As the economy recovers and the demand for goods increases, only those companies that can deliver products quickly and efficiently will have a true competitive edge. And one of the most effective ways to achieve this goal is through warehouse automation. Warehouses equipped with automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) coupled with RFID technology can reap serious financial benefits by maximizing storage space and reducing overall operating costs. But the benefits of warehouse automation go way beyond improving a company’s bottom line. Research shows that the environment benefits greatly as well. With more and more companies seeking ways to be more environmentally friendly, here’s a look at 7 green benefits of warehouse automation.
- Reduced physical footprint: RFID technology allows for the real time tracking of all goods that enter and leave the warehouse, resulting in tighter inventory control. In addition, AS/RS technology minimizes storage space while maximizing the handling of the inventory’s mix of fast, intermediate, and slow-moving products. As a result, an automated warehouse can store the same volume of inventory as a conventional warehouse—in 40% less space. And since less storage space means less land usage, the impact upon the environment is proportionally less as well.
- Reduced energy usage: When it comes to conserving energy, the benefits of automation are many. First off, since automated warehouses take up less square footage, they typically require less energy to light, heat and cool. And since the moving of products takes energy, automated systems use less energy by streamlining operational flow to optimize product movement from point “A” to point “B”. In addition, a feature of automated storage retrieval machines known as “regenerative braking” further eliminates wasted energy.
- Reduced product damage: A foremost concern for any business handling a high volume of goods is that products are not damaged in the process. This can pose a considerable problem for non- automated warehouses as products are more susceptible to damage via human error. Through the consistent, predictable and smooth handling of products via an automated system, product damage and waste can be dramatically reduced. In addition, since automated product selection is more accurate than human selection, less energy is utilized to facilitate the return of products picked and shipped in error.
- Reduced machinery: Machines use energy. It’s a simple law of physics. And the more machines a warehouse needs to carry out operations, the more the environment suffers. In addition to using energy, as anyone who has ever operated a typical “warehouse machine” such as a forklift knows, machines need maintenance, which expends even more energy and can create additional waste from the disposal of worn out parts. Since warehouse automation systems are designed to operate as smoothly and optimally as possible, they tend to utilize less energy and require less maintenance than standard machinery.
- Reduced staffing: Another green benefit of warehouse automation is that fewer workers are required, thus reducing the carbon footprint of the overall operation. It’s important to note that those who do work in automated warehouses are less likely to sustain a work related injury. Aside from reducing the risk of acute injury, since many of the repetitive and laborious duties in the warehouse are performed by automated systems, the risk of workers developing repetitive use injuries are also considerably less. Although many argue that automation has contributed to our nation’s current unemployment crisis, it should be noted that many of the jobs once performed by warehouse workers were inherently unsafe.
- Greener packaging: In answer to the call of consumers for product packaging that is friendlier to the environment, manufacturers have responded with “green” packaging. Since “green” packaging is generally less sturdy than the packaging of the past, the use of automation processes—particularly smooth conveyor belt technology to properly handle green packaged products—has played an important role in making environmentally friendly packaging possible.
- Greener profits: One of the most attractive aspects of warehouse automation is the ability to improve productivity and reduce costs. The fact that the same automation technologies that can increase profitability have also been shown to have a positive effect on the environment makes warehouse automation a win-win prospect for the right business.
About the Author: Tim Hollins is a freelance writer for Cornerstone Automation Systems.