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International Forwarding Association Blog » European Logistics » Warehouse Automation to Maintain Social Distancing and Increase Productivity

Warehouse Automation to Maintain Social Distancing and Increase Productivity

Warehouse automation is a major trend amidst a coronavirus pandemic that already entered its second year. The resulting global recession and lockdowns across the world brought industrial activity to a near halt. As manufacturers began to gradually reopen and resume operations, forwarders throughout Europe found themselves faced with multiple challenges – e-commerce logistics, a growing demand for essential commodities, restricted mobility, and social distancing.

As a result of all this, logistics providers have been forced to seek ways to optimize resource use, shorten loading and shipping times, and increase productivity. Many companies turned to warehouse automation in an attempt to reduce costs and minimize workplace infections.


Operations That Providers Can Automate

Storage and Retrieval

There is a wide range of storage and retrieval technologies such as pallet conveyor systems, mobile racking systems, and roller conveyors for bins, totes, and boxes. Mobile racking or shelving systems increase storage capacity and allow for a more efficient use of space. The storage units are computer-controlled. Pallet conveyor systems enable the moving, distributing, and accumulating of commodities at specific locations. Roller conveyors ensure that boxes and bins are transported under controlled conditions, thus reducing operating costs. More importantly, as many logistics operators have reduced the number of staff per shift to avoid workplace infections, conveyor systems come handy in substituting operators and standard handling equipment.

Goods Dispatch and Receipt

Automatic truck unloading and loading systems are increasingly used to streamline dispatch and receipt. Systems include components such as chains or rollers that remove or insert pallets inside trucks. Other elements include skids, extendable forks, hydraulic tables, and lifting platforms. It usually takes about half an hour to manually unload pallets based on type of commodity and weight. With automation, unloading takes under 10 minutes.

Rise of Robots

Robotic technologies are increasingly used to help maintain social distancing. In some South Korean manufacturing facilities, for instance, robots are now used to provide hand sanitizer and measure temperatures. Robotic solutions are also used to disinfect warehouse surfaces and curb the spread of the coronavirus. They administer ultraviolet light and chemicals to deep clean facilities.


Monitoring Warehouse Operations

Faced with repeated supply chain disruptions on a global scale, European logistics companies have been forced to prioritize monitorability. Many have already implemented warehouse management systems to track supply chain movement in real time. This allows for improved control. Staff can always check where stock is going or where it is located, where it was shipped from, and what’s in stock. Additionally, providers benefit from functionalities such as equipment monitoring, cross-docking, shipping route management, and wave order management.

Software solutions feature multiple functionalities for data collection, scheduling, purchasing materials, and turning quotes into orders. Additional capabilities allow for job tracking and costing, quality control, accounting, and documenting processes. From inventory and material control to cost analysis and order processing, warehouse automation helps streamline operations and allows for better control, traceability, and visibility.