The future of industrial automation is hereright-arrow
read-time4 mins
by Charter Hall Announcements

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Automation is truly shaping the way we work. Everything from facility design, to software efficiencies, even to the very nature of employees actual work, organisations are looking to streamline processes and reduce loads. With Charter Hall at the forefront of these changes, we’re working in tandem with our customers to help them capitalise on automation too. 

 

Delivering solutions for the industrial industry

 

Matthew Cox is the National Industrial Delivery Manager for Charter Hall. It’s his job to make sure development is delivered to our customers’ needs, in terms of time, budget and quality, and taking into account their future ‘grand plans’.

“Customers come to us with their plans and we can piece together exactly what they need, in the right location and with the right design to meet their requirements.” Matthew said. “They might need specialised racking , conveyors or a sorter  to be integrated. Or they might need mezzanines for dense storage, or floor upgrades to accommodate the installation of cranes or robots within a building.”

Automation is becoming more intuitive, and with the number of suppliers increasing in Australia, and the price of  decreasing, this is a trend that’s set to continue. Matthew also feels that automation is critical to industry advancement with volume its greatest advantage, particularly in an e-commerce setting.

“I think you’ll see a lot more automation integration in your medium to small businesses, whether it’s swarming robots or automatic forklifts, known as Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV’s). It just makes sense when you’ve got the ability to buy a robot off the shelf to fulfill routine tasks day in, day out, which can then be reprogrammed or upgraded as functions change. As AI increases, it will become easier and easier.”

The need for automation is already changing the way we’re approaching our relationship with our customers, in some situations new developments require very close and direct engagement, as they try to forecast their future requirements, and Charter Hall seek to provide new facilities for these requirements.

“We’re building higher than we have in the past, with a greater point load, allowing for more storage within the warehouse. Our warehouses have greater service capacity  allowing for the integration of automation, clearer access and larger hardstands, which is vital to allow for greater numbers and types of trucks - they’re the type of things we’re concentrating more on to anticipate automation requirements.”

Recently, Matthew has been working closely with two behemoths of industry - Woolworths and Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA).

Image: Woolworths Distribution Facility, Dandenong

Warehouses of the future 

When Charter Hall purchased the Richlands site from CCA in 2017, they were doing so with an eye to the company's future requirements. Strategically placed to take advantage of growth and infrastructure in South East Queensland, the site includes manufacturing, office and warehousing facilities.

The warehousing facility includes a state-of-the-art Automated Storage Retrieval System and an Automated Case Picker, which are automation systems which do just as their names suggest, saving time and a lot of back-breaking work.

In addition, the automation and modernisation of their supply chain offers “greater capacity, lower operating costs, reduced materials handling and truck movements.” said CCA group managing director Alison Watkins in an earlier statement.

Importantly, it also includes the space to be able to accommodate Coca Cola Amatil’s future expansion and automation requirements.

The Woolworths Dandenong project was a fund-through, where Woolworths pieced together the design and location of the facility themselves, then sold the developed asset. Why Matthew thinks Charter Hall was successful in purchasing the asset, was that they were able to quickly recognise the value of Woolworths’ current and future plans for the facility.

Those current plans make it a fully-automated ‘case-pick’ warehouse which can fulfill the needs of their stores throughout Victoria. The facility itself includes a 40 metre high section which is able to store around 60,000 pallets and a multi-level carton storage area with multiple robots assisting with the loading of store orders onto pallets.

“It’s very complicated and very much outside of the box from what developers would usually purchase. But this is something we’re really excited about. We understand the future of automation and we understand this is going to be a great partnership.” 


 

Automation changes the nature of work

For companies like Woolworths and Coca Cola, automation brings a multitude of benefits, particularly in terms of increasing efficiency.

An example of this is the way inventory is controlled and tracked within Woolworths. It allows for sales within individual Victorian stores as well as seasonal fluctuations, which determine what goods are required at what stores throughout the year. Woolworths are able to stock more lines and streamline better selling products which are stored more efficiently within the warehouse.

Automation also means better OHS safety records within a warehouse facility, with the back-breaking job of lifting cartons on-to pallets completed by robots. People doing warehousing jobs are still very much required, but automation means that different jobs are needed, such as more technical experts and data analysts, QA roles and those experienced in scheduling the hundreds of trucks which arrive and leave the warehouse each day.

Matthew also noted that Woolworths was able to integrate more part-time workers within their facilities, as well as more jobs for people with disabilities.

“There’s a lot more flexibility, in terms of people, in terms of hours and in terms of levels of skill. The nature of the work is changing, along with the design of the buildings and facilities. It’s really exciting.”