Supply Chain Performance
Supply Chain Performance

Automatic warehouses: Features, advantages and types

In this article we will talk about automated warehousing and its characteristics, advantages and types. In today’s world of logistics, stock management in warehouses…

On March 27, 2023

In this article we will talk about automated warehousing and its characteristics, advantages and types. In today’s world of logistics, stock management in warehouses is a critical and complex task that requires innovative and efficient solutions to ensure maximum accuracy and speed in the process. This is where automated warehousing comes into play, an advanced solution that optimizes storage space, reduces waiting times and increases efficiency in inventory management. FM Logistic offers quality warehousing services, in which the most advanced solutions in automation and technology are implemented to guarantee customer satisfaction. Join us in this article to learn more about automated warehousing and its benefits.

What is automatic storage?

Automated warehousing in logistics can be defined as the use of automated systems to manage the storage and retrieval of goods in a warehouse. These types of systems include technologies such as robots, conveyors, cranes and warehouse management software, which enable greater efficiency and accuracy in the process of storing and retrieving products. The goal of these systems is to reduce storage costs, improve productivity, and increase the speed and accuracy of product delivery. In addition, automated storage in logistics also enables better use of warehouse space, as the systems can stack products high in a safe and efficient manner.

How do automated warehouses work?

Automated warehouses use a centralized control system to manage incoming and outgoing products. First, products are tagged with a barcode or radio frequency identification (RFID) system that allows them to be tracked in the system. The products are then placed in containers or pallets, which are automatically transported through a network of conveyors and cranes to the assigned storage location. In the warehouse, the products are stored on shelves or racks using automated cranes that place the garbage cans or pallets in the correct location. When a product needs to be retrieved, the warehouse management system sends an order to the conveyor system, which locates and transports the container or pallet to the pick point.

What type of technology is used in automated warehouses?

A variety of technologies are used in automated warehouses to automate storage and inventory management tasks. These include:

  • Robots: Warehouse robots are autonomous machines that move and manipulate objects in the warehouse. These robots can be of different types, such as autonomous mobile robots (AMR), articulated arm robots, palletizing robots, among others.
  • Automatic conveyors: Automatic conveyors are systems that allow products to be moved through the warehouse without the need for human intervention. These can be roller conveyors, belt conveyors, chain conveyors, among others.
  • Automated control systems: Automated control systems are computerized systems that control and coordinate storage and inventory management processes in the warehouse. These systems allow tasks to be programmed and control the movements of robots and conveyors.
  • Inventory management software: Inventory management software is used to control inventory in the warehouse and ensure that there is sufficient stock of products to meet demand. These systems can be integrated with other warehouse automation systems to optimize inventory management.
  • Communication systems: The communication system in automated warehouses refers to the exchange of information between warehouse management software and automation devices, such as robots and storage units, to efficiently coordinate storage and product retrieval operations.

How is an automated warehouse managed?

An automated warehouse is a facility that uses automation technology to efficiently manage the storage and retrieval of products. To function properly, it requires warehouse management software (WMS) that controls all automated processes and devices, such as robots, conveyors and elevators. The WMS is responsible for receiving and processing customer orders, determining the location of products in the warehouse, assigning the task to the appropriate robot, and controlling their movement and handling. It also monitors space availability and inventory turnover, and provides real-time reporting and analysis for decision making. Efficient automated warehouse management can significantly improve productivity and accuracy, reduce errors and storage costs, and increase customer satisfaction.

What are the advantages of automatic storage?

El almacenamiento automático ofrece varias ventajas sobre los sistemas de almacenamiento tradicionales. En primer lugar, mejora la eficiencia y la productividad al reducir los tiempos

Automated storage offers several advantages over traditional storage systems. First, it improves efficiency and productivity by reducing downtime, increasing storage capacity and speeding up product retrieval. By automating product handling, it also reduces the risk of human error and improves accuracy and speed in the retrieval process. Space optimization in an automated warehouse is also possible because the system can adjust to demand and changes in inventory turnover. Finally, automated warehousing also improves operational safety in warehouses and product handling, as robots and storage units are designed to handle and transport products safely and without damaging them.

What types of automated warehouses are there?

