Modernizing Warehouses with Automation and Workflow Engine Solutions

Modernizing Warehouses with Automation and Workflow Engine Solutions

The modern warehouse faces industry-wide challenges like national labor shortages and space constraints, and for many organizations the solutions to both these barriers lie in automation. From scrubbers, to pallet jacks, to intelligent carts, automated robotics can transform how a warehouse operates. But investing in automation is not a simple plug-and-play process. To reap the productivity benefits of automation, warehouses must take the necessary steps to integrate these solutions efficiently and safely.

Integrating automation solutions with smart back end interoperability

In most warehouses, automation solutions are “unitaskers,” designed to do one activity perfectly. However, because there is more than a single process in a warehouse, this means infrastructure must be comprised of a wide variety of automation solutions which all need to communicate and interact with each other, the warehouse management system (WMS) and their human counterparts.

"To remain future-forward, productive, and safe, warehouses are turning to automation"

This means investing in back-end interoperability as well as the automation solution itself. The right workflow engine tool or warehouse control system will allow warehouse managers to effectively connect multiple solutions within the same agnostic platform, allowing them to architect how they interact for the most efficient and fluid workflow. For instance, consider a warehouse where automated pickers work alongside human employees. Without workflow technology, orders may be assigned to automation, however they will not be optimized for efficiency, resulting in wasted time and potentially an unsafe work environment. 

When the right backend solution is integrated, it can constantly do analysis of available inventory on the shelves and send orders to either the human employees or the automated picker depending on the next step that is needed. With this solution, every movement can be orchestrated for safe and streamlined operations.

By integrating a solution agnostic workflow engine solution, warehouse managers can customize their warehouse infrastructure without having to manually hardcode their WMS or automated solutions, which can be taxing on time and resources. Warehouse logistics can be easily optimized for all components, and warehouse managers gain the agile flexibility to react in days, not months.

Supporting human counterparts every step of the way

Modernizing a warehouse with integrated automation is a process that requires thoughtful preparation and communication. Warehouse managers can begin by performing an audit of their current infrastructure and technology to identify gaps in their system and opportunities for integration. From there, they can identify the right partner in the market who has the technologies that will meet a warehouse’s timing and budget needs while supporting the organization’s culture and vision for the future.

Once a vendor has been selected, warehouse managers can create a roadmap to communicate with all stakeholders how the technology will be rolled out in a phased approach. At this point in the process, change management communication will prove to be critical to success, especially in an industry facing a labor shortage. All employees must understand that the purpose of automation in warehouse environments is to support their needs and augment their work, not replace them entirely. An effective communication change management program can ensure the technology rollout excites employees and lifts morale, rather than incites concerns about job stability.

This roadmap must include a detailed path to productivity to manage expectations and garner buy-in. If senior leadership is expecting a certain percentage of return on automation solutions, the written roadmap must be clear about when and how these returns will be achieved, and when the productivity glide path will be reached. When all stakeholders are aligned and in agreement, the project can reach its full potential.

Delivering the integrated warehouse of the future

To remain future-forward, productive, and safe, warehouses are turning to automation. But warehouse infrastructures are notoriously delicate and require the right integrated solution and human-centric approach to make this transition seamless. By investing in the right workflow engine technology and carrying out a strategic roadmap to integration, organizations can overcome the industry’s greatest challenges, meet their goals, and deliver a modernized environment that leads the way in innovation.

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