Pio vs. Traditional Warehouse

Deciding if warehouse automation is worth the investment? What are the everyday differences between how a traditional manual warehouse functions, versus our cube-based automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS)? Let’s take a look at how a traditional warehouse stacks up against a Pio system, process by process. We’ll be focusing on how much time is saved when goods are brought to the worker, compared to when the worker travels through the warehouse to hunt down goods.

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Picking order with Pio and automated warehouse compared to a manual warehouse operation

Picking

Manual Warehouse

In a traditional warehouse, the worker must travel to the goods to pick each order. Workers begin their day by reviewing all recent orders that are yet to be fulfilled. Whether it’s with the aid of a warehouse management system (WMS) or it’s an old school operation, workers must then strategize their movements to pick and pack as many orders as possible before the shipping carrier arrives for pickup. With a WMS, orders are sorted for efficiency and released to workers via a warehouse manager.

However, each order still requires a worker to physically navigate towards the storage location, look for the product and visually identify it, and cross-verify the stock keeping unit (SKU) amongst aisles, shelving, and half-open boxes. In fact, the warehouse worker walks an average of 10 miles a day. That’s over 2,000 miles a year–and all that time spent walking is costing you money.

In more advanced manual operations, multi-order and batch picking can help save time, but workers still need to walk through aisles, taking up precious time—so especially during seasonal or product-driven spikes, it's hard to keep up. Once the worker has picked a batch of orders, the order is brought to a packing station, where another worker often does the packing. Then, the order is sent to a separate station for shipping. What’s the result of all of these excess movements, and extra steps taken by workers (both literal and figurative)? A growing backlog, higher rates of inaccuracy, and wasted resources—above all time, and therefore money.

Automated Warehouse with Pio

Our automated storage and retrieval warehouse system brings goods to the person, cutting down on travel time to help you stay on top of orders, effortlessly. A key advantage is the robots’ ability to work on demand, optimizing the bin locations in real time as orders come in (even overnight), so that they’re brought to the access port, ready to be picked as soon as the day begins. Our system also calculates the most efficient sequencing for picking, eliminating the need to plan out batch picks. Instead, you simply open the Pio app, choose the Pick option, and the robots bring each bin to the workstation for picking. In cases where you need to prioritize certain orders for faster fulfillment, you can do so by creating order prioritization rules in the system. And of course, no time is wasted with workers walking up and down aisles as they pick products for orders.

Inbound process with Pio and automated warehouse compared to a manual warehouse operation

Inbound and Replenishment

Inbound warehouse processes refer to receiving, putaway, and storage—essentially, the processes of stocking warehouse shelves with goods after receiving new inventory from production or suppliers. Replenishment involves the movement of materials from storage racks or backstock shelving to picking shelves in more complex manual operations. With efficient inbound and replenishment processes, businesses can avoid stockouts (running out of a product) and maintain an efficient flow of goods to meet customer demand. Advanced operations include the warehouse practice of “slotting,” or storing high demand products in the same area, or zoning relevant products together. Manual warehouses rely on human judgment for effective slotting. Pio does slotting automatically, by nature of the system—high demand goods stay at the top of the grid, for quicker access by the robots.

Manual Warehouse

In traditional warehouse operations, replenishment and putaway are notoriously time-consuming. Workers must organize new inventory by various parameters, counting the items received and manually comparing the numbers to purchase orders. They must then sort the inbound goods to picking shelves, back-stock, or another zone, depending on the nature of the warehouse. To put away each product, workers walk along aisles and climb ladders to identify empty shelves where the incoming inventory can be stored.

Automated Warehouse with Pio

Pio significantly speeds up putaway and replenishment, as no time is spent walking around the warehouse to put stock away manually, and no time spent hunting down available space. There’s also no need for back-stock locations due to the nature of the system, which keeps high priority goods at the top of the grid for easy access by the robots. All workers need to do is launch the Store workflow, identify the compartment sizes for the product, confirm the product, and place the items inside the bin. Update the quantity, then it’s on to the next item.

Searching for items and SKUs with Pio and automated warehouse compared to a manual warehouse operation

Searching

Workers search for goods for various reasons—to keep track of inventory, to pull up a product for specifications and information, photoshoots, cleaning, general housekeeping, and more.

Manual Warehouse

Workers pull up the item in their warehouse management system, identify the location of the product, before walking to the location to retrieve it. In manual systems, this is often where inventory counts can become misaligned due to human error. Workers must remember to update the item count as they remove and return the item. Search actions can often lead to inaccurate inventory counts, as there’s a chance for human error if someone fails to re-enter or return a product to the stock.

Automated Warehouse with Pio

Workers use the Search workflow in the app to find the item. The app shows a full inventory count, and all the locations where your items are. Request the first bin in the list to be brought to the port to access the item and send it back to the grid once the product is no longer needed. Workers can also create search queues for items across multiple bins—for instance, if they’re looking to access all inventory of one SKU, they can prompt the robots to retrieve all bins that contain that SKU, anywhere in the grid. The system logs every interaction, including user, activity, and timestamp. This means any inventory discrepancy can be easily traced, and that access is monitored on all inventory.

Handling customer returns and order returns with Pio and automated warehouse compared to a manual warehouse operation

Returns

As ecommerce continues to grow, the rate of returns is increasing alongside. Returns are costly, demanding more labor resources, increased storage complexity or processes and also, higher stock costs as inventory turnover slows.

Manual Warehouse

Once a return order arrives at the warehouse, a worker will inspect the item, review the reason for return, and register the update in their ecommerce platform or warehouse management system. If the item passes the return parameters, it is placed back on the shelf where the product was picked. In traditional warehouses, it’s essential that workers accurately identify and place the returned product in its original location, or inventory counts can become inaccurate.

Automated Warehouse with Pio

When a return order arrives at the warehouse, workers must inspect the item just as they would in a manual system. However, the key difference lies in putting the product back into the system. Rather than returning the product to its original location, the robots bring bins with available space and update product location and count accordingly in the system.

See the difference.

We recently ran a speed test comparing manual order fulfillment with Pio's automated order fulfillment. KO:KO, a Norwegian apparel company, thought their warehouse ran pretty efficiently…until they got Pio.

Now, they get orders out to customers in less than half the time. So we made a video to prove it.

Curious to learn about how warehouse automation could boost your warehouse processes, and therefore your business? Get in touch with us—we'd love to talk shop.

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