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Workforce challenges – ranging from outright shortage and attracting new talent to retention issues and turnover – are some of the most pressing issues or opportunities for warehouse managers. Not surprisingly, automation and robotics implementations are becoming more common for addressing these workforce challenges:
Automation and Robotics as a Solution
Robotics and automation solutions fill gaps created by shortages in human capital, but the greater solution is utilizing these technologies in overall process evaluation of manual movements. Automating highly labor intensive processes makes the need for additional human capital not necessary. Automation may not replace members of the workforce, but it can certainly ease pressures to better allocate human resources.
Key implementation of robotics and/or automation allows for employee enablement, labor allocation to address shortages in departments in need, and resource allotment to complicated tasks. When resources are issued to the most sensible, pressing need, employees will feel the positive impact of value added tasks.
What to Consider/Where to Start with Automation and Robotics Implementation
Key leaders in warehousing highly recommend these automated solutions to ease labor challenges (and consequential difficulties):
Automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS)
Integrated automated conveyor solutions
Warehouse Management System (WMS)
Warehouse Execution System (WES)
These systems and technologies, each designed to lessen time and workload, improve management information so decisions can be made easily and boost labor efficiency measures which close the gap when labor shortages are an issue.
A Combination Approach
Though automating processes and implementing a robotics solution can be extremely successful in addressing workforce challenges, the investment and implementation can be daunting. To start relieving labor challenges immediately, consider a combination approach, which recommends tactical actions. This includes additional training measures, additional resources for new employees, adaptable user interfaces which enable both new employees and streamline processes for tenured employees, and leveraging untapped labor pools.
Labor challenges will continue to burden warehouses, but deploying a supportive automation and robotics strategy, coupled with practical training tactics, could be the enablement your workforce needs to excel through new pressures.
While far-reaching implementation of Industry 4.0 may take years, if not decades, to become the next big industrial revolution, you don’t have to go “all in” to reap the benefits of analyzing and optimizing your warehouse and logistics operations. In fact, regardless of your path in embracing Industry 4.0 sensor technology, an iterative approach to getting your warehouse in order begins with assessing the dynamics of your space.
Not sure where to start? Sackett offers Battery Storage + Charging Area Assessments which provide a 12-point evaluation of your existing lift truck battery storage and charging footprint, as well as recommendations for increased battery optimization and equipment efficiency.
To get started on your path to Industry 4.0, reach out to our team for your FREE Battery Storage + Charging Area Assessment, at email@example.com, or 1-800-323-8332.
To paraphrase British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the Second World War, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste…”
The need for quarantine during the pandemic has forced much greater use of information and communication technology (ICT) and digitization across all industries. Companies and individuals have been forced to quickly adapt virtual tools to carry out activities that were previously face-to-face. This shift is resulting in greater access to information, knowledge and concurrent productivity gains – and investment in innovation.
Whether a manufacturer, shipper, 3PL or retailer, COVID-19 is exerting unprecedented pressure on all aspects of the supply chain – and surprisingly some of the results are positive and growing…
According to software development firm Blue Yonder, shippers and 3PLs often complain about the manually intensive freight-booking process. By offering access to carrier marketplaces (another term for DFM apps) platforms like Blue Yonder’s Luminate can streamline the process by providing live rates and real-time capacity information at the outset, instead of forcing users to go through the usual face-to-face of call-to-call routine of contacting their primary carriers, then defaulting to their backup carriers, and finally resorting to the expensive spot market.
“Uberization” isn’t just a buzzword though… In fact, Blue Yonder and Uber Freight recently announced a partnership designed to help businesses build efficient and transparent global supply chains at a crucial time.
Make it Disappear
Phantom Freight – or ‘ghost loads’ – are a problem caused by the rapid growth of DFM tools. Just as an Uber driver would be left scratching their head, looking for the missing passenger, shippers and logistics firms can be left wondering what happened to the freight load they thought had been booked.
In a recent Inbound Logistics article, “Make It Disappear” the author explains, “Today, shippers, carriers, and brokers often post their loads or capacity on multiple freight matching platforms, marketplaces, or load boards. The more carriers that see the loads, the more likely one will be able to book the load – a practice sometimes called “post and pray.” Once a shipper load and a carrier are connected, those loads are effectively off the market.
However, the other participants in the market aren’t aware of this, as no solution is in place for removing those loads from the rest of the market. When DFM providers try to book those phantom loads, they discover, sometimes hours later, that the load they thought they booked was already booked by another company.”
As Uber, Lyft and others have dramatically disrupted the ‘human’ transportation industry with their proprietary software platforms, others are working to provide a more open and accessible solution to the challenges faced by combining rapidly emerging technologies.
Firms such asDFM Data Corp., based in Atlanta, Georgia, are working to combine separate and disparate resources into a singular clearinghouse – benefitting the entire shipping and supply chain industry.
The pressures we all face, to confront and adapt to an uncertain and changing environment can, at times, lead to results that change our world for the better. At Sackett, we value the partnerships with our vendors and customers in bringing emerging technologies and streamlined solutions to all of our logistics management.
Incredible predictions from Gartner indicate the boom of e-commerce, and the resulting investment in related infrastructure, has led to a tremendous boost in the lift truck production market, with an expectation of reaching $81.39 billion by 2027, a 7.3% annual growth rate from a current market of $45 billion.
