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ISS Material Handling: Automation Solutions

Transitioning to automation in your workplace can save time, increase accuracy, and allow your employees to perform more meaningful tasks. While this technology used to be expensive and out-of-reach for most businesses, recent advancements in A/I have made it more accessible and affordable.

Interested in making the switch? The experts at ISS Material Handling can help! We’ve assisted warehouses, fulfillment centers, and thousands of other facility projects since 1961. Browse the pages below to learn more about the automation solutions we offer, or contact us today

The Automated Material Handling Systems Your Operation Needs to Succeed

Automated material handling uses technology to perform dangerous, strenuous, or repetitive warehouse tasks. By carefully selecting and applying the right systems, your facility can reduce labor costs, improve worker safety, and increase efficiency.

 

Manual vs. Automated Material Handling Systems

Traditionally, warehouses have relied on manual material handling systems. These processes involve people at every step.

For example, a manual order picking process might start with a worker collecting a list. They then walk or drive to the storage location for each item, search out the SKU, and hand-select the required number. This continues until the entire list is picked; then the worker delivers the order to the next station for packaging and shipping.

In an automated material handling system, software and machines help the worker get the job done faster, safer, and more accurately.

Let’s return to our order picker. An automated system might use pick-to-light technology to eliminate the worker’s search for the SKU and ensure they pick the right quantity. Or a collaborative robot could quickly find the items and lift them off the shelf, protecting the worker from strain.

You’ll find a tremendous range of automated material handling solutions through ISS, each tailored to solve specific warehouse challenges. Whatever manual process creates a bottleneck in efficiency, there is an automated tool to fix it.

 

Benefits of Automated Material Handling

Automated material handling can help warehouses operate more productively, efficiently, and safely.

More productive workers

Automation helps businesses make efficient use of their human resources. By turning over repetitive tasks to technology, you free up the energy and skills of your human workforce. Rather than spending their time on tedious manual tasks, people can use their talents to build the business.

When applied correctly, material handling automation protects worker safety and offers employees opportunities to perform more interesting work. Workers can apply more of their brain and less of their body. This leads to greater job satisfaction and reduces expensive employee turnover.

Greater efficiency

In a manual system, workers can only go so fast before they start making mistakes. Even a worker who never makes errors can’t work as efficiently as an automated system – which never gets tired, never sleeps, and never takes vacations or even lunch breaks.

It’s also impossible for people to maintain a steady speed, causing variations in throughput. Smart machines maintain accuracy without varying their tempo.

A safer workplace

Robots can safely take on tasks that pose a high risk to humans. Warehouses with automated material handling systems can protect their workers from dangers like heavy loads or hazardous conditions like cold storage.

Automation is an excellent way to prevent muscular overexertion and object collisions - the top two causes of injuries in the workplace. Fewer injuries means lower insurance costs and fewer employee sick days.

 

Common Types of Automated Material Handling Systems

Goods-to-Person Technologies

Goods-to-person technologies eliminate the need for workers to scour the warehouse looking for items. Storage and retrieval devices like carousels and vertical lift modules deliver items right to the worker who needs them.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)

AS/RS is a wide category of space-efficient storage solutions. It refers to everything from a standalone unit to a robust, fully-automated, warehouse-wide system. Facilities using an AS/RS can store products in a taller, more compact footprint because machines, not humans, are slotting containers in and out of storage.

Pick Modules

Pick Modules are multi-level automated material handling systems. They’re excellent at fulfilling multi-SKU orders in high-volume distribution centers.

warehouse-agv
AGV's navigating around a warehouse.

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)

AGVs are driverless vehicles that safely move items from one part of the facility to another. They’re often used for picking, replenishment, and moving work in process between stations.

Pick-to-Light

Pick-to-Light Systems help workers quickly find and pick items for an order – even new employees who don’t yet know their way around the warehouse.

Collaborative Robots

Collaborative Robots can be programmed to manage a variety of material handling tasks. This flexibility makes them valuable automated assistants to human employees.

eCommerce packaging workstation

Automated Packaging Solutions

Automated Packaging Solutions take the repetition and tedium out of packing, sealing, weighing, and labeling boxes for shipment.

Crane Systems

Cranes lift and move heavy items, protecting workers from joint and muscle strain.

Automated Conveyors

Conveyors are among the most basic automated material handling solutions. They move items smoothly from one zone to another without requiring workers to leave their stations and escort the load.

 

What to Consider When Choosing an Automated Material Handling System

Once you’ve decided to bring automation into your warehouse, you’re faced with an overwhelming number of ways to do it.

Our recommendation: don’t go with your gut feeling. Consider your facility’s most pressing needs, then consult with a warehouse design expert to make sure you’re investing in the most effective solution.

Material handling automation is not ‘all or nothing'

While automated material handling systems are a sound long-term investment, the upfront cost can be daunting to a small business. The good news: you don’t have to do it all at once.

Modern automation technology is modular. You can start by automating just the processes and areas suffering from painful bottlenecks, or those where a small investment could yield big returns.

Once you’ve started to see a return on that initial investment, you can expand automation to another area or process.

When calculating the cost of upgrading your facility, don’t forget that systems require support. Automated material handling systems run on software. Buying that software and integrating it into existing systems is an often-overlooked expense.

To identify the most cost-effective way to introduce automation to your facility, audit your operation with the help of a warehouse design expert. They can help you prioritize areas to upgrade and recommend high-impact, budget-friendly solutions.

Get your workforce on board

Automated systems are meant to make workers’ jobs easier. The evolving technology has made them so easy to use that many solutions require remarkably little training. But when they are first introduced, many workers may fear the machines are there to replace them.

This is a natural response, and it’s not something a business should ignore. Material handling automation only works if human workers can accept the new devices’ assistance. If workers are hostile to the upgrades, implementation will be painfully difficult.

Transparency and consistent communication are key. Don’t spring new systems on your workforce unexpectedly. Keep them abreast of plans to add automation, and demonstrate frequently how the new systems will help them.

ISS can install your automated systems and make sure your workforce is properly trained. Our experienced trainers understand worker concerns and know how to lessen them.

 

Your Ideal Automated Material Handling System

Consulting an expert is the first step of a successful introduction of automation into your operation. Once they get to know your unique circumstances, your consultant can develop a custom automation plan just for you. Your plan will offer efficient, budget-friendly solutions to your facility’s most pressing needs.

Fill out the form below to get started.

 

 

Contact ISS Material Handling for a Free Consultation 

Do you think automation could benefit your operations? Contact us and we can merge our experience and expertise to come up with a solution together. Tell us about your potential project and submit the form below or give us a call at 833-754-2164.