The shift towards warehouse automation

Despite many significant challenges presented by the global Covid-19 pandemic and shifts in how companies and consumers are making purchases, the industry has remained largely buoyant thanks to the surge of e-tail and e-commerce.

Consumers are embracing omnichannel retail and as a result, businesses of every size require a more agile and fast-paced supply chain. Digital storefronts, rapid turnaround and accuracy are now essential.

A major challenge for warehouses in the supply chain is that many manual warehouse setups struggle in the face of new omnichannel retail needs. Rising demand, ballooning labour & shipping costs and higher expectations on logistics and delivery combine to put added pressure on brands to deliver.

The global market for warehouse automation technology is projected by intelligence firm, Research & Markets, to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% to 2025 and reach a combined value of €27.05bn or $30.99 billion. It’s clear that a more digitally integrated warehouse operation is top of the agenda for competitive businesses.

It’s important to note that since no two businesses are alike in structure, automated storage and retrieval systems are not always the ideal fit for certain businesses, warehouses or distribution centres – but are certainly preferred in the vast majority of cases.

So, why is the performance differential between manual and automated warehouse operations in widening?

Manual warehousing

Storage, handling and racking systems operated by humans, without automated intervention, is the ‘classical’ strategy, a mainstay of the industry for many hundreds of years.

In the plus column, this approach requires relatively little in terms of technological investment and is often the ‘plug in and go’ setting for businesses. Relying on manpower over digital intervention, the major drawback is that this approach can be resource intensive. Processes such as inventory control can become extremely time-consuming and prone to human error.

A great team in place can make manual processing effective, but the rising cost of labour can make this a less appealing prospect for many businesses.

Interesting Schoeller Allibert products for manual warehousing could be our System 9000 storage trays and Eurocontainers, but if you want to gain speed in the manual handling process be sure to also take a look at our dollies assortment, which even can be linkable.

Automated warehousing

By way of contrast, automated warehousing moves inventory through a warehouse with minimal human intervention, allowing complex digital technology to perform many of the day-to-day tasks and even make decisions through intelligent algorithms.

When a digital element is included in the supply chain, there are major advantages to be found in terms of data precision and speed. Warehousing inventory updates can be made more rapidly and more accurately, with reduction in potential inaccuracies due to the removal of human intervention. Alongside boosting productivity and efficiency, there is also improved safety as a result of eliminating the human element, which is essential for the 24/7 nature of e-commerce.

Historically, automation technology has been cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses. While this is not necessarily the case today, automation still requires capital investment and processes that can keep pace. In addition, automation technologies require different skills to typical manual handling processes, which require additional training.

Specifically for automated warehousing Schoeller Allibert created the SASI®-range, which is not only environmentally friendly thanks to the combination of post-consumer and virgin PP material. But also fully compliant and intensively tested by well-known system integrators. Other interesting Schoeller Allibert ranges for automated warehousing are: EuroClick®, MiniLoad, EuroSim®.

So, what are warehouse managers and supply chain executives to conclude?

Elements of automation have invaluable advantages, particularly in meeting the demands of the modern digital environment. Logistics managers will find that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’, but often a bespoke blend of manual and automated technology proves to be the best solution.

Whether your warehouse style is more manual, or automation focused, Schoeller Allibert has durable, high performance plastic packaging solutions to suit any layout or setup. Hosting a leading range of handheld or foldable containers, pallets, IBCs and beyond, the experienced team at Schoeller Allibert can support a slicker and more effective supply chain.