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Why is static storage a sign of under-automation?

Article by Michael Trimmer

The methods and processes now known as under-automation have been long used and well known. They have only become under-automation in the light of new market conditions, new customer expectations, and the emergence of new technologies.

Because of these shifts, many of the areas that are in fact symptoms of under-automation may seem to be normal warehouse practices. Not at all the kinds of arrangements that look to be a drag or burden to a business’s overall performance. However, in the light of the robotic revolution, many practices that were ordinary have now become obstacles. Symptoms of an under-automation situation that has the potential to be a real long-term business survival concern. One of these is static storage.

What is static storage?

Static storage refers to situations where the way that products are stored within a warehouse creates an efficiency ceiling far below where it could be. The storage system is one that cannot move. Either because it is built in place, as is the case with most manual and fixed automation systems, or because while it is theoretically mobile, the weight and heft of the shelving units are such that any movement or rearrangement would be prohibitively disruptive.

Static storage is bad enough in manual warehouse situations, but in fixed automation options it is often literally impossible to change. The robots of fixed warehouse automation solutions need rails and gantries and conveyors to move themselves and their goods around the warehouse. Because of that, the storage modules have to be static. The robots need predictable storage placements to work. Anything moving runs the risk of items getting lost or dropped or damaged.

Why is static storage a problem?

Static storage creates a situation where a warehouse struggles to adjust and adapt to new and different situations as the needs should happen to arise. This was perhaps most starkly and obviously seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suddenly warehouse utilising businesses were presented with two huge challenges to their ongoing operational normalcy. Many of them were needing to set aside space for product quarantine, to avoid transmission of the novel coronavirus to their staff via surface contamination, and they needed to work out how to suddenly shift from B2B to a B2C marketplace. With the global lockdowns and various other factors causing trade in the B2B sector to dramatically shrink, B2B companies suddenly found themselves needing to break up big pallets and store things much more granularly for a B2C audience.

With a static storage arrangement, where shelving cannot be rearranged and storage cannot be adjusted, this becomes much more difficult. Large bodies of time, effort, and money need to be redirected so as to rearrange and reorganise a warehouse in the midst of a crisis necessitating change.

But it’s not just large scale change where this issue emerges. There are many smaller-scale situations such as different products becoming more popular, new product lines entering circulation, or different markets taking on new prominence. All of these require a warehouse that can adapt and adjust as need be. With static storage, this becomes much more difficult. That’s why it’s a clear symptom of under-automation.

How does flexible robotics cure static storage?

Flexible robotics makes static storage a thing of the past. Instead of row after row of shelving units built in place, secured to your warehouse’s superstructure, or rail after conveyor carrying robots in a pattern ensnaring your storage system, flexible robotics allows for a much freer and easier system of storage.

Flexible robotics relies entirely on freestanding shelving units. All of which can be moved, rearranged, and reorganised by the robots themselves. These changes can be based on current demand, predicted trends, upcoming seasons, or any other conditions your business needs to adapt to.

Re-arrangeable product placement

Manually rearranging the products in your warehouse is lengthy and difficult enough in a manual warehouse. In a warehouse using fixed automation, it may be functionally impossible. With all the infrastructure of rails, gantries, and conveyors encircling the storage areas, the idea of re-sorting where things go based on new information is not something that can be embraced as and when needed.

With flexible robotics, rearrangement is dramatically easier. Freestanding storage and self-navigating robots mean that your storage units can be moved exactly where you want and need them to be. Making the very most of advanced industry 4.0 software features like AI-based heat-mapping and activity tracking, your warehouse can be re-organised on the fly, to bring you the very best in efficiency-optimised warehouse operations.

Adaptable storage solutions

Flexible robotics means that not only is the arrangement of your products eminently re-adjustable. The storage solutions themselves can be changed and modified as and when needed.

With entirely modular free-standing racking solutions, if you find yourselves needing to stock a very different model or size of a specific type of item, flexible robotics has you covered. You can quickly and easily find ways to effectively store and organise 500 individual units of something, instead of a single pallet consisting of 500 units.

The robots of flexible robotics can carry shelving units designed for product ranges of all kinds. From bulky mechanical parts to rack after rack of carefully folded apparel. With none of the built-in expectations of fixed robotics, or a built-in place storage apparatus, flexible robotics offers the cure to an under-automated operation stuck without the ability to change quickly.

Discover flexible robotics – discover Wise Robotics

To see for yourself how flexible robotics offers an alternative to static storage, contact Wise Robotics today. Speak with our experts to learn more about industry 4.0 and the future of flexible robotics.

You can even visit us in person. Wise Robotics is proud to own and operate Europe’s first flexible robotics demonstration centre. See the robots in action, learn how they work, and why they offer so much in the way of improved efficiency.

Once you witness the capabilities of flexible robotics for yourself, you’ll understand the opportunities available when your under-automation is cured.

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