When companies contact consulting firms to help expand their distribution capacities, it is often specifically to help with Warehouse Automation. They are looking for assistance with their processes–whether for design, implementation or both. It is an inherent assumption that, once achieving or projecting certain output or order volume levels, they must automate to mirror others in their industry to be successful. But is warehouse automation always essential to long-term growth and success?
While most of us find automation to be fun and an exciting project (it’s personally one of my favorites), I think too many companies may skip an important step. Detailed growth planning should come first to actually determine whether automation is the best solution for their specific business needs.
There are many more Pros and Cons I could list; these are just a jumping off point to help you and your company examine warehouse automation. I do think such discussions can promote 2-sided thinking when it comes to considering your distribution capacity options, whether for e-commerce, retail or manufacturing.
It also suggests making sure your selected consulting partner does not have a vested financial interest in driving you to automate. You want a partner with experience in both manual and automated operations, and with established working relationships with automation equipment providers if that proves to be the correct path for your business. Unless you have already been through the planning and design steps and know for sure what level of automation meets your needs – you may want to avoid those with direct financial links to automation providers, or that include their own equipment or software to embed themselves in your organization.
– Michael Warren, Crimson & Co USA