What is 3PL Warehouse Automation?
Warehouse automation refers to the use of technology and automation to improve the efficiency and productivity of warehouse operations. This can include the use of mobile robots and other automated equipment and softwares to handle tasks such as picking, packing, moving and tracking inventory, and shipment tracking. Warehouse automation can help reduce the need for manual labor and improve accuracy and speed in the fulfillment of orders. While automation in warehouses is still a fairly new concept, there are already a wide range of solutions available and several warehouses have begun adopting as much automation as possible. Especially within the recent COVID years where supply chain and logistics companies were expected to double (and sometimes more) their workloads.
What are 3PL Warehouse Automation Solutions?
Warehouse automation solutions are technologies and systems that are used to automate various tasks and processes in a warehouse. These solutions can include things like automated storage and retrieval systems, robotic pickers and packers, and advanced warehouse management software. The goal of these solutions is to increase efficiency, reduce errors, and improve the overall operation of a warehouse. Some common benefits of warehouse automation solutions include reduced labor costs, faster fulfillment times, and improved accuracy and tracking of inventory.
Warehouse Management Systems
Warehouse management systems are a type of software used to manage and optimize the operations of a warehouse. This can include tasks such as tracking inventory levels, managing orders and shipments, and coordinating the movement of goods within the warehouse. Warehouse management systems often include features such as real-time inventory tracking, order management, and data analysis tools which can help businesses improve their warehouse operations. Some warehouse management systems also include integration with other business systems, such as accounting, inventory management, and CFM software, to provide a comprehensive view of a company’s operations.
How Does it Work?
The specific functionality of a warehouse automation software system can vary depending on the specific needs of the warehouse and the type of software being used. However, most systems will use a combination of sensors, barcode scanners, and other technologies to track the movement of goods within the warehouse. This data is then used by the software to generate reports and provide real-time updates on inventory levels, order status, and other important information.
Advantages of Warehouse Automation
Several advantages are available when it comes to warehouse automation. However the two that stand out above the rest are the ability to complete more on-time delivered with better data, and improved order processing speeds. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Better Data Equals More On-Time Deliveries
Better warehouse data can lead to more on-time deliveries because it allows warehouses to more accurately track and manage their operations. For example, if a warehouse has accurate data on its inventory levels, it can quickly identify when it needs to restock and avoid running out of popular items. This can help warehouses fulfill orders more quickly and prevent delays in the delivery process. Additionally, accurate data can help warehouses track the status of orders and shipments, allowing them to identify potential bottlenecks and take steps to resolve them. This can help warehouses improve their planning and coordination, leading to more on-time deliveries.
3PL Speed Improves with Automation
Third-party logistics (3PL) providers often use automation to improve the speed of their operations. This is because automation can help warehouses operate more efficiently by reducing the need for manual labor and increasing the speed at which tasks are completed. For example, automated storage and retrieval systems can quickly and accurately retrieve items from a warehouse, and robotic pickers and packers can quickly and accurately pick and pack items for shipment. This can help 3PL providers fulfill orders more quickly and improve overall productivity, leading to faster delivery times for their clients. Additionally, automation can help third-party logistics providers reduce labor costs, which can also help improve their bottom line and make their services more competitive.
How Warehouse Automation Saves Space and Improves Your Supply Chain
Automated warehouses store more goods in less space by using technologies such as automated storage and retrieval systems. These systems use advanced algorithms and robotics to efficiently store and retrieve items, allowing warehouses to use their space more efficiently.
Automation also helps reduce the need for manual labor and increases the speed at which tasks are completed which can lead to faster delivery times for clients and build client loyalty. Because manual labor is reduced, accuracy improves because of a reduction for the potential in human error. This can be especially important for businesses that operate in industries with strict quality and safety requirements, such as the pharmaceutical or food and beverage industries.
What Automation Solutions Should You Consider for Your 3PL?
If you are a third-party logistics provider looking to improve your operations through automation, there are several solutions you should consider. These solutions can include:
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems
These systems use advanced algorithms and robotics to efficiently store and retrieve items in a warehouse, allowing you to use your space more efficiently and improve the speed and accuracy of your operations.
Robotic Pickers and Packers
These systems use robotics to quickly and accurately pick and pack items for shipment, reducing the need for manual labor and improving the speed of your operations. They are often utilized with a human at a picking station, and a robot moves to them, telling them the items needed for an order, the human then puts the items in the robots basket and scans the items in to confirm so workers no longer need to walk to different pick stations to build an order.
