Why Large Retailers are Switching to Automated Warehousing

by Prime Robotics
April 19, 2024
robotic system in a large retail warehouse

Ever wondered what the future of retail distribution looks like? Well, one thing is for sure, it involves robotics in a big way.

Modern technology has resulted in countless changes across various industries, including the shift toward automated warehousing. In a world where you can get anything delivered to your doorstep with the click of a button, automated warehousing has made e-commerce distribution infinitely more efficient. 

Though switching to automated warehousing is a major and complex decision, it ultimately helps streamline warehouse operations. Below, we explore the role of warehouse automation in e-commerce and why all the big retailers are switching to it. 

The Rise of E-Commerce

In recent years, e-commerce has restructured the retail landscape, becoming a norm in modern society. As a result, consumers’ expectations have shifted drastically. Consumers want their items quickly and accurately, which leaves little room for errors in the process. 

To meet these increasing demands, warehousing needed to evolve. Warehouse automation has made traditional warehousing a thing of the past. Modern warehousing is now faster and more efficient than ever. 

Examples of Warehouse Automation

Many warehouses are making the switch and seeing the benefits of automated warehousing. Some of the most common examples of warehouse automation include: 

  • Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) – Systems combining equipment and software to autonomously store and retrieve items from storage. 
  • Goods-to-Person Robots (G2P) – Systems, such as pallet-moving autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), bring products directly to human workers for packing, staging, and other tasks. This reduces manual transportation throughout the warehouse. 
  • Robotic Picking Arms – Solutions that automate the picking, lifting, and placing of cases to deliver faster picking speeds and reduce errors.
  • Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) – Integrated software systems that provide real-time data and manage all aspects of the automated warehouse, from inventory to shipping and receiving, to optimize workflows.

Each of these examples brings different benefits to modern warehouses. From simple automation to more complex, integrated systems, a combination of automated technologies that work together is often best to meet growing customer expectations.

Advantages of Warehouse Automation for E-Commerce

Here are a few key benefits of adopting automation in e-commerce warehouse environments:

Speed and Efficiency

Automated warehouse systems transport, retrieve, sort, and package goods more efficiently than human teams alone. This means orders are processed faster, and ultimately delivered faster. Speedier delivery leads to greater customer satisfaction, establishing trust in your business. 

Scalability

Demands in e-commerce are always changing. Automated systems are capable of significant scalability in both directions. As a result, they can handle the peaks and valleys without an issue. Adapting to these changing shifts is challenging and costly with a manual system, but is made easy with an automated system. 

Cost Reduction

Though the initial investment and setup costs for an automated system are high, these systems reduce operational costs long term. Automation reduces the need for manual labor and minimizes human errors. Automated systems, such as AS/RS, optimize the use of warehouse space, so you can store more goods in less space.

Improved Accuracy

Automated warehouse systems help eliminate human error. Automated solutions, such as robotic picking arms, follow instructions precisely, reducing the odds of mistakes, from damaged goods to incorrect orders. 

Enhanced Data Analysis

Automated systems continuously collect operational data, which gives warehouse operators greater insight into aspects of their operations. This data ranges from inventory levels to fulfillment times. The data also helps identify potential bottlenecks and parts of the process that need to be adjusted for improved efficiency. With an automated system, warehouse owners and operators can make more informed decisions to improve their processes. 

Challenges of Warehouse Automation for E-Commerce

Though there are many benefits of warehouse automation, there are a few challenges that operators should consider before making the switch. Luckily, these challenges can be addressed and mitigated upfront.

Initial Investment

The initial investment in warehouse automation can be costly. Between new technology and adjustments to infrastructure, this initial cost can be daunting. However, ROI can be realized since automated systems save costs on labor, product loss, order refunds, and more.

Integrating New Technology

Integrating new technology can be intimidating. Warehouse owners and operators making the transition to an automated system will want to work closely with their IT team and an experienced automation partner to make sure the new system integrates successfully. 

Future Trends in Warehouse Automation

The future holds countless opportunities for warehouse automation to expand, with advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning.  Automation technology is always evolving to push the boundaries of what is possible. 

Final Thoughts

The recent shift toward automation in all aspects of the supply chain, particularly for big retailers, shows the direction e-commerce is headed. From increased efficiency to cost savings on manual labor, there are many benefits to warehouse automation in e-commerce warehouses. As consumer expectations grow, automated systems are essential to adapting to these changing needs. 

Automated systems set businesses up for a future of success. For e-commerce, it’s never been clearer: the future is automated, and the sooner organizations transition, the more competitive they’ll become. 

Contact us today to explore how our automation solutions improve e-commerce warehouse operations and profitability.

Prime Robotics