary throughout the project’s life.

Click here to learn more about our automation services!

High Pile Storage Permits

If you’re involved in warehousing or industrial operations, you may have encountered the term high piled storage permit. When storing goods at 12 feet or higher, special codes and permits are often involved to ensure safety and compliance with your local regulations.

What is a High Pile Storage Permit?

A high piled storage permit is an official authorization typically granted by local fire departments or building authorities to allow businesses to store materials, goods, or products (often combustible or hazardous) in high piled configurations within a warehouse or storage facility. These storage arrangements often involve stacking items to 12 feet or higher, and as a result, they come with specific safety requirements and regulations.

Why are High Pile Storage Permits Important?

Obtaining a high piled storage permit when necessary is important for several reasons. It ensures the safety of employees, visitors, and property by mitigating fire risks and improving emergency response capabilities by examining things such as, but not limited to, fire sprinkler system specifications, pallet type, and flammability of product stored. Compliance with storage regulations also helps prevent accidents, property damage, and potential legal liabilities.

How do I get a High Pile Storage Permit?

The process typically begins with contacting your local fire department or building authority to obtain a high piled storage permit. They will provide you with the necessary application forms and guidelines for compliance. The exact requirements may vary depending on your location and the type of materials you plan to store. It often involves submitting detailed plans, conducting inspections, and demonstrating that your storage configuration meets safety standards. It’s essential to work closely with these authorities and follow their instructions to ensure a smooth permit application process to avoid submitting multiple plan revisions, which could lead to delays in your project.

Navigating the process of determining if your warehouse complies with local code, fixing any existing compliance issues, and submitting a permit application can be intimidating and time-consuming. Our team of experts is well-versed in the intricacies of warehouse permits and is ready to help!

Click here to get in contact with a Storage Solution’s team member!

Finding a solutions provider with the right tools and resources to complete a conveyor project can be challenging. At Storage Solutions, we utilize decades of experience from our in-house experts to ensure that we provide our clients with the best customer service and project outcome possible. We heard from Eric McDonald, VP of Automation Engineering and Integration, and David Darst, VP of Conveyor and Automation, to learn what makes Storage Solutions a unique solutions provider.

 

Question: What sets the Storage Solutions team apart from others regarding conveyor system design and installation?

Eric McDonald: “One of the standout features of our team is that we handle almost every aspect of the project with our direct employees. This allows us to maintain a high level of quality control throughout the entire project timeline. From the initial design phase to the final installation and post-go-live support, our dedicated team ensures seamless coordination and execution.”

 

Question: What are the benefits of having in-house control and customization through our Warehouse Control System (WCS)?

David Darst: “Our in-house WCS provides a remarkable advantage to our clients. It gives us more control and flexibility over the customization of each integration project. This means we can tailor solutions to meet the specific needs of our clients, resulting in systems that are not only highly efficient but also perfectly aligned with their operations. This level of customization translates into enhanced customer satisfaction. Our clients know that their unique requirements will be met, and our WCS allows us to respond promptly to any changes or adjustments needed during the project lifecycle.”

 

Question: Your team of highly experienced controls engineers is another strength of Storage Solutions. How does their expertise contribute to the success of conveyor installation projects?

David Darst: “Our controls engineers bring a wealth of knowledge and operational experience to the table. They are adept at designing intricate control systems that ensure the smooth operation of conveyor systems. Their expertise allows us to address potential challenges proactively and develop solutions that optimize efficiency and reliability. These engineers are not just involved in the later stages; they are integrated from the beginning of the design process. This early involvement ensures that controls are seamlessly integrated into the overall solution, minimizing potential complications, and reducing project timelines.”

 

Question: It’s clear that involving engineers from the start is crucial to a successful project. How does this benefit our clients?

Eric McDonald: “By involving engineers from the outset, we can identify potential design issues early on and address them before they become significant roadblocks. This proactive approach translates into smoother project timelines, fewer surprises, and, ultimately, more satisfied clients. Our clients appreciate the transparency and open communication that comes with involving engineers at the design stage. It builds trust and confidence in our process, knowing that their needs are being considered at every step of the way.”

 

Question: Lastly, you mentioned post-go-live support. How does our team’s consistent coding practices contribute to better support?

Eric McDonald: “Our team’s consistent coding practices are pivotal in ensuring post-go-live success. Since all aspects of the project, including controls and mechanical, are handled by our team, the coding is more streamlined and cohesive than with outsourced providers. This results in fewer compatibility issues and easier troubleshooting in the event of any post-implementation challenges. Our clients benefit from a higher level of support because the same team that was involved throughout the project’s lifecycle is readily available for assistance. There’s no disconnect between the initial development and ongoing support phases, significantly contributing to a smoother transition and a faster resolution of any issues that may arise.”

 

With a holistic approach that combines controls, mechanical expertise, and a commitment to customization, Storage Solutions delivers seamless and tailored solutions for every client’s unique needs.

Want to learn more about how Storage Solutions can help you introduce conveyor into your operations? Click here!

