Robots automate warehouses

Automation is changing warehouses. The technology enablers include robotics and autonomy technologies, such as computer vision, machine learning, better sensors (radars, lidars, gps, indoor positioning etc).

Warehouse automation can take place in several forms:

  • Drones
  • Arm robots for picking up boxes or objects
  • Wheeled robots to move items
  • Tracking sensors such as GPS, RFID, etc

Warehouse drones can help manage inventory by tracking goods with bar scanners or cameras, while warehouse cleaning robots can be deployed to clean facilities, navigating complex layouts. Other innovations include:

  • Mobile shelving: Autonomous-robot fleets can load and transport mobile shelving units with stored inventory to designated locations. This enables workers to pick orders with minimal movement and walking time.
  • Autonomous vehicles: Autonomous-robotic forklifts are already in use at automated warehouse and distribution centers. Autonomous vehicles are expected to move further up the supply chain to include automated delivery trucks that transport inventory between warehouses, manufacturers and retail locations. Startups like Udelv, screened by Prime Movers Lab, are working in this space.

The benefits of robotic warehouse automation are multiple:

  • Increased warehouse throughput
  • Better resource utilization
  • Reduced labor and operational costs
  • Improved customer service
  • Reduced handling and storage costs
  • Reduced human error
  • Minimized manual labor
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Improved employee satisfaction
  • Enhanced data accuracy and analysis
  • Reduced stockout events
  • Optimized warehouse space
  • Greater inventory control
  • Improved workplace safety
  • Fewer shipping errors
  • Reduced inventory loss
  • Enhanced material handling coordination
  • Improved order fulfillment accuracy

Investments in warehouse robotics increased 57 percent in the first quarter of 2020 to $380M (Source)

You can learn more about the enablers that lead to this at our webinar.