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What is Warehouse Automation? Examples, Types, and Benefits

Erin Thompson |

In modern logistics, warehouse automation is rapidly increasing, with more than a quarter of all warehouses expected to be automated by 2027. Warehouse automation leverages advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, to reduce manual labor and speed up processes such as sorting, picking, packing, and inventory management.

The rise of warehouse automation has in turn led to a significant increase in smart warehouses, which are highly connected facilities that integrate warehouse robotics, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and automated systems to streamline operations. Predicted to grow from $21.9 billion to $77.8 billion by 2032, smart warehouses remain a prominent trend in 2024 and beyond. 

In this article, we’ll uncover everything you need to know about the types and benefits of warehouse automation as well as some examples of smart warehouse technologies that are enhancing operations today.


Table of Contents

Table of Contents


What are the Four Warehouse Automation Categories?

  1. Basic Warehouse Automation: Uses simple warehouse automation systems and technology like conveyor belts, sorting machines, and basic robotic systems to automate repetitive hauling tasks such as sorting and packing.

  2. Warehouse System Automation: Integrates advanced software and interconnected technologies to manage and optimize operations. For instance, warehouse management systems (WMS) are a common example of this, streamlining inventory tracking, order fulfillment, and warehouse operations.

  3. Advanced Warehouse Automation: Includes cutting-edge technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to work alongside humans to complete complex tasks.

  4. Fully Automated Warehouse: Nearly all tasks fully automated and requiring no human intervention. In a fully automated warehouse, robots handle the picking, packing, sorting, and transportation of goods with minimal human oversight. 

What are the Tools Used in Warehouse Digitization and Digital Automation?

Warehouse digital automation integrates advanced tools and systems to enhance both efficiency and accuracy.

Warehouse Management System (WMS)

In 2018, warehouse management system adoption topped 90% for the first time while paper-based picking systems dropped by 60%. As explored, warehouse management systems (WMS) are designed to optimize inventory tracking, order fulfillment, and resource allocation, and can be easily integrated with other systems like ERPs. 

Popular WMS include Oracle NetSuite WMS and SAP Extended Warehouse Management, which use data integration and automation to streamline tasks like order picking, shipping, and inventory measurement.

High-Speed Internet

To implement Industrial IoT technology, warehouses must have access to robust internet connectivity to ensure real-time data exchange and integration of WMS, robots, and automated systems. It supports seamless communication and data transfer that is critical for enhancing overall warehouse performance and decision-making.

Fleet Management Software

Fleet management software improves how vehicle fleets are managed and operated. For instance, at Cyngn, our autonomous fleet management system, Cyngn Insight, enables organizations to deploy missions, track vehicle location, and optimize vehicle performance from any location with internet connectivity. This allows organizations to monitor their fleet in real-time and make strategic decisions to meet operational demands.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems streamlines warehouse operations by centralizing data collection, enhancing inventory management, and optimizing resource allocation. ERP solutions combine warehouse management capabilities with broader business management functionalities. 

Some examples include SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) and Oracle Warehouse Management (WMS) which can synchronize various departments, such as shipping and order processing to boost overall productivity.

Inventory Management System

Inventory management systems track and manage inventory levels, locations, and stock movements in real-time within a warehouse. It enables organizations to optimize the replenishment processes, minimize stockouts, and ensure efficient utilization of storage space. IMS also enables data-driven decision-making for strategic planning and resource allocation within the warehouse.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) revolutionizes warehousing through interconnected devices and sensors, enhancing operational efficiency and data-driven decision-making. Leveraging IIoT, warehouses can monitor inventory in real-time, automate processes, and better predict maintenance needs, leading to optimized productivity and reduced operational costs. 

Automated Dimensioning System

An automated dimensioning system is used in warehouses to accurately measure the dimensions and weight of packages and items. This system helps to accelerate the shipping process, reduce shipping errors and costs associated with incorrect freight classification, as well as enabling efficient space utilization by providing precise measurements for storage and shipment planning. 

What are the Types of Warehouse Automation Technology?


Goods-to-Person (1)

Goods-to-Person (GTP) is a warehouse automation technology where items are brought directly to warehouse workers for picking or packing tasks. GTP systems include conveyors, carousels, and robotic arms to deliver items to designated workstations. This approach minimizes travel time and boosts efficiency and accuracy in high-volume and fast-paced environments, doubling or even tripling warehouse picking speeds. 

