CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
October 17, 2019
Forward Thinking

10 steps on how to automate your warehouse

Looking to add automation to your warehouse? Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy shares the 10-step formula it followed to successfully automate nine warehouses.

The path from a nonautomated warehouse to an automated one is not easy, fast, or cheap, says Wes Whalberg, director of supply chain engineering at Best Buy. Companies should consider the benefits, however, when asking the question "Why automate?" From labor savings, potential growth, wins achieved only through robotics and computerization, space and networking savings, and lack of labor availability, automating your distribution network can give you a true competitive advantage, he said.

During a technology and innovation track session at The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals 2019 EDGE Conference, Whalberg detailed the 10-step program his company followed and the lessons learned from automating its distribution network. For companies considering the investment into their supply chain capabilities, consider following these steps:

  1. Define the burning platform - what is the problem you are going to solve for the company?
  2. Build a coalition - include a broad set of executives who all share the burning platform idea and are willing to help you with the transformation;
  3. Consulting - acquire funding for a consultant;
  4. RFP for solution - a "request for proposal" comes with a price, which will not be all inclusive;
  5. Acquiring funding - make sure to include facility readiness costs (power, physical building changes, etc.), IT investments, additional consulting support, and contingency plans into your funding request;
  6. Initial Design and FSD (functional specifications document) - the RFP was the rough draft, this step is where you figure out if your math is wrong and create the initial design;
  7. Final Engineering - the layout of your system is locked down and building permit plans are submitted;
  8. Construction - consider the general contractor and integrator relationship;
  9. Go Live - expect unforeseen issues in your first go-live and expect software defects;
  10. Running - give your company about a year to identify and take advantage of second-order benefits and mitigate second-order impacts.

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