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What is Under-Automation?

Article by Megan Gee

There is a serious problem that has emerged all around the world. It’s being faced by businesses large and small. From pharmaceutical providers to 3PL operators and ecommerce outlets of all kinds. A problem where the cure is outlined in its name.


This is the word that describes a growing number of problems that, on the surface, all seem different and distinct. Only upon closer inspection does it become clear how all these issues can be solved the same way, and thus can be consolidated under a single term.

When warehouses don’t have enough automation for their current needs, they start to experience stresses and strains in different ways. Different aspects of their operations become problematic, and systems that used to be advantageous assets become unreliable anchors, holding them back.

Why is under-automation a problem?

Under-automation causes all manner of difficulties for businesses of every kind. These include

Order overload – where your warehouse struggles to deal with large demand in small time windows

Seasonal spikes – specific seasons leave you needing to radically reshape your business

Growth pains – when your warehouse should be able to expand and advance, yet your operational style holds you back

Static storage – where the way you organise your warehouse itself starts to be a strain that holds you back

Overexposure to market forces – when your business cannot be proactive because of the constraints placed upon it by outside conditions

These all may sound like different and distinct issues, but each one can be solved by applying the correct level of automation into your business. Turning your warehouse into an entity that can resist these issues and resolve the problems they cause.

Levels of under-automation

There are two central levels of under-automation that most warehouses find themselves dealing with.

Manual picking processes

This describes when every stage of the picking process is done manually. Everything from placing the items into their proper place via goods in, to the selection of goods for a specific order, and their movement to shipment locations. In a manual process, a picker will be walking, carrying, and placing items themselves directly.

Pickers may be assisted by supplementary technology, whether it be something as basic as a paper listing process, or a more advanced system like voice headsets, barcode scanners, or RFID chips etc. Yet these are not automating the process. They only serve to enhance the existing manual processes. If goods are walked from place to place, the process is manual.

Fixed automation systems

While these systems use automation, there isn’t enough to cure the issue. The robots here are responsible for carrying and moving items between a storage solution that is fully fixed and built securely into place.

To allow the robots to move in this method, you need a network of complicated and elaborate infrastructure. Rails, gantries, conveyors, and other physically robust systems let the robots move between the static goods storage positions to where they need to go.

Why are these ‘under-automation’?

In the case of manual picking systems, the lack of automation is clear. Everything is being done by employees directly. Technology is assisting the process, but not accelerating it.

For fixed automation systems, only a single aspect of the system has been automated. The moving of goods from storage to picking positions or shipment stations. For the kind of automation option, your business really needs a full dose of the right kind of automation. Flexible robotics.

What is flexible robotics?

Flexible robotics involves using autonomous robots and freestanding storage to create a malleable and adaptive warehouse operation. A space that can be arranged, accelerated and adapted as the situation requires.

Flexible robotics is a complete and full dose of automation. Fixed automation simply takes the manual warehouse option and replaces the pickers with robots. For flexible robotics, the storage system itself becomes part of the automation. Exactly what your business needs to grow and respond to the challenges presented by 2021 and beyond.

Discover flexible robotics – discover OW Robotics

To see for yourself how flexible robotics can cure your under-automation, contact Wise Robotics today. Speak with our experts to learn more about industry 4.0 and the future of flexible robotics.

You can even visit us in person. Wise Robotics is proud to own and operate Europe’s first flexible robotics demonstration centre. See the robots in action, learn how they work, and why they offer so much in the way of improved efficiency.

Once you witness the capabilities of flexible robotics for yourself, you’ll understand the opportunities available when your under-automation is cured.

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