Time to Embrace Warehouse Automation Technology

The past 12 months have been challenging for businesses, factories and warehouses across the UK.  To say that we are living in unprecedented times feels like an understatement. The impact of COVID has impacted everybody and every business.  E-commerce has boomed and this trend is set to continue.  Online shopping is not going anywhere. Even when physical shops are allowed to open, having an online presence is almost expected these days.

Companies need to adapt or their future looks bleak. Factory automation, automation in distribution centers and warehouse automation technology are a must. We are currently going through the 4th industrial revolution. Known as Industry 4.0 which basically means digital transformation or smart manufacturing.  The only way to safeguard and future-proof factories, warehouse’s and all businesses really, is to move with the times.  COVID has sped up the process and more and more companies are investing in factory automation systems.

If you are looking for factory automation companies in the North East, we can help.  2h Storage Solutions have been helping companies adapt to automation systems for many years.  There is little doubt of the number of benefits to using warehouse automation.  There will be an initial outlay but over time it will help to reduce costs.

Safe working environment

Due to this highly transmissible virus the meaning of safe working environment has expanded.  This past year has been all about keep a distance.  Space is always been at a premium in factories and warehouses. With this pandemic it has been difficult for many business to follow the government guidelines. Below is an extract from the governments advice and guidance on working safely in factories plants and warehouses:

Working safely during COVID-19 in factories, plants and warehouses

COVID-19 secure guidance for employers, employees and the self employed
5 November 2020

Employers have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. Employers must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace so that everybody’s health and safety is protected. In the context of COVID-19 this means protecting thehealth and safety of your workers and visitors by working throughthese steps in order:

▪ Ensuring both workers and visitors who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the premises. By law from 28 September businesses may not require a self-isolating employee to come into work.
▪ In every workplace, increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.
▪ Businesses and workplaces should make every reasonable effort to ensure their employees can work safely. Anyone office worker who can work from home should do so. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work, if COVID-19 Secure guidelines are followed closely. When in the workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable is acceptable). Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity can be redesigned to maintain a 2m
distance or 1m with risk mitigations where 2m is not viable.
▪ Further mitigating actions include:
▪ Further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning.
▪ Keeping the activity time involved as short as possible.
▪ Using screens or barriers to separate people from each
other.
▪ Using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
▪ Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others).
▪ Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, even through redesigning a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.
▪ Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are strongly advised to work from home during the period of national restrictions. If they cannot work from home, they should not attend work for this period.
1.1 Managing risk(continued)
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▪ You should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol transmission. We will develop further guidance, based on scientific evidence, to enable these activities as soon as possible.
▪ Finally, if people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then you will need to assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.
▪ In your assessment you should have particular regard to whether the people doing the work are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Information on social contact rules, social distancing and the exemptions that exist can be found here. These rules will not apply to workplaces or education settings, alongside other exemptions. The recommendations in the rest of this document are ones you must consider as you go through this process. You could also consider any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector, for example by trade associations or trades unions. If you are currently operating, you will already have carried out an assessment of the risks posed by COVID-19 in your workplace. You use this document to identify any further improvements you should make. You must review the measures you have put in place to make sure they are working. You should also review them if they may no longer be effective or if there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.

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Automated Warehouse Solutions

Automation makes the most sense in warehouses, where repetitive actions are normal activities. A fully automated warehouse offers far better efficiency and productivity.  The hardest part is working out which is the best factory automation equipment to use.  There are so many factory automation equipment on the market it can be daunting to work out the best solution.  Perhaps you only want to part automate your processes, or maybe go fully automated. With such a large investment it is better getting advice from a warehouse automation company like ourselves.   There are factory robots and storage solutions that can transform your working process so not to rely on people.   A storage solution can be designed and installed in a warehouse or factory where all operations are automated and programmed by software.

Warehouse automation or factory automation offers a number of benefits including reduced labour costs, reduced energy bills and a reduced risks of accidents, due to the absence of people.  Also as mentioned before regarding space, manufacturing automation systems can have a small footprint with greater height.  Many businesses are not ready to go fully auto yet but embracing a semi-automation solution.  This is great to reduce some of the most labour-intensive tasks, such as order picking.

Robots and automation are not in competition for jobs, they are more of a collaborative tool for saving time on repetitive menial tasks.  This gives people more time to spend on more productive tasks that require a human brain.  Robots and humans have worked together for years and this trend is also set to continue.  Collaborative robots function as a flexible automation solution, bridging the gap between operational staff, existing equipment, and data systems.

If you would like to discuss automated warehousing for your business, or to find out information about other storage solutions that are available, please get in touch with the team. We would be happy to help.

 

Richard Haynes has worked in the warehousing industry for many years.