Key Data to Investigate Automated Material Handling

So, you have decided to pursue automating your distribution center. Whether you work with with a system integrator or a consultant you will need to provide them information so they can design the best automated warehouse for your company. However if you currently have a manual system you may not have an easy way to generate this information, so an early start is helpful.

Your supply chain partner uses this data to design the best system for your specific needs. This is the foundation upon which the system is built. You should be cautious about anyone who says they don’t need the data at the beginning. Often in this case the provider has a solution in mind to sell you and will try to make your needs fit the system instead of designing the system around your needs.

The information required can vary from company to company. However, here is some general information that may be needed in a typical scenario.


The first requirement is an item master including inventory information. The data set should contain the item number, a description, dimensions, the unit picked and stock numbers. There may be other pieces of optional data.
In this scenario that would be Pallet Ti and Hi, temperature zone etc. The chart below goes into more detail about the needed and optional data.

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Below is an example of how the is an example of how the data would look.

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The company you work with will also need the order data for the outbound order lines. It is helpful to provide the goods in data, as well.

You can give the company the data in a number of ways. Some of the more popular are in Access (.mdb or .accdb),) , Excel (.xls or .xlsx), or text (.txt or .rtf or .csv). In Access or Excel you will need to have a header row on each column.


The outbound and inbound data that you provide to the company you choose to work with should cover at least one week. However, more is better (to a certain point). A year worth of data is probably the most you will need to provide. A year data is most helpful if you have large fluctuations certain times of the year. As an additional note for stock dates, you should choose one effective date with an average or maximal inventory level.

Preparing the data and knowing what is expected helps expedite the process and makes for a smoother transition to automation.

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Travis A. Baker

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