Opportunity Charging, a method of lift truck battery management, allows batteries to remain in place to enable charging whenever convenient. With Opportunity Charging, less time is wasted in the process of getting the battery to the charger, and more productive time is spent with the lift truck in use. The benefits of this battery charging option have led to the current “buzzworthy” status, but there are a few key considerations to keep in mind if you’re thinking of making a switch to Opportunity Charging:
Constant Charging Leads to Shorter Battery Life
Due to their in-machine, quick-charge design, Opportunity Charging batteries help prevent lift trucks, and their operators, from sitting idle. Constantly connecting them to a power source, however, takes a noticeable toll on the life of the battery. The consistent exposure to heat is wear and tear which any battery, even OC-designed, cannot withstand for a long period of time. When calculating the implementation cost of an Opportunity Charging system, it’s critical to factor in more frequent battery replacements.
Even OC Systems Aren’t Opportune All of the Time
The beauty of Opportunity Charging is in the flexibility it provides to forklift operators – they can charge during breaks of any kind, no matter the duration. However, even batteries in these systems must be brought to a full, 100% charge at least once a week to prevent damage – called the equalization charge. This overnight process differs from the typical Opportunity Charge, which achieves an 80% state-of-charge. Understanding where the equalization charge fits into your shift changes and overall operations is key in determining whether Opportunity Charging provides you the flexibility your process requires. For the most part, Opportunity Charging works best with a two-shift operation, where there is time allocated overnight for the equalization charge process.
Re-organizing Your Space
Because Opportunity Charging batteries aren’t designed for conventional chargers, specialized equipment must be purchased and installed to use in the Opportunity Charging process. Different configurations might call for alternative/increased space on your warehouse floor which enable forklifts to pull right up to charging stations. In addition to allocating more space, it’s key to rethink the make-up of your warehouse floor. Investing in faster, more opportune technology only makes sense if forklift operators have equally efficient charging locations. Rearranging your warehouse floor may be costly, time consuming, and, in some cases, impossible – so plan out your new space before investing in new equipment.
Opportunity Charging is a great battery charging method to keep your lift truck fleet moving, just be sure to consider battery replacement costs, equalization charge timing, and layout requirements. Not sure where to start, or have questions?
Reach out to our team to learn more about your Opportunity Charging equipment options.
Whether your system utilizes Opportunity Charging, Fast Charging or Conventional Charging, Sackett has the durable equipment – and solutions – for your method of battery charging.
Even before COVID, the farm-to-table movement was pushing demand for increased refrigerated warehousing. Now more than ever, the development of new, or expanded, cold storage warehousing is bringing significant technology and structure improvements to the forefront:
Architects are moving forward with taller, rather than wider, warehouse layouts. This shift in design brings greater refrigeration efficiency, and accommodates newer high-capacity freezer heights.
Product diversification demands are expanding the need for dedicated temporary storage areas with humidity flexibility – providing a broad range of storage options.
Logistically, micro-fulfillment centers are gaining popularity as same-day deliveries are now a standard expectation. For cold storage, this often means an investment in automated workforce technology.
Now with booming online grocery shopping, the need for efficient, state-of-the-art cold storage development is driving warehouse refrigeration technology and logistics optimization to new heights (and we’re not just talking about the ceilings).
Consumer expectations have forced retail and inventory-based businesses to rely heavily on automation to fill orders and explore different options for warehousing to match the market. The disruption demand, caused by the pandemic environment, has created incredible pressure for businesses across the board – impacting automation trends in logistics and real-estate demand in warehousing.
The Future of Logistics:
As the disruption to the economy became more and more severe in Q2, the emerging trends in logistics came to fruition in a real way. The most prominent? Automation and robotics within logistics at distribution centers and warehousing operations.
At the beginning of 2020, half of U.S. companies were open to investing in automation, with Logistics companies leading the pack at 55%.
In these next quarters of 2020, and beyond, Logistics will only continue to breakout as a leader in automation technology as they adapt to increased e-commerce orders, are forced into micro-fulfillment strategies to up speed and accuracy, and attempt to jump the hurdle of workforce challenges.
Though many aspects of life and business came to a standstill last quarter, warehouse real-estate did not. According to The Wall Street Journal, real-estate firm CBRE Inc. reported activity jumped 43% from April 15 to May 14, with overall activity sitting 2.8% higher than this time last year. Not only are leases being renewed, but new, larger spaces are being secured in an attempt to modernize distribution efforts – like grocery delivery and micro-fulfillment. Prologis Inc., another real-estate company, estimates high inventory levels and accelerated e-commerce growth could increase demand for U.S. warehouse space by over 400 million square feet over the next two to three years, as these factors typically require three times as much space as traditional distribution operations.
The pandemic environment has caused obvious disruptions, but continuing trends in logistics and warehousing are keeping industries moving forward with new technology, increasing efficiencies and additional space.
To celebrate the end of our fiscal year, Sackett hosted a social distancing team-building meeting and picnic. Our team shared success stories from the year and developed strategies to build upon that success.
As another reason to celebrate, we are proud to announce–the safety measures put in place to protect the Sackett team have resulted in zero positive cases of COVID-19.
The Sackett team recently celebrated the retirement of Gary Dyer, who worked as an engineer with Sackett Systems for 35 years designing and improving our transfer carts.
We rely on our people like Gary, who go the extra mile to ensure our success. The people at Sackett are what help us build trust and relationships with our clients, and deliver reliable solutions to their challenging problems. The entire team at Sackett Systems wishes Gary all the best in his retirement!