One notable example of GTP picking is in Amazon's automated warehouses, where they use goods-to-person picking technology in addition to warehouse robots that bring items to workers, minimizing travel time and maximizing efficiency. 

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)

ASRS - Warehouse Automation (1)

Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) vertically store and autonomously retrieve items from designated storage locations. These systems use robotic mechanisms, such as cranes, robotic arms, and shuttle systems, optimizing space utilization and enhancing inventory management accuracy and faster order fulfillment.

For example, British Sugar, a sugar processing company, leveraged AS/RS technology in its automated warehouse to store its palettes of goods.This AS/RS system has streamlined the movement of 3,000 pallets of goods that are shipped in and out of the facility daily. 

More generally, these systems have been shown to:

  • Save up to 85% of warehouse storage space.
  • Cut manual labor requirements by 2/3 
  • Improve pick accuracy by 99%

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)

AGV - Warehouse Automation (1)

Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) follow predefined paths using embedded floor markers, wires, or magnetic strips, minimizing human intervention. Therefore they are typically used for more simple, repetitive tasks, where they have been shown to increase efficiency by 50-70%. In doing so, AGVs streamline material flow, optimize space utilization, and enhance safety, contributing to increased productivity and cost savings in warehouse operations. 

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

AMR - Warehouse Automation (1)

The autonomous mobile robot (AMR) market is expected to grow from $8.65 billion to $23.69 billion by 2028, with top warehouse AMR companies becoming a popular choice amongst warehouses. These robots navigate independently through warehouses without the need for special infrastructure, and therefore are optimal for complex layouts. AMRs perform tasks such as goods transport, picking, and inventory management, enhancing efficiency and reducing labor costs. In addition, fleet management systems, found on AGVs and AMRs, commonly track the status of vehicles and workflows in real-time to further boost operational transparency.

For instance, one of Cyngn’s AMRs took on pallet transportation at U.S. Continental, a leading provider of leather and fabric care solutions, resulting in a 4x gain in efficiency and a job promotion for one of its workers. 

Read the full case study here

Pallet Robots

Pallet Robots  (1)

Pallet robots are specialized robots designed to automate the handling, movement, and stacking of pallets within a warehouse. These warehouse robots are designed for efficiently handling heavy loads, organizing palletized inventory, and assisting with tasks such as loading and unloading. For instance, Amazon deploys its fleet of pallet robots in its fulfillment centers to transport pallets and shelves of products to human pickers, reducing the time workers spend walking through the warehouse.

RFID Systems

RFID Tracking (1)

RFID systems use radio waves to track and identify items equipped with RFID tags or labels in real-time. This technology improves inventory accuracy, reduces manual labor, and speeds up operations by enabling real-time data capture without line-of-sight requirements.

The most common form of RFID systems can be seen in barcode scanners, which scan parcels before shipping, therefore eliminating manual data entry errors and enabling warehouses to efficiently monitor inventory movement throughout the supply chain. 

Voice Picking and Tasking

Voice Tasking (1)

Voice picking technology transforms warehousing operations through hands-free, voice-guided workflows. With voice picking, warehouse workers can receive instructions via headsets for picking, packing, and other tasks.

In fact, 22% of warehouses are currently using some form of voice-directed technology, with voice picking being the most common. This technology is highly beneficial in hands-on environments and it improves safety by allowing hands-free operation.

Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light

pick-to-light - warehouse automation (1)

With a 99% accuracy in picking and sorting, put-to-light and pick-to-light systems improves order accuracy and reduces picking errors in warehouses by using light displays to guide workers to specific items or storage locations.

Pick-to-Light systems illuminate lights at storage locations to indicate where items should be picked, while Put-to-Light systems illuminate lights at destination bins to indicate where picked items should be placed.

Automated Sortation Systems

Automated Sortation System (1)

Automated sortation systems are used to quickly and accurately sort and route items to their designated locations based on predefined criteria such as destination, package size, and type of item.

These systems use automated conveyor belt systems, such as a cross-belt sorter and a narrow-belt sorter, to re-route parcels of various dimensions to their proper bins, containers, or shipping lanes. Automated sortation technologies optimize warehouse operations by reducing both processing times and human error.

