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Warehouse Automation: Don't Launch the Ship in a Hurricane!

By Ian Hobkirk | 10/01/2019 | 5:51 AM

Most companies that have attempted to implement automated material handling equipment have discovered that these projects can be particularly vulnerable to Murphy’s Law, the principal that, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” This blog is sixth in an ongoing series on “Beating Murphy’s Law in Warehouse Automation Projects.”

Blog 6 DCMany companies make the mistake of going live with a new project either during - or immediately before - a peak demand period. For companies in the retail or consumer goods sector, each year can bring greater seasonal surges as consumers increasingly align buying habits around “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” promotions during the year-end holidays. These events can mean demand surges of more than ten times normal volumes. While companies may view the new system as vital to helping the company survive the next busy season, deploying poorly tested technology at the height of the busy season is a recipe for a shipwreck.

To avoid this, companies should plan to deploy new warehouse automation as far in advance of the peak period as possible and have a contingency plan in place if the project is delayed (as noted previously). It may be possible to rent additional space where orders can be manually picked for a period of time during the busy season, using temporary workers. This option may not be inexpensive, but it is likely preferable to being forced to go-live with an unready system.

Ultimately, the company should make an honest “go/no go” decision well in advance of the busy season and have a “Plan B” to delay the go-live until after the busy season, if needed.



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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Ian Hobkirk

Ian Hobkirk

Ian Hobkirk is the founder and Managing Director of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors. Over his 20-year career, he has helped hundreds of companies reduce their distribution labor costs, improve space utilization, and meet their customer service objectives. He has formed supply chain consulting organizations for two different systems integration firms, and managed the supply chain execution practice at The AberdeenGroup, a leading technology analyst firm.


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