If it’s not broken, fix it

Author: Peter Medway, Modernisation Manager, Dematic

Technologies are continually updated and new versions of software developed. Office-based technologies commonly come with contracts providing software upgrades. In contrast, Australian warehouses don’t always have these upgrade systems in place meaning that planning for obsolescence can be overlooked, with serious implications.

If a warehouse does not regularly update its software and plan for hardware upgrades, it can find itself in a situation where the critical materials handling systems it relies on are no longer effective. Worse still, if these systems completely fail, a warehouse may not be able to easily fix or upgrade its technology, which can cause significant operational disruptions.

Older warehouse operating systems may not run on new generation PCs or other devices, which means if a warehouse’s hard drive or control system fails and need to be upgraded at the last minute, much of the business’ data would not easily be transferred. Additionally, by using old technology, warehouses might be running equipment and software that is obsolete and no longer supported by the technology providers. In this situation, spare parts and software support may no longer be available from the manufacturer.

Material handling businesses that continue to operate without much-needed system upgrades can encounter issues with delivery, accuracy, efficiency, productivity and ultimately customer satisfaction and retention. Importantly, those warehouses that do not budget or plan for technology and equipment obsolescence are taking significant financial risks. This is because failure of old equipment and the subsequent large-scale upgrade process – not to mention costly down-time - comes at considerable cost.

Businesses facing equipment or software obsolescence should include system modernisation programs in their planning. Working with a specialist materials handling service group can help maximise the value of existing systems and minimise the financial burden of one-off large scale upgrades. When working with a specialist materials handling service group, modernisation projects can take the form of targeted modifications to extend the life of specific technologies, right through to completing operational audits that can identify new and improved workflows.

In many cases, a supply chain’s current system longevity can be extended by upgrading materials handling software, relocating or extending storage systems, building new pick modules or reconfiguring scanners and conveyors. A key benefit of upgrades, as opposed to entire system overhauls, is that they can be carried out while a distribution centre continues to fully function. By shuffling operations around each component being upgraded, organisations can expect the benefits of a complete overhaul without experiencing negative impacts. A specialist materials handling service group will work with a business to find ways to complete various stages of mechanical, electrical and IT systems upgrades without adversely impacting on the facility’s day-to-day operations. When no system downtime occurs, a successful modernisation is achieved, which can prove to be a much smarter choice regardless of how large or small the business is.

Ensuring upgrades are carried out by an experienced materials handling service company ensures measurable results, including increased throughput, productivity, efficiency and accuracy. The benefits also extend further, as upgraded systems featuring next generation software will allow businesses to reduce indirect costs, improve safety, enhance flexibility, and provide a rapid return on investment.

While all materials handling businesses must ensure they limit unnecessary purchases, it is financially irresponsible to not plan for technology and equipment obsolescence. A modernisation program helps protect material handling system investments, deliver efficiencies and supports business growth.