Find the Right Robotics and Automation Fit for Your 3PL
Choose the solution and vendor that can work hand in hand with you to analyze your objectives and design a solution that supports your needs. Here's how.
Third-party logistics companies and warehouses alike see the need for automation to improve operations, including making the move to autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).
To help 3PLs, greenfield and brownfield warehouses, and fulfillment centers properly evaluate AMRs, you need to understand the selection criteria along with questions that you should ask yourself and your potential vendors.
Find the Right Solution
When it's time to automate your warehouse, your goal should be to find the right solution to the problem you're having, even if it's not an AMR. Your evaluation will most likely lead to choosing an AMR as a solution, but keep other options in mind. Start by looking at the problem you're trying to solve in your facility. It could include:
- Hiring and retaining skilled workers
- Trying to reduce costs
- Having to fulfill more orders in the space you currently have
- Needing to reduce cycle time
Once you've determined the problem, define your criteria for success, which could include worker retention; increased productivity; and the savings and ROI you'll receive with your chosen solution.
OpEx or CapEx?
Investing in automation and robotics is a priority, but it also can be daunting from the perspective of your CFO. Find out if the solution you're choosing comes as an OpEx model or CapEx. Why? The industry is developing at a rapid pace. If you invest in a solution with a CapEx model, that means that you've committed to that solution for the lifetime of the solution, which could be seven to 10 years, and the industry changes daily and the ROI can take a long time.
With an OpEx model, like Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS), ROI can be in months vs. years. And, because it's flexible, you can increase or decrease the number of bots you have at a time based on demand. When peak season comes around, simply add additional robots just for that timeframe to work in your facility to cover orders with your human associates.
Along with the problem you want to solve and the financial aspect, you also need to be flexible for both peak seasons and the industry in general. There's no way to see what's going to happen five to 10 years down the road in technology and planning with the 3PL industry evolving as rapidly as it currently is. Instead, you need to be able to easily respond to any possibility and pivot quickly to market changes or else miss potential opportunities as, for example, other use cases come up.
Where Will It Go?
As you're planning on adding robotics and automation to your facility, you need to precisely plan out where it will reside. Consider if your facility has room for the technology itself. For example, where will you store and utilize the technology? Where will charging stations be set up?
When you're evaluating robotics and automation vendors, it makes a difference when your chosen provider has a supply chain DNA, because achieving optimal throughput requires more than plugging a solution into the new space.
The solution and vendor you choose should work hand in hand with you to analyze productivity and throughput objectives and design a solution that supports your needs and be a partner with you in achieving your goals quickly.