Using warehouse automation can boost operational efficiency, increase productivity, reduce labor costs, and help ensure a synchronous, smooth flow of warehouse processes. However, it can be easier said than done. That’s why many businesses turn to warehousing and distribution services over managing a warehouse themselves.
What is warehouse automation?
Warehouse automation is using technology and equipment to streamline repetitive warehousing operations, making them less labor-intensive to drive greater efficiencies.
Types of warehouse automation
From automated order processing and automated shipping solutions, to automated storage and retrieval systems, there are different types of warehouse automation that work in various ways to increase productivity and streamline processes.
1. Goods-to-person (GTP)
GTP solutions use robots, machines, or equipment that assist workers to make warehouse picking more efficient. They are most often picking solutions designed to reduce travel time.
2. Pick-to-light (PLT) systems
Pick-to-light systems make use of barcodes and LED lights to assist workers in finding the right items to fulfill an order. They also help increase productivity and locate items accurately and efficiently.
3. Voice picking systems
Pickers use voice picking systems to communicate through headsets to manage and oversee movement and picking lists and tasks. This way, they can easily communicate with the warehouse manager about picking details.
4. Box selection algorithm using Cubiscan
A box selection algorithm ensures that your orders have consistency in fulfillment costs by calculating the ideal package size for a given order combination. Cubiscan machines determine the right size depending on the dimensions and weights of the products that are to be shipped. For example, ShipBob uses this in combination with each customer’s packaging preferences to tell us which package size we should use for any order combination so we select the best suitable packaging while reducing dimensional weight.
Top benefits of implementing warehouse automation
Warehouse automation is an integral part of optimizing the supply chain, as it reduces the time, effort, and errors caused by manual, variable tasks. Some business owners employ logistics automation in their own warehouse, using their own technology and tools.
However, it’s often worth considering the services of a third-party that specializes in warehouse automation and fulfillment, as they have a lot to offer with much less investment required on your part. Here are some of the advantages offered by warehouse automation software or through partnering with a reliable 3PL like ShipBob.
“When I was gearing up to launch the business, I was looking for someone who would automate fulfillment for us. I chose ShipBob, and it turned out to be a very easy and scalable solution.
Everything was automated, from setting up my store, to sending product, to fulfilling orders.
It was pretty remarkable how a 24-year-old like me with very little money and no prior logistics experience could launch a product and have distribution be automated.”
Josh Hollings, Founder & CEO of Drop FX
1. Boosts employee productivity
With warehouse automation, businesses can streamline processes in the supply chain to make them more efficient. This doesn’t always mean replacing employees with robots but helping staff do their jobs better and faster and/or repurposing their time to focus on more specialized tasks.
Proper warehouse management can even increase worker satisfaction by removing the more mundane, repetitive tasks. At ShipBob, we use warehouse automation systems to optimize our fulfillment centers, improve processes, and automate fulfillment.
“Compared to other warehouses we’ve worked with, ShipBob processes orders so quickly to get them out the door faster. It’s fun to see orders shipping out instantaneously. I love how fast and efficient ShipBob is.”
Harley Abrams, Operations Manager of SuperSpeed Golf, LLC
2. Improves accuracy
A leading reason why customers lose trust in an ecommerce business is when they receive the wrong order. Warehouse automation can help reduce errors by reducing the number of decisions a warehouse associate needs to make. ShipBob uses warehouse automation to eliminate picking and packing errors for better order accuracy through our box selection and Cubiscan process. This helps us choose the optimal packaging for each unique order, taking the seller’s preferences into account, and instructing the packer for each order.
3. Decrease warehouse labor costs
By optimizing your distribution center with warehouse automation systems, you cut labor costs associated with the order fulfillment process. When ShipBob does this for example, we decrease our variable cost per order and give customers cheaper rates, passing the savings back on to them.
How ShipBob’s warehouse automation helped these 3 businesses grow
Rather than needing to manage, automate, and optimize a warehouse yourself, you can outsource fulfillment to ShipBob and have us take care of fulfillment logistics for you. Below, you’ll hear from a few of the thousands of ecommerce brands that ShipBob helps.
Ocean & Co. is an ecommerce brand that sells high-quality jewelry and eco-friendly accessories. They chose ShipBob as their fulfillment partner to help them scale sustainably.
