Conventional x Automated Warehouses
A conventional warehouse or a fully automated unit?
The word Warehouse comes from the Arabic Al-mahazán, which means “attic”. From the small spaces between the ceiling and the roof to the large distribution centers of today, many centuries have passed. Storage units have gained the status of a crucial tool in modern logistics. And the possible types of Intralogistics gained technological refinement as the flow of products became more intense. Currently, many entrepreneurs are in doubt: after all, which is better? A conventional warehouse or a fully automated unit? It depends on what business we are talking about.
Let’s start with conventional warehouses. They are usually large sheds that may or may not have metal shelves inside. It depends on the stocked product. The daily operations carried out do not depend on robots, but on human beings duly trained for the different functions present in Intralogistics. Of course, machines will be needed to move products, such as forklifts, for example. It is also possible to install conveyor belts here, which in Logistics we just call Conveyors. But in everything manual work prevails. If you have access to cheap land and don’t have a large flow of products, this may be the best solution. It is usually cheaper and presents numerous alternatives to speed up the work. It all depends on which merchandise we are talking about (weight; dimensions; shelf life of the products; possible packaging restrictions, such as refrigeration and fragility; inventory turnover; input and output flows of the inventory).
Among the methodologies that can be applied in the internal space, we have the Porta Pallets, a system that prioritizes vertical storage, widely used in supermarkets and product distributors, as it can serve to store items of different genres and types in the place. In addition to the conventional model, we have the Dynamic (vertical system that allows items to be stacked, so as not to transfer the weight to the goods, avoiding damage.), Flow Rack (this system allows for internal movement both manually and by equipment, but to be implemented, inclined tracks with plastic casters must be installed, allowing gravity to do part of the work, by a FIFO operation — First In, First Out.) and Push Back (based on the LIFO — Last In, First Out methodology. This means that in this system the last goods stored will be the first to be released. This method is recommended for stocks made up of products with a short shelf life and high turnover).
Basically, conventional warehouses are cheaper to install, but require a large investment in labor. Even here, it is advisable to use management software, to facilitate inventory control and day-to-day work. The automated warehouses, on the other hand, have the support of the most modern technology, both in terms of automation and robotics. Such units can be built in conventional spaces or in a specific structure, such as a self-supporting warehouse, 10, 15 or 30 meters high, optimizing land use (indicated for regions where the square meter is very expensive). But how do you know whether or not this is an option for your company? The blog Solística gives some guidelines. You can safely opt for automation when:
- “The movement and volume of goods are high, with very varied products;
- Orders are prepared or loads are consolidated that require classifying and ordering products;
- If you seek to optimize the process to reduce costs;
- It is necessary to maximize the use of space with vertical solutions;
- If you want to have more precise inventory control that allows you to apply just-in-time logistics;
- And when it is estimated that the return on investment can be achieved in less than four years.”
In an automated warehouse, you absolutely need robust control and management software, such as a WMS. Also interesting is the acquisition of an AS/RS (Automated Storage/Retrieval System), which consists of automating the loading, classification, storage and shipping processes through the use of robotic equipment and management software. With this automated collection and storage system, the need for manpower is reduced and productivity and efficiency are increased, as it can operate constantly to ensure that the work is done on time and well done.
In addition to Conveyors, automated warehouses can rely on Stacker Elevators, Robots handling loads, AGV System (automated guided vehicle system consisting of small wagons or forklifts that move transporting products around the warehouse), vertical or horizontal carousels, shuttle vertical Lift Module (or VLM, a solution for storing small and costly items on countless racks within automated equipment), and product location systems in the warehouse such as Pick to Light (or PTL) and Pick to Voice (or PTV). It all depends on your need and available capital. But as for the investment, rest assured. Making a budget is the best way.
And what are the advantages of a warehouse with so much technology? Are several:
- Fewer accidents involving people;
- More suitable working conditions for employees;
- Continuous operations, as machines are not limited to hours;
- Reduction of labor costs by reducing the number of people in the operation;
- Exact knowledge of inventory levels to avoid shortages, excess products or aging of goods;
- Optimization of storage space, using high-rise vertical systems.
- Decrease in maintenance costs, thanks to reduced damage to goods or structures.
- Greater safety and less contamination of the load, since it is not exposed to human handling.
- Elimination of human errors in documentation, which could mean delays in processing the goods.
- Improves delivery time and accuracy.
- A better level of specialization and qualification of the workforce, which offers more professional services, which makes it more efficient and productive.
In summary, it is worth investing in a good warehouse, be it conventional or automated. There are many possibilities between these two options. Want to know which ones? Keep in touch with us. Águia Sistemas is a national leader in Intralogistics solutions, both for conventional and automated spaces.
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