Conveyor Systems

Conveyor - Warehouse Automation (1)

Conveyor systems are the backbone of warehouse logistics and have the ability to increase productivity by 60%. Using belts, rollers, or wheels, these systems move items through various stages of the warehouse process, such as loading, sorting, and packing , therefore improving overall warehouse efficiency and reducing manual handling.


Drone - Warehouse Automation (1)

With a 99% inventory audit accuracy rate, drones are an emerging warehouse automation technology with the ability to perform various tasks such as inventory management, surveillance, and delivery. They’re equipped with cameras, barcode scanners, and RFID tag readers that navigate warehouses efficiently, providing real-time data and enhancing security. 

For instance, when it comes to inventory management, it can take human workers 90 days to scan an entire inventory within a warehouse, whereas drones can complete the same task in just 3 days.

5 Key Benefits of Warehouse Automation

  1. Improved Efficiency: The most obvious benefit of warehouse automation is increased efficiency. Warehouse automation can boost labor productivity by 85%, reducing the need for manual labor by taking on repetitive tasks much faster and more accurately than humans. This leads to faster order fulfillment, reduced errors, and overall higher productivity within the warehouse. 

  2. Visibility and Transparency: Warehouse automation enhances visibility and transparency by providing real-time insights into inventory levels, order statuses, and operational efficiency.

  3. Security and Compliance: Warehouse automation also improves security and compliance by integrating advanced monitoring and control systems that safeguard inventory and ensure adherence to regulations. Automated tracking and reporting features provide precise documentation and audit trails to ensure compliance with legal practices.

  4. Meeting Labor Demands: Labor costs constitute 65% of a warehouse's budget, while 76% of supply chain leaders are being significantly impacted by labor shortages. With rising labor costs and a struggle to attract and retain workers, warehouse automation helps organizations reduce labor costs and fill worker shortage gaps by automating repetitive and potentially hazardous tasks. 

  5. Lower Costs: Automation can reduce operational costs by up to 55% by reducing labor expenses, minimizing errors, and optimizing resource utilization. For instance, one of our autonomous vehicles was even shown to reduce labor costs by 64%

Warehouse Automation Best Practices

Implementing warehouse automation requires careful planning and execution. Let’s dive into some of the best practices warehouses can take when implementing automation.

Automate in Stages

Organizations can gradually implement both physical and digital process automation in stages by following these four steps:

  1. Start by automating simple, repetitive tasks before progressing to more complex ones. 
  2. Prioritize processes that yield immediate benefits and align with strategic goals. 
  3. Ensure seamless integration between automated and manual processes to maintain efficiency. 
  4. Analyze data to monitor and evaluate performance, making adjustments as necessary. 

By adopting a phased approach like this one, businesses can better mitigate risks, minimize disruption, and achieve long-term success in their automation journey in order to ultimately optimize warehouse operations.

Utilize the Right Warehouse Management System

As mentioned, a WMS controls and optimizes all aspects of warehouse activities, so, it’s essential to make sure that the system aligns with the organization's specific needs, scalability, and integration capabilities. 

A well-chosen WMS enhances productivity providing real-time visibility into warehouse processes. Careful consideration of features, vendor reputation, and future-proofing ensures the selected WMS meets current and future business requirements.

Analyze Data for Optimal Operations

Data analysis powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence is essential for optimizing warehouse efficiency. By collecting and analyzing vast amounts of data, warehouses can optimize inventory replenishment cycles, streamline picking routes, and predict maintenance needs for equipment, ultimately improving overall efficiency and reducing operational costs. This ensures continuous improvement and adaptation to changing demands. 

Invest in Scalable Technology and Solutions

Scalable technology adapts to changing business needs, accommodating growth without significant overhaul. When choosing automation solutions for material handling and intralogistics, prioritize flexibility, modularity, and interoperability.

Warehouse automation solutions should account for potentially expanding facilities, hiring additional employees, new equipment, and new supply chain partnerships. This strategic approach ensures long-term viability and competitiveness, empowering warehouses to thrive in dynamic environments while maximizing ROI

Partner with Cyngn for Future-Forward Warehouse Automation

One way to leverage warehouse automation is to incorporate Cyngn’s fleet of self-driving AMRs to automate material transport. Our AMRs, which include our autonomous tugger, autonomous forklift, and autonomous stockchaser, can automate repetitive hauling tasks without the need for special infrastructure, therefore boosting efficiency and reducing costs. For instance, our autonomous tugger has been shown to increase productivity 4x and reduce human labor costs by 64%.

