Automation may be a scary word for some in the logistics industry, in large part because they feel it may require heavy investment in advanced technology. And while that can certainly be the case for those looking to adopt the most advanced systems possible, the good news is that automation can come in many shapes and sizes, with solutions that will work for just about any firm's unique logistics needs.

When the term automation comes up, some in the logistics industry may first think of robotics and other types of advanced machinery that can boost efficiency but are also costly to implement in terms of both time and money, according to the Stat Trade Times. Of course, this kind of investment isn't going to make sense for every – or even most – smaller logistics firms. Big players like e-commerce or shipping giants can consider such a move, but it's just not in the budget for most industry participants at this point.

A smaller approach
Instead, there are aspects of automation that can make warehouses run more efficiently without such massive investments, the report said. The ability to automate just about any task in a warehouse – such as mobile data collection or aggregation – can potentially free up significant numbers of man hours that can be devoted to increasing efficiency in other ways.

For instance, the ability to automate certain aspects of warehouse management can lead to more accurate data that allows companies to make better decisions about how they can streamline processes on a number of fronts, according to Material Handling and Logistics. Generally speaking, the more closely companies can track information on every aspect of their supply chains, the better off they will be when it comes to making the best possible decisions about their operations. For example, the ability to track worker movement throughout a facility (thanks to wearables that connect to the internet of things) can help to unlock more efficient paths for those employees to take as they go about their work on a daily basis.

Moreover, though, increased data collection also means that automated processes will become more efficient on their own, simply because they will have more information to work with.

Dealing with industry concerns
Of course, the end-game of widespread logistics automation is typically going to result in robotics investment, according to Crain's Chicago Business. And while those kinds of decisions are very much being made in the present by the industry's biggest participants, for most they're years or more down the line. However, the idea behind such investment is something logistics firms would be wise to adopt; it's vital to constantly consider what the future of the company looks like and how automation can help achieve those goals.

Logistics firms, as with any other type of business, should always be on the lookout for ways they can streamline their processes and boost their bottom lines. Even decisions that start small could end up paying off in a big way down the line.