The role of IT professionals has experienced a significant shift as warehouse automation technologies continue to evolve. The days of IT teams solely managing core infrastructure within a central company facility are gone, replaced with the challenge of integrating diverse automation technologies into enterprise infrastructure while ensuring security and operational success. This blog explores the barriers IT professionals are encountering in warehouse automation and the importance of involving them early in the decision-making process.
Let's take a look at some IT-related barriers to smooth deployment of warehouse automation:
- 1. Limited Resources:
Traditionally, IT teams consisted of a few individuals responsible for maintaining day-to-day operations at corporate headquarters. But the rise of automation technology demands IT support at remote distribution centers that may not have easy access to IT resources. Faced with the added responsibility of traveling to different locations, IT professionals are splitting their time between routine software maintenance at headquarters and trying to ensure seamless operation of warehouse automation. This puts strain on smaller IT teams as they juggle both critical tasks.
Moreover, these teams are also burdened with the overwhelming challenge of vetting automation vendors for security, compatibility, and alignment with company objectives. This practice stretches existing resources and adds pressure on IT to support sales and operational needs. Unfortunately, there is little relief provided to ease these burdens.
- 2. Lack of Information About Automation Solutions:
The wide range of automation technologies available makes it difficult for IT teams to identify the best fit for their organizations. Without a central resource to provide information, IT professionals are forced to conduct thorough research and vet vendors to understand each technology's compatibility and security, as well as stage of adoption. The often tight and rushed timelines on top of the needed vetting can result in increased costs and longer implementation periods, ironically impacting the return on investment (ROI) of the chosen technology.
- 3. Conflicting End Goals:
It’s not uncommon for IT teams to find themselves caught between operations teams and conflicting end goals. While IT aims to identify automation options that lower overall support costs, operations teams are focused on prioritizing the solutions that maximize business optimization. This creates a tug-of-war that puts pressure on IT to swiftly support a technology that aligns with both parties, even if it may not align with the long-term IT strategy.
Additionally, IT is responsible for integrating the selected technologies with existing enterprise systems, which involves decoding the connection technology and data exchange between systems—and often time-consuming and tedious process. Each third-party API is unique, requiring custom code development. Considering the limited time available to IT professionals, this integration task becomes even more challenging.
- 4. Open Communication:
To overcome these challenges, it is crucial to involve IT professionals from the outset of warehouse automation discussions. Although operational teams often initiate the conversation, IT is frequently left out until the very final stages of the decision-making process. This exclusion leaves IT with limited participation, as they are suddenly tasked with qualifying the technology, ensuring successful integration, and reviewing the solution's security without having been part of the initial conversation regarding desired automation outcomes. That delay can put companies at a disadvantage and places enormous pressure on the critical role of IT teams.
With the predicted growth of robotics and automation adoption in warehouses and rapid expansion of the market, it’s imperative to involve IT professionals in the initial critical automation discussions. To remain competitive, companies must act promptly, providing IT with the necessary resources and opportunities to establish the core infrastructure required for integrating and supporting complex technologies within enterprise systems. By including IT teams early on, organizations can leverage their expertise to select the most suitable automation solutions while ensuring security and long-term success.