With DriveMod, you can:

  • Autonomously lift and haul thousands of pounds of goods
  • Remotely manage vehicles via the FMS or on-vehicle display
  • Collect real-time data to reveal opportunity for optimization
  • Leverage multiple, redundant, and intelligent layers of safety
  • Execute missions based on a variety of flexible, programmable options
  • Can be switched into manual mode and be driven by a human

Meet Our DriveMod Fleet

Automate repetitive tasks, get more work done per shift, and drive your warehouse forward with our autonomous vehicles.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is warehouse automation?

Warehouse automation is the use of advanced technology and systems such as robotics, AI, and software systems, to automate various tasks and processes within a warehouse. This commonly includes inventory management, order picking, and material handling, which improves operational efficiency and accuracy while reducing reliance on manual labor.

2. What is a smart warehouse?

A smart warehouse is a technologically advanced facility that integrates technologies like Industrial IoT sensors and systems, AI-driven software, and robotics to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and responsiveness in warehouse management. Smart warehouses leverage real-time data insights to streamline processes such as inventory tracking, order fulfillment, and resource allocation.

3. What types of technology are used in automated warehouses?

Automated warehouses utilize a variety of advanced technologies to streamline operations, including:

  1. Robotics: autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs), pallet robots, and collaborative robots (cobots) assist with material handling and picking tasks. In addition, drones are used to scan inventory and replace traditional security systems in warehouses.

  2. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS): WMS software streamlines warehouse activities, optimizing inventory management and order fulfillment.

  3. Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) and Goods-to-Persons (GTP): GTP systems, such as carousels, automatically bring goods to workers to pick and pack, while AS/RS systems automate storage and retrieval of finished goods, maximizing space utilization.

  4. Conveyor Systems and Automated Sortation Systems: Conveyor belts and rollers facilitate the movement of goods throughout the warehouse while automated sortation systems efficiently sort and route goods to their proper locations.

  5. Pick-to-Light, Put-to-Light Systems and RFID: Pick and put-to-light systems use light displays to guide workers to the correct items and locations, reducing errors in picking and stocking. In addition, RFID systems track and identify items, primarily through barcode scanning.

  6. Voice Technology: Voice-guided workflows improve picking accuracy and efficiency by providing hands-free instructions to workers.

4. What are the levels of warehouse automation?

Warehouse automation can be categorized into different levels based on the degree of automation implemented:

  1. Level 1: Basic Warehouse Automation - Basic automation is introduced, such as conveyor belts or forklifts, to assist with material handling tasks.

  2. Level 2: Warehouse System Automation- Automation is integrated into specific processes, such as automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) or pick-to-light systems, but human intervention is still required for decision-making and control.

  3. Level 3: Advanced Warehouse Automation - Most tasks are automated, with advanced technologies like autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), robotic picking systems, and AI-driven software managing operations. Human intervention is minimal, primarily for oversight and exception handling.

  4. Level 4: Fully Automated Warehouse - All tasks are fully automated, from receiving to shipping, with little to no human involvement. This level of automation is often seen in highly specialized facilities with advanced robotics, AI, and IoT integration.

5. What are the processes of warehouse automation?

Warehouse automation encompasses various processes aimed at optimizing operations and increasing efficiency.

Some key processes include:

  1. Inventory Management: Automated systems track inventory levels in real-time, ensuring accurate stock counts and reducing the risk of stockouts or overstocking.

  2. Order Fulfillment: Automation streamlines order picking, packing, and shipping processes, reducing cycle times and improving order accuracy.

  3. Material Handling: Robotics and conveyor systems automate the movement of goods within the warehouse, optimizing storage and retrieval processes.

  4. Receiving and Putaway: Automated systems expedite the receiving and putaway of incoming goods, minimizing processing times and errors.

  5. Quality Control: Automated inspection systems detect defects or discrepancies in products, ensuring consistent quality standards.

  6. Returns Processing: Automated systems facilitate the efficient handling and processing of returned goods, improving reverse logistics operations.

  7. Data Analytics: AI-driven analytics tools analyze warehouse data to identify trends, optimize workflows, and make data-driven decisions for continuous improvement.


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