Introduction to Industrial Automation

Definition and Importance of Industrial Automation

Industrial automation has been heavily adopted and integrated into modern warehouses thanks to the advent and availability of technology. Through the use of both hardware and software, warehouses have become autonomous machines capable of optimizing processes to levels far beyond any manual operation. Industrial automation involves the utilization of technology, both hardware and software, to enhance the efficiency and performance of order processes to reduce manual labor needs, increase accuracy, speed up processing times, and offer real-time operational feedback through data analytics.

Types of Industrial Automation

Automation at an industrial scale is not a new phenomenon. It was pioneered in the assembly lines for automotive manufacturing and process streamlining over a hundred years ago. The advent of integrated circuits, computers, and robots increased the level of automation for both manufacturing and fulfillment. Finally, the development and adoption of software tools such as Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) transformed the operation from pen and paper into a digital age.

Since the advent of industrial automation, its place has been cemented within the modern warehouse. However, the degree to which automation is integrated into any given warehouse can vary widely and the needs of the business should be carefully considered. In nearly all cases, the inventory and management systems are automated by WMS, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Warehouse Execution System (WES), or similar. The level of robotics, conveyor systems, Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS), or other mechanical equipment varies widely based on the business, but some degree of automation is nearly always warranted.

The continuous drive for innovation continues to pave the way for new types of industrial automation. The world of artificial intelligence (AI), connectivity of devices using the Internet of Things (IoT), and a focus on sustainable automation technologies continues to push industrial automation into new and unique areas of warehouse operations.


Benefits of Industrial Automation

The benefits of industrial automation will vary based on the particular business and should be carefully considered before initiating large capital investments for your business.

Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity

Repetitive tasks, common in a warehouse environment, are well suited to automation technology instead of manual labor. Rather than feeling stuck in a monotonous rhythm, employees can be reassigned to more fulfilling tasks within the operation and maintain higher levels of productivity throughout their shifts. Meanwhile, the automation can continue repeating the same task without the need for breaks. With the integration of software optimization tools, even activities where manual labor is still necessary can be improved through data analysis and predictive analytics such as pick path optimization.

Improved Quality

Like all programmed machines, automated systems behave exactly as they are instructed. Human error in processing and inventory management is not present in these systems, offering improved accuracy and quality of orders. This leads to increased order accuracy, happier customers, and ultimately increased repeat customer orders and improved business.


Industrial automation tends to provide alternatives for manual operations based only on efficiency gains and time utilization. There are also instances where a particular task is inherently risky for a human operator. Industrial automation provides a valid alternative for high-risk, manually intensive tasks which provides a safety improvement and risk reduction to the operation.

Cost Savings

Industrial automation is expensive, but the cost is justified based on the increased throughput and processing made possible by the use of automation. Higher throughput allows businesses to provide faster response times and increased sales while decreasing the manual labor required for operations–all of which leads to reduced cost.

Data-Driven Decision Making

The integration of devices, data, and business operations provides the opportunity to utilize real-time data analytics to gain insights for the business, improving data-driven decision-making. For example, integrated devices supplied to a human operator alleviates workload and provides additional value. This could consist of wearable devices directing operators, or automated systems like ASRS to bring products to operators directly. Alternatively, built-in business decisions based on collected data achieve high-level business goals without any human intervention.


The use of robotics or other automation typically lends itself well to increased scale. There is even industrial automation equipment that can be leased during peak operations to provide the business an opportunity to fulfill the increased demand without significant investments in large capital projects.


Overcoming Implementation Challenges

Initial Investment

Industrial automation is a wonderful tool with enormous benefits and use cases, however, these benefits always require capital investment. As with any upgrade, careful analysis of the payback period, business case, and goals must be considered to determine whether the automation makes sense for the business and has a reasonable return on investment (ROI).


Once the automation concept has been vetted, the real work begins: integrating new automation into the existing system. Unless the building is a greenfield (i.e., a new build), there are typically numerous retrofit considerations to take into account.  These can include compatibility with existing systems, compliance with local regulations, safety, and permitting. Utilizing the proper team to tackle the challenges faced in integrating new equipment is a key step in the successful implementation of industrial automation. 



Recap of Industrial Automation's Impact Industrial automation offers a range of technologies, from large-scale robotic implementations to simple conveyor systems. The level of automation varies based on the needs and operation of the business employing them and should be carefully considered prior to any significant capital expenditure. Modern distribution and fulfillment operations have clear business cases for warehouse automation leading to significant cost savings and improvements in overall efficiency. 

Embracing Automation for a Smarter Future The reality of business today is that technology is required to keep up with the ever-increasing demands, speed, and small margins. Utilizing technology to reduce cost, increase accuracy, improve safety, and speed up the overall business has significant benefits for any business. The future of industrial automation will require innovative technologies and the incorporation of newer and smarter applications including AI, advanced robotics, and increased IoT integration. Understanding what technologies exist and how these various types of industrial automation can advance your business is a key business decision to keep pushing your operation forward towards an ever-improving future.

Contact Maveneer Analysis of these industrial automation tools requires an understanding of their impact on your business’s operation and an understanding of the business case justification for these significant capital investments. Speak with Maveneer today to determine the optimal industrial automation solutions tailored to meet your specific business needs. Maveneer can provide the expertise and valuable insights necessary to transform your operation into an efficient, effective, automated warehouse of the future.

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