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  February 1st, 2023 | Written by

Automation Strategies That Improve 3PL Warehouse Management

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3PL warehouse management can be optimized like never before with the help of 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 craft a plan that will help 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 the key to developing a successful strategy tailored to a specific 3PL business’s needs. Collecting and analyzing information can reveal insights about 3PLs’ operations that hint at the best opportunities for automation. 

It can be helpful for 3PLs to conduct comprehensive data collection on their operations before investing in automation technologies. IoT devices can be a highly effective tool for this, with the benefit of potentially being integrated into automation systems. Analytics software is also helpful for compiling and analyzing all the information collected. 

Regardless of the tools 3PLs use, data collection should be a priority early in an automation process. A wealth of information on a 3PL’s operations can help establish a road map and indicate clear goals for new technologies. 

For example, tracking how many packages are moving through each stage of the picking and packing process allows warehouse managers to discover bottlenecks. This could be due to the organization of the warehouse, the needs of a specific product category, a lack of adequate staff or any number of factors. Automation is often the solution, and data is the key to discovering these challenges. 

Remember Back Office Automation

Robots are often the first thing that comes to mind when people think of automation. However, 3PL warehouse management can benefit extensively from back-office automation, including robotic process and logistics tools. In fact, intelligent automation behind the scenes can result in a 97% reduction in hours spent on back-office tasks and a 50% reduction in invoicing and processing costs. 

A 3PL warehouse management system is often a great 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, employee 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 monumental difference in planning and executing operations.

Logistics simulations and digital twins allow 3PLs to test automation strategies without disrupting operations in the physical warehouse. They can fine-tune facility layouts and routes for order-picking robots to be as well-optimized as possible before deploying them in the real world. Logistics simulations and digital twins can also help discover inefficiencies and bottlenecks that may present valuable opportunities for automation. 

Additionally, 3PL warehouse management can benefit from robotic process automation, which involves using software or programs to automate tasks. This is similar to the automation features available in many warehouse management systems. RPA doesn’t have to involve physical robots, either. It is simply about delegating monotonous, repetitive tasks to software programs, freeing time for more important tasks. 

Integrating 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 for tackling one of the biggest challenges facing 3PL warehouse management today: labor shortages. 

Surveys indicate that 73% of warehouse operators are struggling to find enough staff to keep up with demand. The e-commerce boom is great for business, but it is also making efficiency, optimization and staffing major challenges for managers. 

Robots are often the key to bridging the labor gap in 3PL warehouses. Managers must take the time to ensure they choose the right type of robots and focus on only one or two at a time. It can be helpful to have a specific goal, such as a bottleneck the machines could help resolve. 

Integrating physical automation tools like robots into a warehouse requires careful planning and training to ensure 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 efficient operations. 

However, robots aren’t the only 3PL warehouse management automation tool worth considering. Inventory monitoring is a big part of managing any 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 bad. 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 instance, an inventory management program can automatically send out a restock notification if a certain product falls below a set threshold. 

3PL Warehouse Management With Smart Automation

Smart automation strategies make 3PL warehouse management easier, efficient and 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.