Automation in logistics

13 May 2020

Demand for transport services is increasing mainly thanks to the growth of e-commerce industry. In 2019 the number of people in the world doing online shopping increased by 8% when compared to the previous year. It all indicates that in the following years this trend will continue.

This phenomenon is clearly visible now, when many companies move their businesses to the Internet, more and more e-shops are founded, which constitutes great challenge to logistics. In order to meet the expectations of today’s clients and keep a regular and competitive price, automation comes as a solution here. This is a process in which human work is substituted with machines and devices performing repeatable actions. Companies which decide to optimize work can expect increase in efficiency and acceleration of manufacturing processes, decrease in an employee’s costs, improving the chain of supply, optimal usage of cargo space as well as lowering maintenance and labour costs, which, in turn, results in long-term profits.

Automation appears at many stages of logistics processes

Automation is usually applied in warehouses and distribution centres, where systems of warehouse management, the so-called WMS (Warehouse Management System), are used. Based on the type and size of a warehouse, various mechanisms are used, which, above all, are to shorten the time of collection and completion of orders as well as increase work productivity.

In warehouses there appear autonomous fork lifts, which are safer and generate less costs than traditional fork lifts controlled by the operator. Fully automated warehouses are launched as well, e.g. a high rack storage in Wronki (Poland), which holds 26,000 pallet places and just one operator supervising the devices. In such warehouses maintenance costs decrease even more as it is not necessary to adapt the building to accommodate people, which significantly limits consumption of utilities.

Robots are also more and more often used in logistics. ES COBOT is one of them – it is used to palletize various types of packages. Other robots can laminate loads placed on pallets or unload containers.

However, automation is not limited to warehouses only. It is also used in road transport, including maps, navigation or GPS allowing for tracking vehicles and optimizing routes. Trucks are the next step in this process.

Large forwarding and transport companies make use of systems for transport management, the so-called TMSs (Transport Managing Systems), which aim to improve cooperation between carriers and manufacturers. They offer functionalities such as: issuing invoices and orders, planning transport routes or monitoring of orders. There are also FMSs (Fleet Manager Systems), which assist in managing a fleet.

Work automation in smaller companies

Many solutions mentioned above cost from several dozen to several hundred thousand Euro, which smaller companies cannot afford. These enterprises usually have reduced needs. That is why, in their case different systems or tools are used.

On the market there are more and more applications improving communication at each stage of the process, optimization tools as well as exchange platforms with an increasing number of possible functionalities, in order to help smaller businesses automate their work.

One of the applications used for work automation is Goodloading. This program supports the loading process and is available to everyone. Smaller businesses can take advantage of a basic offer dedicated to entrepreneurs, and bigger ones will soon be able to integrate through API. On the other hand, warehouse owners can benefit from the Wareh.com platform – add a warehouse to quickly and efficiently rent it for a short or long term.

Running a small company does not entail resignation from the work automation tools. Thanks to many systems available on the market, one can choose those best suited to their business needs.