The Fourth Industrial Revolution is now officially also underway in Italy, thanks in part to support from the Government, which has launched a whole series of programmes to support digital innovation in industrial processes and has provided a chain of resources and funding intended to support companies in this complex evolution towards Industry 4.0.

In fact, large Italian companies have already been moving in this direction for some years, and they have already adopted new technologies to optimise production and logistics processes; however, now it is the turn of SMEs to invest in warehouse automation.

Investing their resources in new automation projects means not only optimising warehouse logistics, but also being more competitive on the market and succeeding in increasing profit margins.

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Why are SMEs investing in warehouse automation now: what has changed compared to the past

Although in the past only large companies considered it economically beneficial to invest in automatic warehouses, nowadays things are changing fast and SMEs, which also seem willing to overhaul their entire production models and distribution networks, are ready to do so as well.

The reason for this change in direction? Definitely the fact that the programme of incentives included in the National Industry 4.0 Plan also includes automatic warehouses is a major factor.

Thanks to the new grants and tax breaks available, finally SMEs can also digitise their systems and introduce solutions, such as automatic vertical warehouses, which help to achieve better logistics performances and guarantee more effective management of goods.

The decision to invest capital in new technologies leads to greater operating safety, higher operating speeds, considerable space saving and an impressive decrease in operating costs, all benefits which ensure that the investments made are recouped even in fairly short times.

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The role of software in logistics businesses: the importance of digital interconnection

In all businesses which operate in the logistics sector and are investing in automation, naturally software also plays a fundamental role in the effective coordination of logistics processes and the optimisation of warehouse management.

If the aim is to improve productivity, it is fundamental to use software capable of simplifying staff’s duties and reducing human intervention, for example by synchronising procedures or by using sensors or IoT devices, of adapting to each industry’s different needs, and of ensuring round-the-clock assistance.

However, to achieve the best possible performances it is important above all to adopt innovative software that will easily connect to and integrate perfectly with existing company systems, such as automatic radiofrequency picking or automatic storage packagings, and will also guarantee the company a fast return on its investment.

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Automatic warehouse: the benefits for SMEs

Given the opportunity of making full use of the grants and incentives provided and achieving a fast ROI, today SMEs are more willing to invest in automation and they now have everything they need to adopt new technological solutions.

What are the main benefits for SMEs of investment in automatic warehouses? Here are the 10 most important.

The use of automatic warehouses provides better coordination of the information flows essential for the management of goods, increased production speed and optimisation of picking operations. In fact, the new technologies are able to increase the speed and precision of all product location, picking and transfer operations, with no production slowdowns.
One reason which encourages SMEs to invest in automatic warehouses is that the large initial investment incurred often generates a sharp reduction in operating costs, from the cost of handling goods to staff management costs.
The use of technologically advanced equipment assists staff in the performance of the most delicate tasks, and sometimes even replaces them altogether. This means that fewer and fewer staff are required in the warehouse, and operators have more time available for training, enabling them to upgrade their skills, attend new training courses and perhaps acquire new knowledge which may be useful for the company.
The installation of automatic warehouses allows better visibility of goods, a factor which companies often underestimate but which is actually essential for preventing product obsolescence. It is only with clear, accurate data on the quantity of goods in stock that production can be planned down to the tiniest details, and vertical warehouses provide staff with a more complete view of the situation, the basis for more precise forecasts.

Just as for large companies, in SMEs the adoption of automatic vertical warehouses allows goods to be stocked making full use of height, and automatically guarantees significant savings in terms of storage space and costs

The use of standardised procedures and automatic storage systems enables warehouse staff to work without exposure to unnecessary dangers or accident risks. With vertical warehouses goods are placed in a dedicated location, where all storage and picking operations are coordinated, so that any damage linked to product handling is prevented at source.

Thanks to the use of completely automated systems, the installation of vertical warehouses allows the minimisation of the risk of human error, or of damage to goods during transfer. Reducing picking errors also means speeding up order fulfilment times and thus increasing profitability.

Thanks to the use of new software, warehouses today are much more flexible than in the past. In fact, they are able to easily adapt to sudden changes, such as an increase in sales or shipments or an unexpected market slowdown, to support customers in every phase of the Supply Chain, and to respond to the most diverse needs, including those of small enterprises.
To be reliable in the eyes of the customer and always offer a high quality service, with efficient, on-time delivery, effective stock management is essential. The use of technological solutions such as automatic warehouses provides real-time knowledge of inventory status, tracking and monitoring of every transfer of goods, and planning of the right stock management strategy.

The adoption of automatic vertical warehouses is fundamental in achieving a streamlined, constant production process that enables staff to manage orders in the shortest possible time and to prevent slowdowns or stoppages which might have repercussions on the company’s efficiency.

How to optimize picking operations?

Picking is the heart of any warehouse, and it is an activity that must be designed and organized very carefully. Download our in-depth analysis on how to optimize picking.