I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to answer with the first thing that comes to your mind. Would you be able to build a house?
Surely, given the magnitude of the challenge, you will receive a NO as an answer. What if instead of considering the whole process as a whole, I ask you for the 1000 concrete steps you should take to build the house? That is, would you be able to buy the bricks, could you gather 5 friends to help you in the construction?
When we take a big problem and break it down into smaller tasks, we get a more realistic view of the scale of the challenge. We identify where the risk lies and can more accurately assess whether or not we are capable of solving it. When we consider disruptive changes, such as automating a coil store, it helps to focus on the detail of what it will actually entail.
Implementing an automated warehouse causes major changes in the day-to-day logistics processes and this makes it seem more of a challenge than it really is. It is a technological challenge, but each step that must be taken to automate a warehouse 100%, are challenges that are individually more than solved and proven.
Following this concept, at i2U we usually structure the automations in three clear phases, so that the process of change is implemented progressively and is not seen as impossible. These three phases, on the one hand, allow us to understand what the automation process consists of and, on the other hand, on completing each one of them, the client begins to see the benefits generated.
PHASE 1: MONITORING
As we automate warehouses for bulky items, our first task is usually to monitor the warehouse using machine vision. In addition, we connect to the customer’s ERP so we add more variables related to work orders.
With all this data, we get a clear composition of the location, understand the warehouse operations and learn about the criteria used for decision making.
PHASE 2: AUTOMATING DECISION MAKING
Once we know the state of the warehouse at any given moment and we have the work orders to be carried out, our algorithms start to decide which operations should be performed. There is a period in which it is compared to manual decision making and once the system is validated, the decision making system starts to work autonomously.
PHASE 3: AUTOMATION OF MOVEMENT
There are companies specialised in automating crane manoeuvres based on mature technologies and methodologies within the field of industrial automation, so this would be the last phase that would allow for an automated warehouse.
Having an automated warehouse is about solving each of the above-mentioned phases, which, separately, are more than solved. When faced with big problems, there is nothing better than breaking down the challenge into small milestones to see if there really is any insurmountable complexity or not. Therefore, if I ask you again if you would be able to build a house and your answer leads you to reflect, you are on the right track.