Is Automating Your Warehouse the Answer?

January 10, 2012

Let’s say you’re a business and, well, business is looking good. Your outputs are increasing, market penetration is strong and the future is bright. Well, what are your options for your warehouse?

On one hand, you have been increasing your worker numbers and maybe adding an additional warehouse in your latest markets. On the other hand, you have an opportunity to automate some of your supply chain with a large up-front cost, but with a potential increase in output and cost savings.

Tech versus man. It’s like the iconic image of an angel and a devil on your shoulders, only instead with Steve Jobs and original Luddite Ned Ludd talking into each ear. So is automating your warehouse the answer?


The benefits of automating your supply chain are already known to you. Automated systems can offer sizeable returns on investment. After the initial cost, savings can be seen year after year with fewer workers and increased output. Your business can put more product to market, meaning a larger share and higher profits.

Yet the answer is not that simple. There is another side to the argument.


Manual labor and manual-operated machinery offer one great advantage: scalability. By allowing you to scale your output to changing market conditions, keeping a healthy manual workforce keeps you competitive through strong quarters as well as slower ones.

Manned warehouses also allow for process scalability and flexibility. Racks can be added or moved. Workflow can change much faster and cheaper when dealing with human capital.

With manual labor, it is more of a plug-and-play system. If new packaging materials enter the market, you won’t need to rethink your entire chain.

In the end, the right solution is to avoid a myopic approach and instead mix in long-term vision and ambition with your short-term budgetary needs.

Technology isn’t the solution to every challenge; it simply adds different avenues for achieving results. But is it the right one, at the right time and for the right price?

That’s where Ernest comes in. Ernest can analyze your supply chain, production lines and warehouse network to provide you with solutions that reduce labor, shipping and warehousing costs.

Your business is unique, and so you need a unique solution to your shipping needs. Contact Ernest today to see what our consultants can do for you.