Industrial automation is a set of technologies that uses control systems and devices, such as computer software and robotics, to enable automatic operation of industrial processes and machinery without the need for human operators. It is the second step beyond mechanization in the scope of industrialization. Industrial automation eliminates the possibility of human error, reduces costs, saves time, achieves higher performance and ensure higher safety.
Automation is a powerful tool and comes in many shapes and forms. In the warehouse, automation is generally used to make gains upon existing processes by improving efficiency, speed, reliability, accuracy and (eventually) cost savings. Gone are the days of thinking that paper-based processes are enough. Automation is at everyone’s disposal, yet investing on it doesn’t mean it will solve every goods-handling issue or be the right fit. Humans are still better at a lot of things. To understand where automation can be best applied, let’s look at some of the areas where it is (and isn’t) useful. The successful deployment of automation in the warehouse or distribution center environment relies on close integration with a warehouse management system (WMS) to help direct, simplify and track all of the transactions going on in the facilities. Even without the addition of automation, a WMS enables trained warehouse staff to achieve fast and highly accurate shipments by choreographing the most efficient pick paths and prompting specific actions each step of the way during picking and/or prior to shipment.