How robotics in warehousing and warehouse automation systems are transforming the warehouse operations landscape.


Four of the more sophisticated implementations.

A decade of steady progress in robotics.


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By Nathan Forster, Head of Automotive and Transportation at T-Mobile for Business

As companies across most industries continue to struggle with labor shortages, warehouses and distribution centers have been increasing their adoption of robotics in warehousing, warehouse automation solutions, and other technologies to work smarter, better, and faster without the need for additional labor. Once in place, robotics also free up employees to work more meaningful, valued-added projects while leaving mundane, repetitive, and/or strenuous tasks to the robots.

According to IDC’s recent “TechBrief: Robotics for Warehouse Automation” report, 39% of warehouse operators are currently trying to offset the labor shortage problem by investing in warehouse automation. Those solutions can perform essential tasks like picking, receiving, inventory management, loading and unloading, packing, put-away, shipping, and transport with little to no human intervention.



of warehouse operators are currently trying to offset the labor shortage problem by investing in warehouse automation.

Robotics in warehousing can also help employees manage tasks more efficiently, accurately, and safely in an environment where poor inventory management, the high cost of mis-picked orders, and a high volume of e-commerce orders present new daily challenges.

IDC says more than 26% of companies are expected to add physical automated warehouse robots and/or robots to their warehouses this year. Under pressure to find and replace top talent during a labor crunch, these organizations are eager to find alternative methods for keeping their fulfillment operations running with optimal speed, agility, and resilience.


Four automated warehouse solutions for the modern warehouse.

Thinking beyond traditional mechanized automation, which typically encompasses automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) and conveyors, companies are adopting more sophisticated solutions, including:

    1. Automated guided vehicles and carts (AGVs and AGCs): These self-driving forklifts can move merchandise between locations in a warehouse. Using tracks or magnetic strips in planned travel pathways to avoid obstacles, these automated vehicles are often equipped with sensors and camera vision technologies.

2. Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs): These vehicles operate independently and carry materials and merchandise throughout the warehouse. Using maps and sensors, AMRs can readily assess the environment and navigate flexible routes throughout the facility. Autonomous inventory robots, for instance, use RFID tags to manage inventory counts at predetermined intervals.

3. Articulated robotic arms: Equipped with many joints, these arms can lift and move objects in production environments for receiving functions (e.g., moving goods from pallets to racks, picking, packing, and shipping).

4. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs): Using RFID technology, unmanned aerial vehicles or drones can be used for real-time inventory visibility within the warehouse or distribution center. This approach replaces traditional methods of scanning stock. It also eliminates the need to lift workers high in the air using a forklift, which can contribute to enhanced worker safety.

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Eager to embrace warehouse automation systems.

It’s been 10 years since Amazon bought Kiva Systems—a maker of mobile robotic fulfillment systems—and accelerated its push into the world of automation. Today, Amazon has about 520,000 robotic drive units in place. The company also unveiled Proteus, its first fully autonomous mobile robot (AMR), this year.

Robotics in warehousing have made steady progress in the warehousing sector over the last decade. The worker shortage, uptick in e-commerce orders, and increased overall demand for automation in logistics are just some of the key shifts that have pushed more companies to invest in robotics and automation. There’s also a spotlight on ergonomics, minimizing repetitive strains and workplace safety in general.

As they work to address these issues while improving throughput and efficiency, more transportation and logistics operators will be implementing robotics across their operations. Knowing that any logistics operation will benefit from the application of robotics, their makers are offering robotics-as-a-service models (RaaS) that make automation and robotics even more attainable. Renting instead of buying outright can also significantly shorten return on investment (ROI) timelines.

Once in place, any medium- or large-scale warehouse robotics implementation requires robust connectivity to support the data needs of all devices. Private or hybrid 5G networks are an ideal solution, and Internet of Things (IoT) equipment monitoring and asset tracking can further elevate the functionality of automation equipment by helping systems make better decisions about workflow optimization in busy fulfillment centers.

T-Mobile has America's largest and fastest 5G network, imagined for tomorrow but ready to give you an edge today. At T-Mobile for Business, we’re focused on providing your business with connectivity solutions and dedicated, exceptional service you need to help you stay ahead. To learn more about how T-Mobile is fueling digital transformation for today’s fleets, visit our transportation industry page.

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