Autonomous Mobile Robots

Pros and Cons of AGVs

Recently we discussed the use of Autonomous Mobile Robots and how in the long-term they would prove to be the future technology used across a number of warehouses and distribution centres. At the same time we are aware that the uncertainty of Brexit means many businesses are hesitant to invest in more expensive technology. It may also be the case that for some companies, regardless of the current economic climate, a solid business case cannot be made for introducing the technology into their supply chain.

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) have been around in one form or another for almost 70 years and there is a case to be made for and against their continued use. Read on below to find out more about some of the systems benefits and drawbacks.

Pro’s

Reduction of labour costs

Increasing productivity and efficiency is the golden ticket that every business wants to win. AGVs tick these boxes due to their reliability and long term cost effectiveness. They do not tire or need to take breaks during the day. They provide higher task accuracy and can be set to work on repetitive tasks that could lead to injury, or put humans at risk over a period of time.

Modular Growth

The use of an AGV can start with as few as one but as demands grow, so too can the fleet. Their operation expands (or decreases) as and when you need it to, and the time taken to implement these changes will enhance the speed of your operational flow. If needed, AGVs can also be adapted to include robotic attachments as a cost effective gateway into more advanced technology.

Predictability and Safety

Their easy control handling means AGVs remain a reliable and safe way to transport goods through distribution and warehouse centres. They are designed and installed to work away from the workforce which lessens any safety concerns that may arise. What makes them particularly useful is their ability to be used in environments where extreme temperatures are standard, while also taking on heavier loads and reducing the risk of injury to staff.

Disadvantages

High initial cost

As is the case for any company looking to invest in new technology, the initial financial outlay can prove to be a difficult obstacle to overcome. Long term returns have to be balanced against a feasible purchasing period and offset against the reduction of labour costs. During that time it would be safe to assume that there may be some additional maintenance costs. No machine is perfect and any costing should also factor in potential downtime and disruption caused to operations as a result.

Singular Use

An AGVs predictability can also prove to be its own worst enemy. Getting the most out of the system is very much dependent on ensuring you can maximise its focused strengths. AGVs thrive when undertaking repetitive tasks but if this not an area you need to improve, you may not benefit too greatly from investment.

Lack of Flexibility

If the path or route needs to be altered quickly due to a new layout, or unforeseen issues, then it can take some time to halt operations and reprogram the AGV to adapt to a new workflow. At its best a distribution centre will work like a well-oiled machine, but the fast-changing demands of a warehouse means there can be a need to react quickly. If the repetitive task cycle of an AGV is suited to your operations without the need for regular fast changes, then they will be an ideal system to purchase.

 

 

 

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office partitions

Benefits of Office Partitions

Where office cubicles was once the preferred option for many offices, floor-to-ceiling partitions are now becoming a more popular choice for a number of reasons. The flexibility offered by this type of partition allows for greater control of the workplace environment, creating a bespoke shape to suit the requirements of the employees. They are ideal for warehouse and production facilities that require space for administration and management offices, and as the company expands, new partitions can be installed to suit. There are a whole range of additional benefits that come with the installation of office partitions which we will discuss in more detail below.

Noise reduction

Low wall partitions, or cubicles, are intended to remove visual distractions for workers, allowing them to concentrate on the work at hand. The noise levels within an office are not blocked out by this type of partition and interruptions occur more easily. The floor-to-ceiling alternative helps to lower noise pollution within the office space far more effectively. Phone calls, typing, conversations etc., are less noticeable and allow employees to focus on their work. This is also extremely helpful for any important incoming or outgoing phone calls, as less background noise creates the right impression for clients on the other end of the phone.

Colour scheme

Purchasing an open plan office presents a blank canvas for a company to build upon. Office partitions arrive in a similar fashion and the neutral colours allow them to be decorated to match the specific branding and style associated with the business. This is particularly helpful for satellite or sales offices that act as a representative for the company abroad. Maintaining brand consistency offers a familiarity and comfort for visiting clients and retains a sense of professionalism.

