Adopting an Automation Mindset

Before you purchase and deploy a significant piece of technology, such as automated forklifts, it’s important you research and evaluate whether it’s the right fit for your operation, warehouse and application. This requires that you adopt the right frame of mind, one that looks beyond industry hype and unrealistic expectations and focuses on operational challenges you are trying to overcome and/or the tangible goals you want to accomplish.  


Once in this frame of mind, there are three important questions you should ask to help ensure you have a realistic plan guiding your deployment.  


1. What benefit(s) are you trying to accomplish? 


There are numerous operational benefits you can realize when properly integrating automation into your operations. For instance, maybe your focus is to increase productivity and reduce operator fatigue, or perhaps you want to strengthen your safety culture or reduce product and equipment damage. Before purchasing any automation solution, make sure it has the potential to deliver on those benefits. You also need to establish measurement metrics tied to those benefits to track success and identify areas for continued improvement.  


2. What task(s) do you want to automate? 


Identify the tasks and equipment within your operations that are ideal candidates for automation. Not all warehouse tasks can be automated. It often depends on the available technology, the amount of customization and complexity involved and how easy it is to incorporate new workflows and processes to integrate the automation. For instance, load transportation throughout the warehouse and pallet putaway and retrieval can be good candidates for automation. 


3. How do you use your current forklift fleet? 


Understanding how your forklifts are used will help you identify ideal candidates for automation. Telematic systems like Crown’s InfoLink® operator and fleet management system can help provide this understanding. A wealth of data can be gathered on how your forklifts are used to move products through the supply chain. You need to identify the data that you want to capture and analyze, then set up your system and establish measurement metrics to do so. This will help you identify potential use cases, inform your automation strategy, measure performance and ensure success.  


Remember, any effort to introduce automation into your facility, including automated forklifts, should be guided by a realistic plan with achievable expectations that you can scale based on success and growth. You should develop a clear path for a tangible return on investment and determine a process and mechanism for building upon your success. This will help you strategically grow and evolve your automation efforts as you continue your journey. 


For more information on starting or continuing your automation journey, including tips and best practices, download Crown’s e-book The Time to Automate is Now: Overcoming the Hurdle of Getting Started.   

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