With employment levels high and labor tight, more and more distribution centers are seriously looking to incorporate greater levels of automation into their operations, according to Mike Romano, president and CEO of Toyota Advanced Logistics (TAL). TAL was formed a year ago by global forklift company Toyota Industries Corp. (TICO) to sell integrated automation and productivity solutions in North America. TAL includes systems integrators Bastian Solutions LLC and Peach State Integrated Technologies.
In light of the tight labor market, Romano says, many companies have adjusted the return on investment (ROI) hurdles that an automation project must clear before being approved.
These automation projects can range from fully automated distribution centers (DC) to incorporating pockets of automation into an existing DC. Areas ripe for automation include order fulfillment and loading/unloading trucks, according to Romano. Picking in particular can benefit from automation because it is labor-intensive and error-prone.
"If there is a picking error for B2B [business-to-business] orders, it's not that big of a deal," said Romano. "The store can just place the wrong order back on the truck. The stakes are raised when you send the wrong order to the end customer."
For more information on Toyota Industries Corp., visit www.toyota-industries.com.