3PL’s warehouse management can be optimized like never before using an effective automation strategy. Warehousing and logistics professionals are familiar with many leading automation technologies, but may be unsure how to implement them in their facilities. Managers can use a few key strategies to build a plan that will help them tackle today’s biggest challenges.
Data Driven 3PL Warehouse Management
Data-driven automation is one of the most valuable automation strategies for 3PL warehouse management. Data is key to developing a successful strategy tailored to the needs of a specific 3PL company. Collecting and analyzing information can provide insights into 3PLs’ activities that point to the best opportunities for automation.
It may be beneficial for 3PLs to conduct extensive data collection on their operations before investing in automation technologies. IoT devices can be a very effective tool for this, with the advantage of potentially integrating them into automation systems. So is analytics software useful for compilation and analysis all collected information.
Regardless of the tools 3PLs use, data collection should be a priority early in an automation process. A wealth of information about a 3PL’s activities can help create a roadmap and set clear targets for new technologies.
For example, by tracking how many packages go through each stage of the picking and packing process, warehouse managers can identify bottlenecks. This may be due to the organization of the warehouse, the needs of a specific product category, a lack of sufficient staff or a number of other factors. Automation is often the solution and data is key to discovering these challenges.
Think of back office automation
Robots are often the first thing people think of when they think of automation. However, 3PL’s warehouse management can benefit extensively from back-office automation, including robotic process and logistics tools. In fact, behind-the-scenes intelligent automation can result in a 97% reduction in hours spent on back office tasks and 50% reduction in billing and processing costs.
A 3PL warehouse management system is often a good place to start. This is a software program that streamlines and automates operations. It integrates real-time data from the warehouse and automates inventory tracking, workforce scheduling, invoice management and other day-to-day tasks.
Logistics software and digital twins complement a warehouse management system in 3PL automation strategies. These tools can make a huge difference in planning and executing operations.
Logistics simulations and digital twins enable 3PLs to test automation strategies without disrupting the activities in the physical warehouse. They can fine-tune the layout of facilities and routes for order picking robots before deploying them in the real world. Logistics simulations and digital twins can also help uncover inefficiencies and bottlenecks that can provide valuable opportunities for automation.
In addition, warehouse management can benefit from 3PL robotic process automation, which uses software or programs to automate tasks. This is similar to the automation features available in many warehouse management systems. RPA also does not need to involve physical robots. It is simply about delegating tedious, repetitive tasks to software programs, freeing up time for more important tasks.
Integration of physical automation tools
3PL warehouse management can also benefit from physical automation tools, such as robots, RFID tags and sensors. These physical automation tools can be particularly useful in addressing one of the biggest challenges facing 3PL warehouse management today: labor shortages.
Surveys indicate that 73% of warehouse managers struggle to find enough staff to meet demand. The rise of e-commerce is great for business, but it also poses major challenges for managers in terms of efficiency, optimization and staffing.
Robots are often the key to bridging the labor gap in 3PL warehouses. Managers need to take the time to make sure they choose the right type of robots and focus on just one or two at a time. It can be helpful to have a specific goal, such as a bottleneck that the machines can help solve.
Integrating physical automation tools such as robots into a warehouse requires careful planning and training to ensure that employees understand how to work with them. Logistics simulations and digital twins can help organize the routes autonomous warehouse robots navigate. A well-coordinated robotics strategy can result in more streamlined management and more efficient operations.
However, robots aren’t the only warehouse management automation tool from 3PL worth considering. Inventory monitoring is an important part of managing a facility. IoT sensors, RFID tags and management software can automate the process of monitoring and tracking inventory levels.
For example, IoT sensors can monitor perishable or sensitive inventory and send alerts if something goes wrong. Digital tags, such as IoT devices or RFID tags, can simplify inventory management by moving it to digital channels where tasks can be automated. For example, an inventory management program can automatically send a notification if a certain product falls below a certain threshold.
3PL Warehouse management with smart automation
Smart automation strategies make 3PL warehouse management simpler, more efficient and more effective. These tools can help free up time, money and resources behind the scenes and on the warehouse floor. A data-driven approach to automation can ensure managers have the insights they need to start their strategy strong and continuously improve it over time.