What is the Future of Warehouse Automation?

There is an increasing groundswell of interest and discussion within the logistics industry about the emergence of third party warehouse automation. It is a topic that evokes excitement from the innovators and engineers, criticism from the skeptics, and apprehension from those afraid of change. What will it look like? How much will it cost? Is it safe? How will it reshape our industry? Will there be winners and losers?

All these questions aside, the future of warehouse automation summed up in one word: inevitable.

In other words, when it comes to third-party logistics, automation is not just the future, it is here today.

The Cost of Technology Trends Downward

One of the biggest hurdles facing the automation is the cost involved with development and installation. However, as acceptance increase and more automated material handling systems manufacturers enter the market, the cost of automation will drop.. The more automated applications are developed, the more cost-effective it will become. By the time automation becomes more mainstream, the cost will be much less of a limiting factor.

The Effectiveness of Technology Trends Upward

Few believe warehouse automation would cause more problems than it solves but there is a rational concern over obsolescence. Why invest now when next year the technology will be better and cost lower? That conundrum will never be resolved as long as the solution requires capital and the solution engages technology that continues to refine and improve the product. How many people do you know that are still holding onto their clamshell flip phones because the ultimate iPhone has yet to be introduced?

Demand Drives the Market

If 3PL companies wonder whether their clients will accept the idea of an automated solution warehouse, many will be surprised to learn that their clients actually expect it. As technology is already revolutionizing so many other industries, warehousing clients are already aware of the possibilities of automation and are now approaching 3PL companies with the expectation that automation will become standard over the next few years. There is already market pressure on the logistics industry to improve the flow of information, reduce variable costs, develop more space-efficient storage solutions, turn doors faster, etc.

While the concerns and questions about warehouse automation are legitimate and there are definitely hurdles to overcome, with rising demand for warehouse space and services and the evolution of technology itself, there is little doubt that the future requires warehouse automation.

To learn more about ABW’s warehouse services, contact us today.