BY BEN AMES, SENIOR EDITOR
THE RISE OF ROBOTICS IS ONE OF THE FASTEST-GROWING
trends in logistics, with announcements of warehouses that have invested in robots or autonomous vehicles coming almost weekly. Distribution
center managers are now using robotics and advanced automated equipment to solve challenges at every stage of the material handling game.
But how exactly will all these new bots fit into the typical DC? In their
rush to forge a robotic link in the supply chain, planners are still trying
to predict what sort of buildings and infrastructure they will need to
support the complex machines.
A century ago, architects wrestled with a similar issue when the industrial revolution brought widescale changes to residential housing design.
Now that most people commute by automobile instead of horseback,
modern homes have attached two-car garages instead of hay barns and
So will the warehouses of 2050 look different because they’re designed
to accommodate squadrons of robots instead of shifts of human workers? (After all, robots don’t need restrooms, but they might need extra
electrical outlets.) In fact, warehouse design is already evolving to
accommodate robots’ needs, and experts say that a few simple changes
can make all the difference.
THE BIG EMPTY BOX
The easiest way to go robotic is to start from scratch, incorporating any
required features like charging stations, Wi-Fi networks, and smooth
floors into the design of a brand-new building, says Doug Rabeneck,
director in the operations excellence practice at business and technology
consulting firm West Monroe Partners. That approach is clearly more
expensive than adding robotics to an existing warehouse, but it avoids
the challenges of overlaying a new robotic system onto the existing work
force and systems.
more charging stations:
How robots will
A warehouse designed for
robots needs different
“amenities” than one
designed for people. Here
are a few things to consider
when going robotic.