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  December 18th, 2023 | Written by

The Top 5 Inexpensive Warehouse Automation Solutions

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Logistics leaders may hesitate to implement upgrades due to their estimated warehouse automation cost calculations. They can be substantial, climbing into the millions of dollars. However, there are various types of warehouse automation to consider, so people can prioritize the least expensive possibilities rather than ruling out automating some processes. 

1. Motor-Driven Roller Conveyors

Warehouse workers don’t make the best use of their time when moving goods from place to place. This approach also prevents them from doing other, more valuable tasks. However, motor-driven roller (MDR) conveyors are affordable ways to automate product movement through a warehouse. 

MDR conveyors can also alleviate warehouse automation cost concerns if people switch to them after using other types. For example, replacing a 5-foot chain-driven live roller with an MDR of the same length could save as much as 81% in energy usage, making the change an excellent investment. That’s partially because they only use electricity when moving things. 

People with modest conveyor belt budgets should make the most of their resources by considering which processes or areas of the warehouse could most benefit from this type of automation. Ordering conveyors in precisely the length needed will keep costs down and help them immediately start taking advantage of this investment. 

2. Warehouse Management Systems

A warehouse management system (WMS) can automate numerous tasks, and people will get the best results if they take the time to learn what’s possible and how to take advantage of the various features. These systems are ideal for eliminating manual tasks such as monitoring inventory levels or counting items. 

Many facilities achieve significant accuracy and product volume gains after implementing WMS. Even if the initial costs are higher than desired, they often pay for themselves over time by enabling process improvements and reducing errors. 

People can also use WMS platforms to create digital guides showing all merchandise locations and storing similar products together in the warehouse. Those are more reliable than paper copies, which can easily get lost or damaged. Plus, a document showing how to find different products is particularly valuable for newer employees who need to become more acquainted with a warehouse’s layout.

WMS providers often allow customers to opt for monthly or yearly billing cycles. The latter type is usually less expensive. However, when decision-makers are on tight budgets and not ready for long-term commitments, they may go with monthly bills to see whether the chosen solutions work as well as expected. 

WMS platforms may also include free trials that let people see what they offer before making billing cycle decisions. Alternatively, product walkthroughs led by sales representatives provide similar information without as much freedom for potential customers to explore the software themselves. 

3. Predictive Maintenance Sensors

Statistics suggest that 90% of maintenance work involves addressing crisis breakdowns. In an ideal situation, people would spend much more time keeping critical machines in good condition, making those urgent circumstances much less common. Predictive maintenance sensors enable this. 

Many commercial solutions automatically collect data and alert the proper parties to abnormalities. Sensors are extremely versatile compared to other warehouse automation types with more limited applications. People can use them on almost any piece of equipment and enjoy the assuredness of getting real-time information streams. 

People can also customize the total warehouse automation cost for this approach by deciding how many sensors they want to use and for what reasons. Being strategic about the options lowers expenses and helps decision-makers get the desired results. 

One possibility is determining which warehouse machinery pieces break down most often.

Alternatively, people can choose those that take the longest to fix or cause the biggest disruptions when issues arise. Next, they should purchase sensors to measure the most common symptoms of abnormalities, whether elevated temperatures, strange vibrations or something else. 

4. Pay-Per-Use Types of Warehouse Automation

Automating a warehouse requires financial resources, even when people aim to do it as affordably as possible. That’s one of the main reasons for the increase in services that allow access to various types of automation without the typical high upfront costs. This trend has resulted in the automation-as-a-service market. 

The specifics differ by provider. Generally, customers pay fees depending on how much they use the automated equipment in a given month. Their subscription prices usually include all maintenance, repair and upgrade costs. 

One company that recently began offering a pay-per-pick model to customers requires them to pay upfront fees to cover the necessary grid infrastructure. The estimated warehouse automation cost in such instances is 20%-40% of the total expenses. After installing the grid, clients budget for recurring subscription fees based on how many robots and other associated technologies they require to meet goals. 

5. Automated Mobile Robots 

Automated mobile robots (AMRs) provide the material-moving capabilities of conveyor belts with even more flexibility. AMRs have sensors and built-in computer vision technology, allowing them to automatically map out a warehouse and recognize obstacles. This means they can move safely around facilities without requiring extra infrastructure. 

People with cost-related concerns should discuss them with their preferred automation providers. Many companies offer finance plans so customers can spread the costs over time. Some may offer refurbished machines priced more reasonably than newer ones. 

Keeping AMRs affordable also means scaling up gradually. A decision-maker might initially only buy a few for some of the most labor- and time-intensive transport-related tasks. That’s an excellent strategy for ensuring people get the anticipated return on investment before purchasing more. 

Warehouse leaders should also ask for feedback from employees, learning about which movement-related tasks are most cumbersome or often take them away from other duties. Those responsibilities could be among the best to automate first. 

Control Warehouse Automation Cost Hesitancy

These types of warehouse automation solutions are among the most affordable possibilities, provided the people involved think carefully about how and why to use them. Although automating a facility requires investments, people can keep costs down by remembering they can gradually implement their plans and wait to see results before committing to additional technologies.