Staci Americas Blog

Launch Warehouse Automation Technologies Smarter: Insider Tips

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Failed warehouse automation technology launches can leave large and lasting scars – on project leads and brand reputations. Often, it’s not the technology that’s to blame, it’s a poorly managed implementation process.

Meredith Hanrahan, Director of Customer Delivery at The Numbina Group, has had a front row seat to dozens of such launches. She joined host Chad Warzecha during a recent episode of the Unboxing Fulfillment podcast to discuss some career-saving DOs and DON’Ts. Read on for some of the top headlines.


“Don’t launch during the lead-up to your busy season.”

It’s when you have the most to gain, true. But also the most to lose.

“If the timeline on your automation project is 16 weeks, don't wait until 17 weeks before the start of your busy season to launch,” she says.

New warehouse automation technology requires close care and feeding in the initial stages. If that attention is deflected by peak season planning, things will go wrong.

“You want to get your operators acclimated, fully ramped up and comfortable with the new technology before you go into peak volume,” she adds.


“Projects with an internal project manager run smoothest.”

In addition to the project manager (PM) on the consultant’s side, Meredith recommends companies have an engaged, knowledgeable project manager on their side, as well.

“It's so critical in keeping the teams aligned and on track,” she says.

She stresses that, while a customer’s automation partner is going to be doing the bulk of the work, there are still a lot of responsibilities customers need to uphold on their end to keep projects on track and on time. An internal PM can keep executive stakeholders engaged in the high-level project timeline and milestones.

Having someone on the inside who can liaise with the company’s IT team is super important as well, she adds. “Especially if you're doing any sort of project that involves WMS-ERP integration, you need to make sure from the beginning that there's no misalignment on how the systems will be communicating and the data that will be transmitted back and forth.”


“Introduce large automation projects in phases.”

Chad and Meredith agree that warehouse automation projects are often best implemented incrementally. It is advantageous to install the portions that can be brought online quicker and can begin to show a clear ROI.

An example Meredith gave was a large project that included voice picking as well as autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), which work alongside human operators. (Watch how AMRs work alongside Staci Americas' warehouse associates.)

“So we would start by implementing voice picking and optimizing a company’s slotting and pick paths. At the beginning we’d have the operators actually push those batch carts and pick to cart. After that is successfully rolled out and adopted and the associates are comfortable with that technology, we would then introduce the AMRs.

“This way the operators already know the voice-pick process and the batch-pick-to-cart process. They’re also comfortable with the solution and if the AMRs ever go down, they can revert to the manual process without losing much time.”


“Treat good historical data as a prerequisite to starting large-scale automation efforts.”

Data is a major success factor when implementing warehouse automation technologies. Companies need to bring a solid benchmark of existing operational data to the table during the engineering study phase. Brands that lack this data may want to pump the brakes.

To put a project plan together and design a full solution for companies, Meredith’s team digs into order-level data. They pay particular attention to movement by SKU, velocity and order throughput.

“We need to be able to analyze order profiles and understand peak daily seasonal order averages for a company’s picking and shipping operations. We also need to know things like priority rules and other business rules,” she says.


“Shadow operators to uncovers opportunities that functional leaders miss.”

Site assessment is just as important as order analysis during design engineering. Meredith’s team spends from three days to several weeks on the warehouse floor observing processes.

They shadow operators and supervisors to collect data and learn important details they consider during design. Direct discussions with the people who do the work can uncover where the friction and frustration points lie.

These insights don’t show up on a spreadsheet or performance dashboard. As a result, executives responsible for order fulfillment – the ones signing the contracts and controlling the budget – may miss obvious and easy opportunities to improve.


Streamline Your Automation Implementation Process

Are you stuck in a largely manual and inefficient warehouse operation – either your own or a 3PL partner’s? Tech-forward 3PLs like Staci Americas Fulfillment, part of the Staci global fulfillment network, can provide instant access to throughput-driving warehouse automation technologies.

Talk to a Staci Americas team member for examples of how we’ve helped direct-to-consumer brands in a wide range of verticals meet ever-increasing order volumes while keeping labor costs in check.

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