Personal space

Floor-to-ceiling partitions do contain windows, of course, but the enclosed nature of the space provides more privacy for employees. Not everyone feels comfortable displaying pictures of loved ones and other personal items on their desk in the middle of a busy workspace. Office partitions provide the opportunity for workers to feel relaxed in their own environment, which it turn should lead to a better quality of work. This option also provides more security for any items of worth brought into the office, which can be safely locked away from sight at the end of the day.

Cost effective

For businesses that are looking for either long, or short-term leases, office partitions are a great way to manage costs and the overall layout. They are cheaper than the building of permanent walls and also mean that offices can be removed or expanded upon without spending too much extra time and money. For offices that are needed for a short space of time, be it for a particular event or transitional period, operations can be up and running relatively quickly. If needed, the partitions can then be taken down and used again elsewhere. Energy costs will also benefit as less of the office space will need to receive heating on a consistent basis.

Natural light and visual aesthetics

Glass partitions are both pleasing to the eye and create transparency between various workers. For management, rather than being blocked off from outside activity, it keeps them in sync with the mood of employees in the main workspace. The reverse is also true, as there is less of a divide between employees who may feel the management is inaccessible if they are not visible within their office. For those working inside a glass partitioned office, the natural light coming into the space aids concentration rather than the intensity sometimes created by artificial lighting.

 

 

 

 

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Warehouse Automation Services

Automated Conveyor System

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.

Belt Conveyors

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.

Gravity Conveyor

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.

Pallet conveyors

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.

Other types

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.

 

 

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Warehouse Automation Services

Who needs Warehouse Automation?

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.

Financial cost

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.

Capacity

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.

The customer

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.

Employee

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.

Alternatives

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

Enjoy the Certainty of a Successful Project with 2H Storage Solutions. With our extensive range of high quality products, professional standards and competitive prices, 2h Storage Solutions can fulfil all your storage and warehouse requirements.  Call us on 01937 585057 or fill out the form on our contact page here..

 

 

 

 

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Warehouse Layouts

Improving the Energy Efficiency of your Warehouse

Automation is the buzz word of the moment and the subjects associated with it look set to increase in scope as the technology becomes part and parcel of warehouse life. Much has been said already about the efficiency that can be gained from it use, and the long term cost savings achieved by businesses that choose to invest.

Improving distribution productivity is not the only way in which significant cost savings can be made. Managing your energy use within the facility is key to making the most out of the tools at your disposal. It is not necessarily a subject that gets people fired up, but given how much finance is spent on heating, lighting and powering operations, its importance is too often overlooked.

The Carbon Trust conducted a survey last year and found that half of the 1,000 SMEs questioned were concerned about the cost of their energy bills. The organisation believe that savings up to 20-30% can be found through the implementation of energy efficient measures and the simple changing of routines. Below are some of the ways in which you can begin to lower the costs within your distribution centre.

Lighting

Keeping the warehouse fully lit enhances safety and provides a better working environment for those who work within it. Naturally, this will mean a lot of lights, which in turn requires a lot of energy expenditure. LED lights are the best alternative to help reduce energy bills and they can also last up to 50% longer than traditional bulbs. As a recyclable material they allow you to play your part in contributing to a sustainable environment. They also emit far less heat, which helps to reduce temperature levels during the summer and in-turn lowers the use of air conditioning, cutting costs even further.

Closing doors

There are two ways in which doors impact on energy efficiency; their age and condition and by being left open throughout the day. When left open, heat is lost and heaters and/or cooling systems have to work harder to balance out the change in temperature. Older warehouse doors can sometimes be unreliable and slower to close, which is why the easier option is to leave them open. Ensuring there are no gaps or cracks is equally important, as is checking they are fully insulated to help maintain optimal temperature in the space.