Understanding Material Workflow

In today’s fast-paced supply chain landscape, efficient material flow management is crucial for the success of any warehouse operation. A well-designed material flow ensures smooth coordination of various tasks and processes, improving productivity, reducing errors, and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Receiving

The first workflow of a warehouse material flow is receiving. This stage involves accepting incoming goods, verifying their quantity and quality, and recording essential information such as item codes, descriptions, and supplier details. The receiving process requires careful attention to detail to ensure accuracy and prevent discrepancies in inventory records. By establishing efficient receiving procedures, warehouses can streamline the subsequent stages of their material flow.

Storing

Once the goods have been received and inspected, the next workflow of the warehouse material flow is storing. This involves assigning appropriate items to locations based on factors like size, weight, and demand. Proper organization and labeling of storage areas are essential to facilitate easy access and retrieval of products. Effective inventory management systems are crucial in tracking stock levels, optimizing space utilization, and minimizing errors during the storing process.

Picking

Picking is a critical workflow involving retrieving items from designated storage locations to fulfill customer orders. Efficient picking processes can significantly impact warehouse productivity. Several strategies are employed for picking, including batch picking, zone picking, and wave picking. These methods aim to optimize travel time, reduce errors, and increase order fulfillment rates. The use of technology, such as barcode scanning or voice-directed picking systems, can further enhance accuracy and speed.

Replenishing

Replenishing is the process of restocking items in their respective storage locations after they have been picked. Warehouse management systems monitor inventory levels and generate alerts or work orders to initiate the replenishment process. Maintaining optimal stock levels helps prevent stockouts and ensures the availability of products for future orders. By efficiently replenishing items, warehouses can minimize delays and maintain a smooth material flow.

Packing

The packing workflow involves preparing items for shipment in a secure and efficient manner. It includes selecting appropriate packaging materials, ensuring proper labeling, and considering any specific product packaging requirements. Standardized packing procedures help maintain consistency and reduce errors during this crucial stage. Automation technologies like dimensioning systems or automated packing machines can further streamline the packing process.

Shipping

The final workflow of a warehouse material flow is shipping. Once the items are securely packed and ready for dispatch, they are transferred to the shipping area. Here, shipping documents, such as invoices, packing slips, and shipping labels, are generated and attached to the respective packages. Coordinating with shipping carriers and selecting the most suitable transportation method based on factors like cost, speed, and customer preferences are essential to ensure timely and accurate delivery.

A well-designed material flow and workflows are essential for maximizing efficiency and productivity within a warehouse. Investing in technology, automation, and robust inventory management systems can further enhance the overall efficiency of your workflows, leading to increased profitability and a competitive edge in the market.

Interested in learning how Storage Solutions can help you analyze and improve your operational workflows? Click here!

5 Warehouse Automation Myths

Debunking 5 Popular Warehouse Automation Myths

Automation continues to dominate conversations and recommendations in the warehouse and operations space, but there is still hesitation to implement it among many due to factors such as cost or complexity. Whether you’re an operations manager or a business owner, understanding the realities of warehouse automation can help you make informed decisions about investments that could impact your bottom line. Below, we debunk five popular automation myths.

Myth #1: Automation will lead to job losses

Reality: While automation can replace manual tasks, it can also improve employee’s quality of work, minimizing physical strain that can lead to employee discontent. Minimizing physical labor can free up employees’ time to focus on higher-value tasks that require critical thinking and decision-making. Automation can also create new jobs in areas such as maintenance, programming, and data analysis.

Myth #2: Automation requires a complete overhaul of existing warehouse operations

Reality: Automation can be implemented incrementally, with systems integrated into existing workflows. This allows companies to test and optimize automation processes without disrupting existing operations. Many automation solutions today can also provide flexibility for companies who may not be able to anticipate their growth or future needs.

Myth #3: Automation is only for large warehouses

Reality: Automation technology is available at a range of price points and can be customized to suit the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. In fact, smaller warehouses may find that automation is essential for remaining competitive, as it can help them optimize their operations, reduce costs, and improve efficiency.

Myth #4: Automation is too expensive

Reality: Implementing large automation solutions can require a significant upfront investment, however, the long-term cost savings and increased productivity far outweigh the initial costs. There are also simple, affordable automation solutions, such as barcode scanners and conveyor systems, that can make significant impacts at a lower upfront cost. Ultimately, the cost of automating a warehouse will depend on the specific needs and goals of the business, but it is possible to implement automation cost-effectively.

Myth #5: Automation is too complicated to implement and maintain

Reality: Although automation technology can be complex, companies can work with experienced vendors and integrators to design, implement and maintain systems. Additionally, many automation systems have built-in diagnostic tools that allow for easy maintenance and troubleshooting.

For warehouses of all sizes, the need to stay competitive through increased efficiency continues to drive the implementation of automation solutions. Although we debunked several myths regarding warehouse automation, it is still important to work with a trusted partner to ensure you find the best solution for your unique needs.

Storage Solutions is a technology agnostic partner that will work to find or develop the best solution for your warehouse. If you are ready to take the next step to implement automation in your operation, click here