• Automation is a no-brainer and a necessity. In order to automate effectively, software has to be combined with people.
  • Bottlenecks are a major issue in warehousing. There are a lot of products and services out there, but which are optimizing most effectively and unifying the key elements (most of all, people)? Here’s what you need to look for in a software solution.
  • The automation process needn’t be tough on you or your personnel — it can be as smooth or as transformative as you want. It gives you options, and how you operate it is up to you.

Traditional automation has played a role in supply chain management for a long time. But today’s technology ecosystem offers a host of new approaches to making your warehouse work for you.

You may have a warehouse management system (among others) in place, with each component working in its own silo. What if there’s a way to unify those systems and make them people-centric?

If you’re a decision-maker looking to make a change, you’re probably  focused on either machines or software. I think the optimal choice is to combine both — with people at the heart of your operations.

You may have a warehouse management system (among others) in place, with each component working in its own silo. What if there’s a way to unify those systems and make them people-centric? 

I tell clients putting people first is crucial to the ongoing mission of any company that drives success within the supply chain.

Software can give you the flexibility you need when you’re implementing new automation solutions. What those look like are  up to you and the users, based on your own unique requirements.

On an episode of ProShip ParcelCast, I explain how the right software can transform your warehouse — in the right way.

People are still at the center of operations

A fully lights-out warehouse hasn’t yet come to fruition — people are still a major part of most warehouse operations.

However, a lot of automation and software-driven solutions out there can neglect this simple fact. Sometimes they don’t focus on people at all. And this can harm operational efficiency.

Whether you’re using a WMS, a warehouse control or execution system, a labor system or a combination of several systems, you know they don’t run themselves. All of these systems can talk to each other. One system knows what the other is doing, so there’s connectivity at work. But what’s missing?

Working together. It’s about orchestration. When it comes to a software-driven solution,  you need to feel confident you can take different automation solutions — together with your people — and make it work as one cohesive solution.

Bottlenecks and how to avoid them

When looking for a software solution that increases speed, it’s tempting to focus on one piece of the puzzle.

Let’s say you make your software faster because there’s a bottleneck within the process. But what happens is that the bottleneck is just pushed further downstream.

Preventing bottlenecks and gridlock is a huge priority for any warehouse. Flow control is key. Even within one workflow — for example, picking and packing — each step of the process might require different people or different automation solutions. And inevitably, there’s a handoff between each one.

If you’re not controlling the flow of work properly, you create bottlenecks and inefficiencies. You really slow down your operation.

One of your systems could be lightning fast, but the other systems — and more importantly, the people around them — can’t keep up. So the speed of that one solution isn’t actually doing you any good. It’s the orchestration of those solutions together with the people with the process that drives efficiency.

Software-as-a-service solutions (SaaS) are becoming more specialized. Speed is an important component if you want your system to be responsive to changing demands. But if flow control within your warehouse is out of whack, you’re losing out when it comes to optimization. To manage this, you want a truly unified system.

Augmented reality in the warehouse

Software-driven optimization can do a lot more than physical automation solutions. The latter are static.

Take the installation of a put wall for example. You scope out how many locations you need in that put wall. You size it to match your peak volumes (which might be for just three months out of the year). For the other nine months, you don’t need all those locations, but you have to physically build the wall to allow for that peak.

With physical automation you have to make these kinds of assumptions. There’s still a place for it, but the focus now is on size and scope. If you have the option to virtualize some solutions and leverage traditional automation technologies, you’re automating in a smart way.

You take a traditional solution like voice picking, add computer vision and augmented reality, and operations have just as much capability — without traditional limitations. In other words, you’re doing it in a way that uses technology which isn’t bolted to the floor and allows you to get the same output.

You give a user smart glasses, combine them with barcodes in the right locations, and they’re experiencing a put wall with lights on the racking. What’s different?

For a start, you’re not running wires and lights and locking yourself into a fixed number of locations. You can move those barcodes around as needed; you can reconfigure on a peak or routine basis.

More importantly, it takes a fraction of time to make the necessary changes, and it can all be done in-house — no technical know-how is required. Basically, augmented reality takes the hassle out of warehouse management.

The key to making software automation work: people

The more systems adopted in an operation, the greater the need for those systems to work together. And if a user is logging into multiple systems, this can become a training nightmare. There are risks to quality and performance. It’s inviting inefficiency to hinder your operations.

What are Accelogix and LogistiVIEW doing differently? We’re orchestrating efficient and optimal work across multiple systems. We’re also giving users a single interface and application to easily complete the work. It’s about making task execution as simple as possible.

Your top two costs are inventory followed by labor. How can you squeeze more from operations? How can you reduce costs? How can you increase efficiency without increasing costs? You want to do less with more.

When Accelogix demoed LogistiVIEW to a large third-party logistics company, we invited an office clerk with zero warehousing experience to give the picking flow a trial run. On her first try, she hit 80% of the standard. On her second, 100%. Her third try? 120%.

When it comes to ease of use, all those tough questions are answered. You can use who you need where and when you need them, as efficiently as possible.

Automate as little or as much as you want

Whatever solution you choose, you want to  empower your operation to decide how best to suit its needs. When it comes to software-driven optimization, our goal is to give operations as much flexibility in the process as possible. There’s no one way of doing things, and this is where Accelogix and LogistiVIEW are really treading new ground.

Everything is configured through the LogistiVIEW workflow system, and everything can be designed to suit your purposes. If you’ve seen Visio, you know exactly what this looks like. Supply chain distribution is in our DNA — we’ve had plenty of time to tinker and see what really works.

Evolving customer demands mean businesses have to adjust quickly. A simple drag and drop configuration is extremely powerful — and a big opportunity for you to get an advantage to stand apart from your competitors.

You step in at your comfort level. We’ve found that companies will often start with, say, a virtual put wall, and end up using it to run their entire operation. Maybe you want it as a task flow control system, or maybe you want full-blown augmented reality; we can build a path to get where you need to go.

What about ROI? We’ve got you covered

When it comes to automation solutions, a lot of ROI is based around cost. With implementation of the LogistiVIEW solution, the cost of process automation becomes software cost. It’s all SaaS-based. Establish the number of users, and then configure the workflows.

But if you’re working with a number of different automation systems, it’s going to take several months alone to implement a single solution. If it’s really complex, it might take years.

When you’re virtualizing, timescales are shortened to weeks and months. Overall cost is down for the whole thing. There’s also the ongoing benefit of doing it all in-house. And if down the line you want to add more workflows or walls, you’re simply factoring in the additional hardware cost.

Quicker implementation and big cost reduction means huge ROI in both the short and the long run. 

Interested in learning more about flexible automation and connected worker technology? Click here to learn about the LogistiVIEW automation platform or contact us today to speak with our experts to find out how we can help you automate your warehouse processes.

Learn more about Accelogix Cloud here!