Warehouse Management Software
Also known as a WMS, this type of software can help you track and manage your inventory, orders, and shipments, by providing real-time updates on the status of your operations and helping you make more informed decisions.
Integration With Other Business Systems
Consider integrating your warehouse automation solutions with other business systems, such as accounting and inventory management software, to provide a comprehensive view of your operations and improve overall efficiency. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, there are partners like ShipHero who can help you get started.
The right automation for your logistics will depend on your specific needs and goals. It may be helpful to consult with an expert to determine the best solutions for your business.
Finding the Right Solution
To find the right warehouse automation solution for your business, there are a few steps you should take:
#1 Identify Your Specific Needs And Goals
Before you start looking for a warehouse automation solution, it is important to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and what specific challenges you are looking to solve. For example, are you looking to improve the speed and accuracy of your operations, reduce labor costs, or better manage your inventory? Identifying your needs and goals will help you narrow down your options and find a solution that is right for you.
#2 Research Available Solutions
Once you have a clear understanding of your needs and goals, you can start researching the different warehouse automation solutions that are available. This may include reading reviews, attending industry events, and consulting with experts in warehouse automation. It is also a good idea to visit other warehouses that are using automation to see how the solutions are working in practice.
#3 Evaluate Potential Solutions
Once you have identified a few potential solutions, it is important to carefully evaluate each one to determine which is the best fit for your business. This may include conducting pilot tests or demonstrations, comparing the features and capabilities of different solutions, and considering the potential cost and benefits of each solution.
#4 Choose the Right Solution For You and Implement
After evaluating your options, it is time to choose a warehouse automation solution and implement it in your warehouse. This may involve training your staff, integrating the solution with other business systems, and making any necessary changes to your warehouse operations. It is important to carefully plan and manage the implementation process to ensure a smooth transition and maximize the benefits of the solution. The provider you choose for your solution should have processes to help you implement the new warehouse automation software.
By carefully considering your needs and goals, researching your options, and implementing the right solution, you can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your warehouse operations.
Warehouse automation can help you reach new speeds and accuracies within your warehouse operations. Whether you are looking for a warehouse provider to handle the entire order process for you, or have a warehouse which you need automation solutions for, Shiphero can help.
ShipHero offers both fully outsourced warehousing and a warehouse automation platform which helps businesses automate and optimize their warehouse. The platform includes a range of tools and features including tools for tracking, managing inventory levels in real-time, customizing order processing rules, shipment tracking, and integrating with other business systems and e-commerce platforms (such as Shopify, Amazon, and Magento). Which means by using ShipHero, you can save time, reduce labor costs, and better manage your inventory to improve your bottom line.
3PL Warehouse Automation FAQs
What Does 3PL Mean in Warehousing?
3PL stands for third-party logistics. In the context of warehousing, 3PL refers to a company that provides outsourced logistics services, such as warehousing and fulfillment, to other businesses. Generally, they offer a range of services, including storage, order fulfillment, and transportation, to help businesses manage and optimize their supply chain operations and often use automation to provide value to their clients.
What Are the Four Types of 3PL?
The four types of 3PL providers include a standard 3PL provider, a 3PL service provider, a 3PL customer adapter, and a 3PL customer developer. Below is a definition of each:
- Standard 3PL Provider: A standard 3PL provider is a company that offers a range of logistics services, including warehousing, transportation, and distribution solutions. These services are typically provided on a contract basis, with the 3PL provider managing the logistics operations for the business.
- 3PL Service Developer: This is a 3PL provider who offers IT infrastructure. In addition to other 3PL related services they can help you get shipment tracking and verify compliance management.
- 3PL Customer Adapter: Meaning your logistic provider handles all activities for their client, this includes everything through the shipping process and includes negotiated rates with carriers. And clients get visibility by using the 3PL’s software.
- 3PL Customer Developer: This provider usually only has a few clients, but they are very large companies. They completely manage the company logistics and are considered the clients very own logistics department as if they were a part of the company themselves. This type of provider often comes at a higher cost than other 3PL providers.
What Automation is Used in Warehouses?
Automation is widely used in warehouses to improve efficiency and productivity. Some examples of automation in warehouses include the use of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to move goods around the warehouse, automated sorting systems to sort packages and items, and automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) to store and retrieve items from their designated locations. Automation can also be used in other aspects of warehouse operations, such as inventory management and order fulfillment.