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How Smarter Systems Are Changing the Nature of Fulfillment

PUBLISHED May 19, 2023

In the aftermath of the pandemic era, warehouses face numerous challenges in ensuring staff safety, dealing with labor shortages, and meeting quicker order fulfillment demands. The rise of smarter Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) is revolutionizing the industry, offering a host of benefits to help warehouses overcome these challenges.

Attabotics’ 2023 Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems Trends Report reveals a growing trend among organizations towards integrating smarter AS/RS solutions into their fulfillment strategies. This article delves into how these advanced automation systems are reinventing the landscape of fulfillment.

Smarter AS/RS Solutions and Their Distinct Advantages

Equipped with cutting-edge technological innovations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and data analytics, smarter automation systems are revolutionizing warehouse operations. Unlike their traditional counterparts that rely on human labor to move and retrieve products, AS/RS solutions like Attabotics deploy automated robotics and conveyors. This leads to a marked increase in the speed and precision of warehouse tasks, paving the way for better inventory management, accelerated order fulfillment, and heightened throughput.

The Drive Towards Smarter Automation Systems

The turn towards smarter AS/RS solutions is in sync with evolving trends: changing buying behavior, increased safety concerns, the need for higher throughput, labor shortages, and stringent service level agreement (SLA) requirements. These factors are propelling the industry towards the adoption of sophisticated automation systems, dramatically enhancing the efficiency of warehouse operations. The burgeoning e-commerce sector and shifting consumer expectations add another layer of complexity, necessitating higher levels of automation to amplify throughput, delivery speed, and accuracy.

The Role of AS/RS Solutions in Ensuring Staff Safety

The pandemic has also brought staff safety in warehouses into sharp focus. In this context, recent polls by Microsoft and Adobe reveal a concerning statistic: 37% of workers felt pressured by management during the pandemic to continue working despite concerns over unsafe working conditions. Smarter AS/RS technologies equipped with safety features like autonomous robots, sensors, and order management software, present a compelling solution. They provide the flexibility to modify workspace configurations to accommodate social distancing and sanitation protocols, thereby creating a safer working environment.

How Automation and Robotics Can Address Labor Challenges

Labor shortages are compelling warehouses to operate with reduced staff. Data from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics show a worrying trend: job openings for transportation, warehousing, and utilities were 7.7% in August 2021 and 6.7% in August 2022. While unemployment rates have dipped since the pandemic, warehouses across the US are struggling to fill these open positions, necessitating innovative solutions.

An increased reliance on automation and robotic picking has helped warehouses overcome labor shortages. These smart AS/RS solutions represent the next evolutionary step in warehouse logistics. Automated robotics systems can present over 300 bins per hour to each operator, eliminating the need for bulky conveyor systems or shuttles. They can also operate in the high-density storage situations characteristic of micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs). Significantly, modern robotic solutions have no single point of failure. This means that malfunctioning robots can be easily replaced without taking the whole system offline and compromising throughput.

Automated storage and retrieval systems that harness the power of robotics and automation predominantly employ a goods-to-person (GTP) strategy. In this paradigm, it's the robots that navigate warehouses for order picking, subsequently bringing the chosen items to human operators for packaging. This not only maximizes the utilization of warehouse space but also fosters safer working environments for personnel, as their presence is only required at designated workstations. The GTP approach also curtails staffing needs; in fact, certain AS/RS implementations can lead to a staggering 75% reduction in labor.

The Future of Automated Fulfillment Is Smarter

Smarter AS/RS solutions offer a multitude of benefits to warehouses grappling with supply chain challenges. They ensure increased throughput, superior inventory management, swift order fulfillment, and flexible workspace configuration. In the face of labor shortages and demanding SLA requirements, the adoption of smarter automation and robotics systems is pivotal to future-proofing warehouse operations looking to enhance their operations while maintaining a competitive edge.

To learn more about these emerging trends and other developments in warehouse automation technology, download the complete 2023 Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems Trends Report from Attabotics.