When it comes to choosing an automation solution, there are a lot of factors and technologies to consider. To give you some clarity, we asked Mark Engleman, Senior Solutions Executive here at 6 River Systems to answer some of the most commonly asked automation questions.
1. Question: With all of the automation that’s out there, how do you determine what automation is right for my warehouse?
Mark Engleman: For us at 6 River Systems, it’s a collaborative effort. It starts with seeking to understand. We need to truly understand what your current state is and what are the negative consequences. From there, we can talk about your goals and if they align to the capabilities of our technology. Then we go into building out a solution. Through the whole process we keep an eye on the return on investment.
If you’re just looking at automation in general, take a similar approach. Again, figure out what problem you’re trying to solve. Are you trying to solve a problem within the packaging space? Are you trying to solve it within fulfillment? I would encourage you to look at solving both if you have them. I think what’s really important, especially today, is that there are a lot of automation companies and startups out there. Automaton is a hot topic and rightfully so.
Implementing automation enables you to increase labor productivity and is a way to de-risk your business. Make sure when you’re talking to companies whose technology is fully developed to find references who you can talk to and go and see the product in the wild. There are a lot of companies trying to get into this space but may not have the backing — that can be a major waste of time.
2. Question: What if no automation is working for my operation, why would I change?
Mark Engleman: I’d encourage you to consider the best practices of companies who continue to hit their goals and grow exponentially.
Also, look ahead to what you envision for your operation. What’s your 5-year projected growth goal? And then with that what potential risks do you see? That’s part of this conversation too. Bring up these insights that other people are experiencing. Here are some suggested questions to ask:
- Is attracting and retaining labor a challenge or will it become one?
- Are you looking to get into new channels?
- Do you want to expand the way you fulfill products?
- Is customer retention important to you?
- How are your customer satisfaction scores?
Look at it from an eyes wide open perspective.
3. Question: What advantage do autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) have over a goods-to-person system?
Mark Engleman: Both technologies have their place. I would go back to what are you trying to solve and what are you trying to accomplish? Do you have a full understanding of what your problem is and the environment in which you’re trying to solve that problem? AMRs have much faster time-to-value. You’re going to get 80% of the productivity of goods-to-person at 20% of the cost. The flexibility and time-to-value with AMRs is unmatched.
4. Question: How have you seen companies address mispicks and improve overall customer experience? It seems like companies don’t have a great process in place to address customer complaints or address mispicks altogether.
Mark Engleman: Complementary technologies can help your labor force reduce those errors. When you can automate the process with visual displays, picking and putaway is directed by LED lights, which is helpful. This is measurable and we see increases in order accuracy as a result. We look at it in two ways, internal accuracy and external accuracy as well. A lot of companies will over engineer their internal process to make sure when it goes out the door it’s right. But time and dollars are tied up by doing that. Again, automation, isn’t taking the humans out of it entirely, but giving the humans a system – something to follow to the pick location. This approach has been very helpful!