As automated systems grow more complex , ask yourself :
• How many entities are required to support the system long-term ?
• Are all sourcing locations committed to longterm support of the product ?
• Do they have the same vision for their product lifecycle ?
• What software platform will have the flexibility to tie these systems together and ensure adequate standardization to enable upgrade paths and long-term support ?
Developing a set of clear standards is critical to accommodating multiple support alternatives — inhouse and / or vendor provided — as well as train operators and maintenance staff across numerous facilities .
Keeping it Simple
The industry is experiencing a wave of new technology and fresh concepts that make big promises without the expertise or history to back it up . Instead , future-proofing automated warehousing solutions comes down to good old-fashioned quality coupled with proven , robust , and simple solutions . In fact , the simpler the better . Often , the genius in a design is how fundamentally easy it is to build , commission , operate , and maintain . Fashionable , new technology may not hold up to the rigor of 24 / 7 operation , nor deliver on promised performance goals .
Choosing the Right Team
A proven track record and a commitment to quality from vendors who are passionate and personally invested in the success of the system should be the standard for today ’ s prudent investor . As we read about the pace of mergers and acquisitions , a consistent change of leadership , rotation of technical talent , and desire to maximize revenue , rather than value , it is harder than ever to accurately predict whether the design and implementation teams will be there long-term .
Make this a point to evaluate : corporate culture is important and often guarantees the staying power and overall experience when implementing these systems .
Factoring in Cost Optimizing the spend on automation is also no trivial matter . Capital budgeting techniques , such as Internal Rate of Return ( IRR ) or Net Present Value ( NPV ), are commonly used , and design options within an automated solution can be complicated to evaluate . Each option can , and often does , have its own justification — and should be analyzed as such . Product damage and maintenance costs are often overlooked and can impact a project ’ s IRR . Extracting the best value requires a deep understanding from people who are experienced in operations and who will be honest about the role that these costs play over time .
An Honest Evaluation
Future proofing a solution to avoid disruption may require some compromises in the design as well . For example , sizing an automated warehouse involves clarity around packaging and unit load size requirements . Large automated systems can be difficult to alter structurally , so sometimes a small sacrifice in storage density can provide the flexibility to accommodate future packaging changes or palletizing patterns . Regardless , sizing the maximum load envelope is critical to ensure smooth operations without re-work at the dock . So don ’ t rely on the packaging engineers ’ drawings to establish the envelope of the system . Measure “ real ” product , discuss with the team , and receive buy-in from all affected parties to get these design dimensions right .
Integrating the Right Software
Finally , limiting disruptions within automated warehousing facilities requires integrated software recovery tools to ensure any issues can be handled expeditiously . These tools should be well integrated at the software and firmware level , ensuring that data and tracking information remains uncompromised during any manual intervention . Technology and development platforms , like Unity , offer incredible 3D visual interface experiences that provide significant information — in an easily digestible format .
In summary , we can do a lot to future-proof an automated warehousing solution . The concepts noted above are a few key guidelines to keep in mind . Most importantly , partnering with competent experts who have the experience and track record to prove it will ensure your warehouse can handle today ’ s challenges and the unknown ahead .
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