Automation is a big part of warehouse operations today. A warehouse that doesn’t automate all or part of its processes is a warehouse that can get left behind. Automation can get rid of labour-intensive activities that entail repetitive physical work or manual data entry or analysis, speeding up operations in the warehouse and, ultimately, enabling the operator to get supplies in quicker or goods out to their customers more swiftly. Customers are keen to receive their orders as soon as possible, placing more and more demands on warehouses.

Below is a look in greater depth at what warehouse automation is, the pros and cons of warehouse automation and why you should consider it for your business. We also discuss Joloda’s approach to the challenges of warehouse automation and how the company’s solutions can help your business.

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warehouse automation explained

Warehouse automation is the process of automating the movement of inventory into warehouses, within them and out of them with at least human intervention as possible. It makes use of technology such as sensors and robotics to automate tasks. These pieces of equipment operate in conjunction with tools such as inventory management software.

The purpose of warehouse automation is to help your business perform critical functions to meet customer demands. It all starts with a warehouse management system (WMS) that automates manual processes and data capture, inventory control and supports data analysis. WMSs integrate with other solutions to manage and automate tasks efficiently across the business and the supply chain.

Types of automation

One main type of automation is digital automation, which reduces workflows by making use of data and software. Mobile barcoding, a form of automatic identification and capture technology (AIDC), is one example of digital automation.

Another main type is physical automation. This involves using technology to minimise employment and optimise workflows in the warehouse. An example of physical automation could be the use of an autonomous mobile robot to lift heavy goods. A worker loads the robot; the robot transports the goods to the shipping area; and the software records this movement of the inventory so that records stay up to date. This automation boosts the speed, efficiency and accuracy of this particular task.

what are the pros and cons of warehouse automation?

Naturally, if a warehouse is to invest in automation, it should have good reason to. Here are a few advantages of automating your warehouse:

  • reduced labour costs;
  • fewer labour constraints;
  • increased safety;
  • higher levels of efficiency and productivity.

Reduced labour costs

Automation can have a significant impact on labour costs. When you identify tasks you can automate, you can then entrust them to a piece of software or machine that can perform the task, and then reallocate more purposeful tasks to your employees. Automation can have a lasting impact on profitability because you can either limit the need to expand your workforce or remove it altogether.

fewer labour constraints

A business may have the resources to expand its workforce, but factors beyond its control can hamper its ability to recruit the necessary people. Geographical location, demographic trends and the job market are all potential obstacles to landing the right employee. This is where automation can come into the picture and fill the place of that vital employee you just can’t find.

Increased safety

Humans make mistakes. They might be hungry. They might be tired. They might get distracted. Whatever the reason might be, they make mistakes; and when they make mistakes, accidents, very serious accidents, can occur. Unlike humans, machines don’t get tired or distracted. Replacing them with machines can increase safety levels and reduce accidents or damage to the product, structures or equipment.

increased productivity and efficiency

Unfortunately, mistakes can not only cause damage or put safety at risk, but they can also affect workflows and efficiency. Automation can decrease waste, remove inefficiencies and increase output. Operations can become accurate and lead to higher profits.

Of course, all good things have their bad side as well. Below is a look at some of the disadvantages when it comes to automation:

  • high initial investment;
  • lack of flexibility;
  • maintenance;
  • potential need for retraining.

High initial investment

In the long term, you’ll reduce labour costs and constraints, but all of this comes at a cost: that of the initial capital investment. Automation is more expensive in the short term than hiring workers or using forklift trucks, but smaller businesses may find it a challenge to access the necessary initial capital. They, and in fact any business, may also be reluctant to invest so much money in a system they’ve not tried and tested beforehand.

Not always suitable for highly variable operations

Adaptability can be a concern when it comes to warehouse automation. Automation is best suited to tasks that are regular, predictable and repetitive. If an operation changes from week to week or month to month, the business may struggle to fit automation into their plan.  Changes to inventory or layout would require a reprogramming of the system. If a warehouse can keep its inventory and layout consistent, automation will be less of a challenge.


