How to Choose the Right Warehouse Automation Vendor

Warehouse automation and robotics are huge investments. Consider these areas when you're searching for the right vendor.

Key takeaways


  • Introducing warehouse automation and robotics may seem like a great idea, but the technology is expensive, and it must be a well-informed decision
  • Not every warehouse facility is right for robotics, and you'll need to ensure that they have the right layouts and planning
  • There are many warehouse robotics vendors—ask tough questions to see if they're right for your business
  • Collaborate with innovative third-party logistics providers that invest in automation for order fulfillment 

Many logistics operators in the retail and eCommerce spaces were burdened by the demand boom and worker shortage in recent years and found it challenging to keep up with the accelerated pace of shipments. A growing number are discovering the potential efficiencies and cost savings from implementing automation and robotics in their logistics facilities.


But, the decision to introduce these new technologies must be met with caution. The number of robotics vendors in the marketplace is growing, but not all are created equal. Many automation businesses have talented roboticists on their payrolls, but they may need to learn about logistics or provide data that makes robots worthwhile in a supply chain environment.


This article was originally published on Supply Chain Brain, and is republished here with their kind permission.


Robotics and automation are only right for certain types of warehouses

Choosing the right partner is critical when introducing cutting-edge technologies. Incorporating automation and robotics into greenfield or newly constructed projects is easier because the new technologies can be planned into the operations. But, whether your project is greenfield or brownfield, it’s essential to know that not every facility will allow you to reap the benefits of automation technologies. Facilities need to be of a specific size and scale to make the expenditures on automation and robotics worthwhile. Implementing these technologies will also profoundly impact operations and the operational workforce, and both need to be prepared before going live with automation and robotics.

GEODIS invests in warehouse automation and robotics on your behalf. Talk to us about how we can optimize your order fulfillment and logistics. 

Ask questions to find the right warehouse robotics vendor

As anyone who has been to an industry expo can testify, hundreds of robotics vendors are in the marketplace today, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by that variety. Typically, these companies offer hardware that works as advertised—a robot can pick up a load from Point A and deliver it to Point B. But. a logistics operation needs to get more out of a robotics system than just that.


Having in-depth conversations with potential vendors is essential to understanding those who will best align with your logistics needs. You don’t want to do business with someone who managed to build a robot in their garage and bring it to a trade show. If questions about user interfaces, data visualization, and task orchestration elicit nothing more than blank stares, that’s probably not a good candidate for a technology implementation partnership.


Logistics operators should be looking for an experienced company that’s been around for several years and understands the dynamic nature of warehouse fulfillment. That sort of company will have a robust software suite to accompany its hardware and can point to several successful implementations. They’ll know how to answer questions about how their system accounts for daily and yearly peaks and valleys in throughput and will have a firm understanding of warehouse operations. That’s a company worthy of consideration for a technology implementation partnership.


And a genuine partnership is what it ought to be. The concept of “partnership” has recently become hackneyed in the business world, especially regarding technology. However, it should be taken seriously when the costs of acquiring or leasing robots increase. Investing in robotics around the break-even point could be a good idea—employees often enjoy working with robots, which can make for an effective labor recruitment tool. 

Douvrin Warehouse

Timing and facility layouts are crucial to making the most of warehouse automation

GEODIS, the global, full-service third-party logistics provider, operates over 50 million square feet of warehousing space in the United States alone. GEODIS has pioneered automation and robotics across its eCommerce, retail, and other logistic operations. GEODIS advises that, in the case of an eCommerce fulfillment center, a volume of between 3,000 and 5,000 orders per day is the threshold level to look for before considering robotics. The timing of the implementation is also important. It’s probably not a great idea to try to implement right before the peak shopping season. That makes the first or second quarter of the year prime time for technology implementation opportunities.


It’s essential that facility layouts support the flow of a robot’s movements. Aisles must be clean and wide enough for the robots to move through. Robotic navigational processes are susceptible to objects that may lie in their paths. Robots will detect those items as obstacles, making it more difficult for them to navigate. It’s also necessary to check the quality of the flooring. A 20-year-old facility will have some wear and tear to its floors that might impede the movement of robots. Facilities must be ready for new technologies.


The same goes for ongoing logistics data processes at the facility. Robots aren’t going to fix problems with inventory accuracy, turn times, and fill rates. If anything, they will make those issues more visible, so ensuring the processes are sound before implementing the technology is essential. Specifically, operators will want to ensure that all inventory data in the warehousing system is accurate—including the measurements and weights of items—these factors will determine whether to assign a robot to a task.


Warehouse automation is maturing

The robotics industry is growing to accommodate a broader spectrum of logistics facilities. Robots have already been developed that can handle much bigger and heavier loads than the small parcels characteristic of eCommerce, and those implementations will become more visible and widespread.


Human labor in these facilities will transform as robotics becomes more ubiquitous in warehouses. Fewer people will be deployed on the front lines of warehouse operations, performing tasks such as loading, unloading, picking, and packing. Instead, a new breed of robotics specialists will emerge, whose jobs will involve overseeing robot operations and activities.


The background of roboticists working on logistics applications will also be changing. Instead of being pure tech types, there will be more significant cross-pollination between the logistics and robotics industries. Logistics experts will increasingly work for robotics companies, and robotics developers will come to work on the warehousing side. Robotics companies will develop greater expertise in fulfilling the needs of logistics operations. Logistics companies will find it increasingly compelling to implement automation and robotics in the coming years.

How GEODIS can help

GEODIS is one of the biggest warehousing and logistics providers in the U.S. and around the world. Here's what you can expect when you work with us:


  • Investment in warehouse automation and robotics on your behalf
  • Strategically located warehouses and distribution centers throughout the U.S.
  • More than 50 million square feet of storage space
  • Reach 99.5% of the continental U.S. in two days or fewer
  • A choice of multi-customer sites, logistics campuses, manual or automated warehouse solutions, and storage that's close to logistics hubs and your customers
  • Comprehensive value-added services
  • A wide and deep national, regional, and local carrier network
  • Integration with the full range of transportation, warehousing, and freight forwarding GEODIS services
  • Real-time visibility throughout the supply chain


Get in touch today and learn how GEODIS will optimize your warehouse and distribution services.