Making full use of space

As we discussed in our article about mezzanine flooring, there are a lot of advantages to be gained from their installation into industrial spaces. One we didn’t mention at the time is energy savings. Working vertically instead of expanding operations across the ground maximises space and often means relocation is not a requirement. This obviously saves costs on the move and purchasing/rental costs, but also saves on the higher energy bills a new facility would naturally incur. If going green is a key business objective, new premises might also mean updating logistical roots and an increase in your carbon footprint.

Manage your HVAC system

In modern warehouses, HVAC systems are typically responsible for powering the heating, cooling and ventilation. The most important question to ask is, how much time and effort goes into its maintenance? There are two answers to this questions; either you are spending too much on repairs and problem solving, or you keep the filters clean and schedule regular check-ups. Those who relate to the first response can easily feel the benefit of implementing a simple schedule for check-ups. Also think about areas not in use that do not need to be cooled or heated on a regular basis, as this should produce noticeable cost savings.

Waste management

The management of waste has both a direct and indirect effect on your green initiatives. Ensuring unwanted and damaged materials are cleared from the facility keeps employees safe and maximises space. To improve your carbon footprint, ensure batches of materials are separated from each other and disposed of using recyclable options. The easiest thing to do is to dump everything in the nearest landfill, which ultimately goes against every over energy efficient change you may implement inside your premises.

 

 

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Mezzanine-Floor-Installations

Benefits of adding Mezzanine Flooring

In most cases, when it comes to maximising space in a warehouse or storage facility, the focus is heavily centred upon the ground floor. Reconfiguring operations in this area makes sense, of course, but consideration should always be given to the vertical space within the building. Mezzanine flooring is the ideal solution for companies working in constricted spaces who need to expand but are not in a position to consider moving to larger premises. In this blog we’ll talk through how mezzanine flooring can add significant benefits to the logistics in your warehouse.

Storage space

Storage needs are an ongoing issue in any successful retail business and mezzanine flooring offers a relatively cheap and easy solution. This is the primary reason why people look at purchasing this particular style of storage. Large warehouses in particular benefit as they begin to make use of the empty space that has been going to waste for quite some time. The height of the facility will dictate how many floors can be added but mezzanine flooring allows you to capitalise on the full area under your control.

Avoid moving the business

The continued growth of online retailing is producing an interesting conundrum for a number of businesses. Price competition is fierce and the need to minimise overheads is key to remaining competitive. Yet sustained order growth creates the need to expand to keep up with demand. Moving is a cost all in itself, let alone taking on the financial weight of a new warehouse. The installation of mezzanine flooring shouldn’t be viewed as a short-term fix. However, if you do reach the point where even this is not sufficient, then you may be more ready for that move than you believe.

Cost effective

The simple construction of mezzanine flooring is reflected in its cost. It is a reliable and cost effective way to maximise the workspace. It not only creates extra capacity but increases efficiency and provides a positive knock-on effect to the organisation in the areas that have been relieved of unsustainable storage. Small businesses benefit enormously from this option, successfully planning incremental expansion without unnecessary investment.

Warehouse Safety

Regulations and rules in this area have been tightened significantly over the past couple of decades, much to the benefit of the staff who work there. Mezzanine floors offer an ideal vantage point for supervisors and managers to get a full overview on any potential dangers occurring within the warehouse. It also provides a visual view of the product flow in and out of the facility, which can prove to be a valuable way of making small but meaningful changes to work processes.

Office Space

The flexibility of mezzanine flooring allows it to be used for more than just storage space. Growth within a company means more than just finding extra space to store more goods. Increased product demand requires more warehouse staff and office workers to maintain the back office administrative side of the business. If office space is limited, mezzanine flooring can be utilised to create new workspace too. It can be designed and function in the same way as any other office space and presents a practical long-term solution for the business.

The installation of mezzanine flooring can work for warehouses of any size. For those in need of creative solutions on a tight budget, this is likely to be an option worth considering. Rather than be cornered into moving the business or expanding at an unnecessary rate, this style of storage will help to maximise the potential of your current storage space. And with the option to construct muli-level mezzanine flooring, the sky really is the limit.

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