As the e-commerce order fulfillment continues to rise dramatically, most logistic managers are evaluating to see if automated storage systems are really working when it comes to reducing costs and improving the efficiency and productivity of their warehouse.

Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) have had a growing reputation. However, it’s crucial to remember though the advantages are many,  they sometimes are not an ideal fit for all distribution centers. Eventually, you’ll have to identify and address the key objectives of your warehouse and see whether the operations could possibly benefit from integrating the latest available automated systems.

 

So, what makes these two methods different?

There are logistics that associate manual warehouse systems to the use of human techniques in that operators working in the warehouse are responsible for locating, and picking everything by hand. The fact that a warehouse or distribution center is classified as manual, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t use automated equipment like short distance conveyors and forklifts.

In contrast, automated warehouses are more technologically advanced so they use better innovative systems which depend on the most recent WMS software. Automated facilities strongly rely on advanced stacker cranes, far-reaching conveyors, and other picking and storage solutions.

It’s advisable that you describe well your objectives with overall warehouse throughput and then analyze whether there’s any existing current forecasts of expansion or shrinkage in sales.

There are some operations managers who are hesitant when it comes to investing in systems that are highly automated. This is because the new automated system might require not less than two years for return on investment.

 

Considering the strengths and weaknesses of each…

Manual Systems

ADVANTAGES

  • A manual system doesn’t need a lot of investment costs.
  • This system is the most classical and conventional.
  • You don’t need to conduct any new training to your employees.
DISADVANTAGES

  • Order Picking, packing, storage and other processes done to ensure order fullfilment consume a lot of time.
  • Inventory control is prone to a lot of errors and takes much time which leads to the need for frequent and multiple counts.

Automated Systems

ADVANTAGES

  • Automated systems have low order fulfillment inaccuracies which are commonly caused by human errors.
  • Inventory quantities are usually updated instantly which enables this system to achieve high accuracy of product location and availability.
  • An automated system reduces the overall labor constraints and costs while increasing both employee and products safety.
  • Using automated systems helps one to reduce the amount of space used while utilizing the clearances of vertical ceilings.
DISADVANTAGES

  • An automated system is best suitable for operations that are predictable and repetitive.
  • This system requires one to have a high investment to start.
  • For employees to safely and correctly work with these systems, they need to go through training or have technical skills.

 

Is it possible that there’s a middle ground between the two systems?

Most managers find a partially automated warehouse being a better solution for a company. Therefore, the crucial thing is to determine the features of the vital processes and identify the most suitable combination between automated and manual systems needed to achieve your objectives.

INTERESTING FINDINGS:

Alibaba proved how ASRS can be useful at their China warehouse. They used 60 robots to reduce the required human labor by 70%. The robots are operated using Wi-Fi and are used to bring inventory to the workers who pack and post them. Using robots enabled them to triple their sales.

McKinsey & Co says that the logistics and transportation industry is expected to gain around 89% of incremental value through Al adoption after some time while retail could see 87% of the same. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how you choose to analyze it but your facility can still be benefitted by Al adoption.

 

SUMMARY

There is definitely big differences between automated and manual storage systems. However, each one of these systems has advantages and disadvantages. It’s therefore upon you to fully evaluate your facility and both systems to see which one would work better for you and your warehouse. One thing you have to remember is to consider a major factor like the amount of capital you have, and the amount of capital you’ll need both to start and run the system