January 19th | 3 min read
Intralogistics Industry Shift
Exchanges in my network and countless intralogistics publications read this past year confirm an industry reality, namely, for every executive justifying warehouse automation for labor cost savings, two are due to a lack of available labor.
In this context, return on investment (ROI) takes a backseat to bolstering operations, thus explaining the growing available capital for investments in automated material handling equipment.
In any market, when more money is available, the multiplication of ingenious options to spend it follows. In intralogistics, most new technologies solve a specific material handling scenario. However, warehouse operators know that material flow involves multiple handling steps, and reducing labor dependencies requires implementing multiple pieces of equipment.
While ROI isn’t the number one priority, it isn’t irrelevant either. Designing operations where a combination of equipment optimizes efficiency, productivity, and wisely uses the capital remains paramount.
Creating an Optimal Process & the Birth of Interoperability
Optimal material flow designs can only be achieved by mastering operational data.
Material profiles, process steps, order volumes, throughput expectations, existing material handling equipment, and software capabilities all influence feasibility, efficiency, and productivity in highly automated intralogistics operations.
Repeatedly, I’m reminded that a holistic understanding of operations is fundamental to identifying automation opportunities and uncovering implementation risks. Selecting the most efficient equipment type for a specific handling scenario while orchestrating it into an optimal multi-equipment material flow, and simultaneously integrating it with your ERP and WMS, is the top intralogistics challenge of our time—INTEROPERABILITY.
It is common and recommended to seek independent engineering support at this stage. Leveraging equipment vendor-agnostic expertise translates into the application of best practices, thus engineering flexibility and cost efficiency into your material flow design.
Engineering support is a marginal cost in overall warehousing automation implementation expenditures and always proves to be money well spent.
Procuring automated material handling equipment and software is your next task. It involves navigating a sea of robotics, light controls, and conveyance manufacturers supplied by a long list of intralogistics equipment integrators. Through your selection, prioritize interoperability through rigorous software capabilities as it plays the leading role in any equipment’s ability to deliver on its productivity promises.
Stories of underperforming equipment, malfunctioning integrations, or even short-term dismantlement are too frequent.
Building an optimal process begins with understanding your operation’s data. Identify material profiles, process steps, labor requirements, order volumes, and throughput expectations. Conduct an audit of your software portfolio capabilities, from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to Warehouse Control Systems (WCS). Taking a holistic view of your operations is critical to identifying automation opportunities and uncovering implementation risks.
The next step is the daunting task of engineering automated equipment into an end-to-end material flow. It is common and recommended to seek independent engineering support at this stage. The relationship between automated equipment and engineering lies in the need for expertise in designing, building, programming, and utilizing machines that replicate human activities. Independent engineering support helps ensure that the design and implementation of machinery are optimized for cost efficiency, flexibility, and overall operational effectiveness.
By engaging external experts, companies can leverage their expertise to navigate the complex landscape of automation, considering factors beyond just return on investment. This includes harmonizing the end-to-end workflow of automated equipment, addressing design considerations, and incorporating industry best practices. While ROI is no longer the sole factor, it still shares the podium of justification factors and should not be disregarded. Investing in ensuring flexibility and cost efficiency in your material flow is a wise decision.
I’m left with one sticking question, though: knowing which equipment type is most efficient in a specific handling scenario while orchestrating it into an optimal material flow supported by advanced software algorithms is the industrial engineering challenge of our times.
Procuring equipment and software is your next task. It involves navigating a sea of manufacturers and intralogistics equipment integrators. To avoid making significant compromises, always prioritize the end-to-end material flow. You will discover that intralogistics software, such as Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Warehouse Execution Systems (WES), Warehouse Control Systems (WCS), and Material Flow Systems (MFS), play a crucial role in achieving seamless orchestration.
Onomatic’s multiagent orchestration solution
Onomatic is designed for vendor-agnostic interoperability. We bring your engineered material flows from design to reality.
Our comprehensive Warehouse Execution Systems (WES), Warehouse Control Systems (WCS), and Material Flow Systems (MFS) features enable material flows to which warehouse automation equipment can be easily configured. By understanding workflow dependencies and equipment availability, capacity, and speed, Onomatic orchestrates the optimal execution of your intralogistics tasks, from receiving to shipping.
Click here to learn how we integrate, orchestrate, execute and control intralogistics activities.