BYLINE: BY WILLIAM HOFFMANN
In manufacturing, automation is usually associated with eliminating the costs and uncertainty of labor. In the warehouse, however, it's an increasingly important way of keeping the customer satisfied.
"Across the board, consumers' expectations are much higher," said Ian Hobkirk, senior analyst in Aberdeen Group's logistics practice. Warehouse space is at a premium, competition offers plenty of alternative ways to get a product faster, and buyers want their purchases faster. "Everyone's expectations are just much higher as to when they can receive product," Hobkirk said.
At the same time, warehouse automation is maturing …