Machines and other technology need routine maintenance and occasional repair, which will lead to some downtime while this work is conducted. If a system breaks down, the business often has to count upon a specialist to complete the repair. Although regular maintenance costs can be less costly than the cost of ongoing hiring, a business should factor maintenance costs into its decision of whether to automate its warehouse or parts of it.

Staff may need retraining

Whenever you invest in new warehouse equipment, you must train your staff adequately in how to use it. They may even require special additional skills. They must be able to handle the new equipment and systems safely and get the most out of it for your business. The training may lead to downtime and, if staff don’t get on board with using the new systems or equipment, may even lead to turnover in the business

why your business should consider automation systems

Remember that the point of automation is to help you perform tasks that are critical to the business and will enable you to meet the customer’s requirements. By performing tasks that are repetitive and, as a result, sometimes unengaging, automation allows warehouse managers to assign more valuable tasks to workers. Doing work that is of more value to the business can help employees to feel more engaged with their work, Ultimately, automation increases productivity in this way.

Of course, automation doesn’t only boost productivity by taking tedious or labour-intensive tasks out of the hands out of workers and placing them in the hands of a machine or piece of software. Accuracy is a major element in warehouse operations, as it’s essential to get the right order to the customer in good condition. Automation reduces the possibility of human errors, giving the business more chance of keeping the customer satisfied.

Safety is top priority in warehouse operations. No operator should ever put profit or cost-cutting before it. Just as automation can eliminate, or at least significantly remove, mistakes so that the quality of a product and accuracy aren’t compromised, it also minimises the potential for mistakes that cause accidents. Workers can perform their duties more safely.

Automation does call for a sizable initial investment, but the gains in productivity and reduction in costs make this initial capital outlay worth it. When considering whether to fully automate your warehouse, or even just part of it, you should always factor in the costs of maintenance as well.

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our approach to warehouse automation

Joloda Hydraroll offers several different automated solutions to boost your loading operations, allowing you to transport goods from your loading bay to your trailer, and vice versa, much more safely and efficiently.

We provide three main automated systems:

  • the moving floor conveyor, a heavy-duty conveyor that can handle barrels, pallets and other bulky items;
  • the slipchain, which features a rise-and-fall chain and a roller track system, and which is ideal for transferring pallets from your loading bay to your trailer;
  • and the trailerskate, on which skates conduct the loading but the lift comes from the track underneath.

These systems achieve the benefits of automation for you by:

  • removing the need for forklifts in the area, reducing the amount of traffic in the loading bay and making it safer;
  • lowering fuel consumption of fuel, due to the lesser need for forklifts;
  • shortening the waiting times of drivers so that the warehouse can get goods, materials or supplies out onto the road and on their way to the next destination sooner;
  • reducing damage to products during loading and unloading;
  • eliminating the need for employees to load or unload the vehicle, making the operation safer.
  • completing the loading of trailers with large quantities of goods in minutes.

If you’re looking to develop a fully automated warehouse, or even automate just part of your warehouse, and think one of our automated loading systems would serve your business well, please in touch. We’ll be happy to advise you on the system that will meet your business needs most successfully.

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Complete Guide

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There are a variety of reasons why it is of benefit to rationalise as to whether the investment and The Benefits of Automated Loading Systems is worthwhile for so many businesses. Automated loading systems also have a longer lifespan, which provides your business with a higher return on investment. We’ve drawn on some of our most popular benefits here…

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typical business case example

In the scenario that a business produces and ships a high number of pallets each day, we’ve put together an automated loading system typical business case example to help explain the benefits and how an ROI can be achieved with the investment of an automated loading system.

If a business is running a shuttle run from a factory to a warehouse and back again, they’ll benefit from an automated loading system with fewer people, trucks and forklifts.

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Wondering if an automatic loading and unloading solution is right for your warehouse, factory, or business?

Download our FREE Automated Loading Systems leaflet to find out how they can help streamline your operations and reduce your environmental impact. Plus, discover the benefits of our different automated loading systems, including Moving Floor, Slipchain and Trailerskate.


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