The challenge of moving products efficiently within a warehouse facility is a constant source of concern for managers and supervisors. In years past, the transportation of goods occurred via hand, or were combined with carts for orders of a higher volume. In some businesses this can still prove to be the case. The use of conveyor belt systems increased speed but produced their own issues, which means a sturdier, more efficient method had to be introduced to maintain throughput.
Automated conveyor systems are a fast and easy solution that allows for the quick relocation of goods and products within a large, or small facility. They are ideal for handling an assortment of items, especially those that are bulkier in size. This is a prime reason why a growing number of companies are installing automated conveyor systems, allowing them to not only increase efficiency within the warehouse supply chain, but improve employee working conditions.
What to consider before purchasing
Before selecting the automated conveyor you want to install you should primarily base your decision on the type of product that will moved along it. This includes the basics such as the dimensions, which will determine the width of the conveyor and the weight. Also consider the amount of items and the rate at which they will pass along the conveyor, and the product type to match up with the type of system you purchase.
Their make-up is incredibly straight forward and yet the benefits they yield are priceless. Quite simply a belt sits atop a smooth metal bed or rollers. For longer distances rollers are the preferred option as they help to minimise any friction created. Their flexibility in shape also means they are not required to be just one, long straight line. Concentric belts used on corners will allow the products and items to manoeuvre round bends without creating issues.
This non-powered option is often implemented for use in the off-loading of goods into the warehouse, sorting of packages and in manufacturing assembly zones. This is usually the cheapest type of conveyor and that is reflected in the lower amount of control it allows over products.
Powered roller conveyors
There are three main types that fall under this category; zero pressure, live roller and minimum pressure conveyors. The liver roller is best suited for light-to-medium weight loads and often used for package handling. Minimum pressure can handle a similar weight load and can accommodate short lines of product accumulation. Zero pressure conveyors are able to handle products that vary in weight and width. Some are used for sorting, kitting, packaging, or installed into shipping and despatch zones. Picking areas also prefer to use this type of conveyor, as do palletising zones, as this style responds well to high throughput.
To move loads that are particularly heavy in weight there are two options; either a roller pallet conveyor or a drag chain. The former can bear heavier loads and typically finds use in pack out areas and accumulation zones. Drag chain pallet conveyors can be utilised in warehouses that require exposure to very low, or high temperatures. As such, it is a specialised system relied upon for specific types of pallet set-ups.
Overhead conveyors are perhaps one of the oldest types of system, although due to their reliability, still prove to be very popular. For finishing lines, rubbish removal or food packing they are an ideal option. Table top chain conveyors are usually put to work in accumulation, labelling and package handling, while magnetic slide conveyors perform best with the transportation of small parts.
Give our design team a call on 01937 58505 if you want a free site survey and expert advice to create the ultimate warehouse facility.
With the case for moving to automation being spoken for almost everywhere you look, you might begin to feel as if your organisation is being left behind. If what you hear was to be believed, the robotic revolution has already changed the face of the world as we know it.
Fortunately, there is still some time to go before we reach that stage. There is a strong case to be made for many warehouse facilities to seriously start thinking about the use of automation, but it also has to be remembered that the introduction of the technology will not benefit everyone.
How much automation will cost is typically the first issue addressed by companies assessing the technology. The initial outlay involved in purchasing an automated system can prove to be an obstacle too large for smaller sized companies, when balanced against short term returns. Few companies will buy the system outright and instead choose to spread the bulk of the payments across a 3-5 year period. The savings will usually be seen in labour costs and increased productivity and efficiency in the area of operations in which the system has been implemented. If the financial costs do not create a potentially negative impact then this is one of the major issues out of the way.
The main reason many companies are looking towards automation is to increase capacity to meet the growing pace of demand. What needs to be looked at here is the analysis of your current capacity capabilities across every element of the workflow, including storage, employee functions and workspaces. Will the implementation of automation in one area resolve a current issue, only to create a new one elsewhere? In most cases new technology is implemented in one or two areas, rather than overhauling the entire operation. Automation is designed to resolve issues in an efficient manner and improve the full flow of distribution. If its impact is only incremental, when weighed up against the cost, the business needs may not be as urgent as you first believed.
Along with the need to meet growing demand, improving service speed and overall customer experience is key to their retention and your market growth. Not only do customers expect a vast array of products at competitive prices but also fulfilment consistency and accuracy. The addition of automation will hopefully make meaningful improvements to your warehouse supply chain but this should also be felt by the customer. If throughput increases and enhances efficiency and productivity while producing significant costs savings, then customers should also benefit as a result. If not, you may have to rethink how practical automation is at this present time. The technology improves operations and saves money in the long run, but it presents the perfect opportunity to increase competitiveness. In today’s aggressive market, improving customer experience is key to achieving that.
Many of the injuries and errors that occur within both the production and warehouse environment is due to human error. Employees are asked to undertake repetitive tasks for long periods of time which invariably creates issues. Automated equipment doesn’t tire or experience injury, all the while improving overall accuracy of the task at hand. This is an improvement that every warehouse can benefit from, no matter the size. This is worth giving serious consideration to especially if the business case for introducing automation is only a marginal one.
What can you do if you have looked at your business needs and found that the risks outweigh any obvious gains? It shouldn’t be forgotten that semi-automation can offer meaningful solutions and a cost effective gateway into using automated technology. This can be implemented in many labour intensive tasks, reducing the physical stress and strain on the workforce while enhancing efficiency. It can also be adapted to fit your current set-up, so it is in place and working in a shorter time period than full automation may require. Perhaps, most importantly, return on investment should occur in a shorter space of time primarily due to its lower costs in comparison to fully automated equipment.
2h Storage Solutions
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