According to its construction:

  • Conventional automated warehouses: These are warehouses that are built with a conventional structure, such as an industrial building, and are equipped with automation technology for storage management and product retrieval. These warehouses usually have heights of between 6 and 20 meters and are suitable for storing medium to large products.
  • Automated high-bay warehouses: These are warehouses specifically designed to maximize vertical storage capacity by constructing high-rise buildings, which can reach 50 meters or more. These warehouses typically use vertical conveyor technology to move products and are suitable for storing small to medium sized products.

According to the type of merchandise:

  • Automatic dry goods warehouses: These are warehouses designed for the storage of dry goods, such as packaged food, pharmaceuticals, spare parts, among others.
  • Automated warehouses for perishable products: These are warehouses designed specifically for the storage of perishable products, such as fresh or frozen foods. These warehouses are usually equipped with refrigeration and freezing systems to maintain the proper temperature.
  • Automated warehouses for hazardous products: These are warehouses designed for the storage of hazardous products, such as chemicals or explosives. These warehouses usually have special safety features to avoid risks.
  • Automated pharmaceutical warehouses: These are warehouses designed specifically for the storage of pharmaceutical products. These warehouses are usually equipped with refrigeration and temperature controlled systems to maintain the integrity of the products.
  • Automatic warehouses for bulk products: These are warehouses designed for the storage of bulk products, such as granular materials, powders or liquids.

According to its compaction:

  • Compact automated warehouses: these are warehouses that use a compact racking system to store products, allowing a better use of vertical space. These racks can be static or mobile, allowing access to the products by means of transport and elevation systems.
  • Automated flow warehouses: these are warehouses in which products are automatically moved by conveyor systems, such as conveyor belts or rollers, and stored on mobile shelves. This type of warehouse is especially useful for high turnover products, as it allows for faster product retrieval.
  • Automated box warehouses: these are warehouses that use racks to store boxes, packages or containers of different sizes. These racks are usually equipped with conveyor and lifting systems that allow access to the boxes automatically.
  • Automated pallet warehouses: these are warehouses that use racks to store pallets of different sizes. These racks can be static or mobile and are equipped with conveyor and lifting systems that allow access to the pallets automatically.

According to their level of automation:

  • Semi-automated automated warehouses: these are warehouses in which most operations are performed by automated systems, but still require some human intervention for some specific tasks, such as product loading and unloading or software management.
  • Highly automated warehouses: are those in which most of the operations are carried out by automated systems and only require human intervention in supervision and maintenance tasks.
  • Fully automated warehouses: are those in which all operations are performed by automated systems, without any human intervention. These warehouses are highly efficient and significantly reduce labor costs, but are expensive to implement and maintain.

According to the type of robot:

  • Automated warehouses with stacker cranes: these warehouses use stacker cranes for handling goods. Stacker cranes are robots that move along the warehouse aisles and can pick and place pallets or containers on shelves of different heights.
  • Automated warehouses with transfer carts: in these warehouses, the robots used are transfer carts that move on rails and can transport goods throughout the warehouse.
  • Automated warehouses with transport robots: these warehouses use autonomous mobile robots for handling and transporting goods. These robots can move throughout the warehouse and carry goods from one place to another.
  • Automated warehouses with order picking systems: these warehouses are equipped with automated order picking systems, such as voice picking systems, light picking systems, robot picking systems and order sorting systems.

How can you find out what type of automatic warehouse you need?

Para saber qué tipo de almacén automático es el adecuado para tu empresa, es necesario evaluar una serie de factores, como el tamaño de tus productos, la velocidad de rotación, el volumen de inventario y la disponibilidad de espacio en tu instalación. También es importante considerar la tecnología de automatización disponible y el nivel de complejidad requerido en tus procesos de almacenamiento y recuperación de inventario. 

To know which type of automated warehouse is right for your company, you need to evaluate a number of factors, such as the size of your products, turnover rate, inventory volume and space availability in your facility. It is also important to consider the automation technology available and the level of complexity required in your inventory storage and retrieval processes.

How is an automatic warehouse installed?

The installation of an automated warehouse is a process that requires detailed planning and a specialized team. First, an analysis of the warehouse requirements must be performed, including the type of products to be stored and the volume of daily movements. Next, the system is designed, the necessary structures are built and storage equipment such as racking, conveyors and elevators are installed. The programming and configuration of the control systems and software are a crucial part of the installation process, as these systems are responsible for managing the warehouse and optimizing the storage and retrieval processes. Once installed, the automated warehouse must undergo extensive testing to ensure that it is compliant and ready for operation.

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