Manufacturing activity continues to improve year on year, and warehousing activity has risen with it. While warehousing capacity is growing, the amount of actual space dedicated to warehousing, processing and fulfilment has not grown as quickly. Much of this is down to ‘doing more with less’.
How is automation helping logistics companies in the UK?
DMG Freight Services explain how warehouses and distribution centres of all kinds struggle to optimise their processes and improve output without increasing footprint, they turn to technology, and specifically heavier reliance on automation rather than human labour, to help. Many operations in the UK, and in other markets around the world, are looking at more extensive automation of their distribution, handling, and inventory control processes. Labour management is another area that is seeing a lot of advances recently, and is expected to be more thoroughly automated in the coming years.
Specifically, many industry respondents to a recent survey suggested that they are hoping to implement more automation in such processes as tracking their inventory levels and order fulfilment processes. More still say they are considering automation solutions that will increase their daily throughput in general.
So why are more logistics companies investing in improved IT and technologies?
Understandably, then, greater numbers of industry professionals foresee the need to invest in IT, both hardware and software, in the near future. It isn’t just a move to greater implementation of technology, though. It is really about optimising the productivity of their workers. Two things take up space in a warehouse, goods and people. If you need more goods and more money moving through, you have to make do with fewer people while getting more work out of them. Automation is being used to track and improve picking accuracy, increase route efficiency, and even to reduce injury, fatigue, and other avoidable sources of lost productivity.
Paradoxically, some see this tendency towards automation as a source of avoidable workplace injury in itself. As individual workers are pressed to become more efficient, work related stress is becoming more of a problem. High turnover of low-level employees who feel hounded by their little silicon task-masters is hurting productivity as well. Some say that the efficiency gains of automation informing human labour are at or near their practical maximums already.
Software improvement is another route to greater efficiencies, but hardly a new one. Still, the predictions that better information capture and processing in the warehouse would allow for synergistic effects up and down the supply chain seem to be living up to expectations.
No matter how you slice it, this business is becoming much more digital that it has ever been before.