“I’ve talked to people who think they save money by fulfilling themselves. Their first question is always ‘is a 3PL worth the extra expense?’
We see outsourcing fulfillment as a cost-savings and believe it will save you money in the long run. 3PLs negotiate rates, give you back all the time you’d spend stuffing mailers, and reduce the errors you’d make messing up addresses.
Most of all, those are hours we’d spend on tasks that are not scaling our business when we could be using those resources for growth. You should spend time doing what you do best, and fulfillment is an easy task to take off your plate.
ShipBob owns the entire stack: inventory and order management system, warehouse management system, and their fulfillment centers. As soon as an order is placed, inventory is automatically marked as accounted for, so it’s held until it’s shipped. You see exactly what is picked.”
Gerard Ecker, Founder & CEO of Ocean & Co.
SubSubmarine is a music label that sells vinyls, cassettes, and merchandise from independent artists. They needed a reliable 3PL to outsource their fulfillment to without having to worry about monthly order minimums, and ShipBob came through.
“ShipBob pulls me out of having to deal with the physical labor side of the business. It’s an automated flow that lets me spend less time on things that aren’t making money.
Plus ShipBob’s customer service is great, and I have no trouble placing orders and submitting warehouse receiving orders (WROs).”
Lee Nania, Founder of SubSubmarine
MDacne is a direct-to-consumer digital health brand that provides smartphone users access to dermatological services, with no need to visit a dermatologist. They partnered with ShipBob to keep shipping costs low while enabling growth through a high-tech solution.
“We are growing really fast and won’t slow down anytime soon. With ShipBob, we have the option to use more of their warehouses to further reduce shipping costs.
Because ShipBob has a lot of people to handle our orders and additional warehouses we can expand into, we can scale up with ease as we continue to grow quickly.
If we ran our own warehouse, it would be much harder to hire people and we’d inevitably outgrow the space.”
Oded Harth, CEO & Co-Founder of MDacne
Why one brand moved from their large warehouse to ShipBob
After launching two years ago, managing their own large warehouse, and hitting the $20 million-mark in annual sales, one ecommerce brand finally decided to move fulfillment from their own warehouse to ShipBob.
They found ShipBob’s value is the ability to scale across the country, with fulfillment centers throughout the US and the ability to send out more packages than they could do in-house.
“As a business that’s scaling, figuring out how to live up to customer expectations was not easy for us to do until we came across a solution like ShipBob. The fact that ShipBob has fulfillment centers nationwide gives us Amazon-like speeds when getting packages to our customers.
ShipBob’s done an amazing job of fulfilling orders within a 24-hour period, which was something that our customers were used to. I can’t say that all shipping solutions would be that diligent in getting packages out the door.
Before ShipBob, we were unable to forecast properly when it came to inventory demand and projections. ShipBob has been an integral part of helping us forecast so that we can continue to provide the best customer service and shipping.”
Read the full story here.
Ready to level up your fulfillment? Utilize ShipBob’s warehouse automation
ShipBob is the market leader in ecommerce fulfillment and has the experience, automated warehouses, and resources to take your business to the next level of growth.
Between our proprietary warehouse management system (or WMS) that’s used in all of our fulfillment centers that can track and route similar orders in the same part of the warehouse to a single picker, or the real-time updates sent back to merchants to view fulfillment performance and inventory levels, it’s a fulfillment solution unlike any other.
Ready to get started with a 3PL that utilizes warehouse automation? Fill out the form below to request a quote from ShipBob. A fulfillment expert will reach out to discuss custom pricing and how ShipBob works.
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Warehouse automation FAQs
Here are answers to some common questions that business owners have regarding warehouse automation.
How do automated warehouses work?
Automated warehouses use specialized equipment and integrated warehouse automation software to improve the efficiency of repetitive tasks and reduce labor costs.
How does ShipBob’s warehouse automation work with an online store?
ShipBob’s warehouse automation kicks in after you integrate your online store with our software and send us your inventory. Once your stores, products, and orders are synced, we automatically pick, pack, and ship each order in the most cost-effective way,
Does warehouse automation increase productivity?
Yes. Warehouse automation synchronizes your business operations, ensuring a smooth workflow and increasing productivity overall.