RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • The rapid growth of e-commerce and 'lot size one' production demands have forced warehouses to evolve into efficient, 24/7 operational epicenters.
  • Companies increasingly turn to automation technologies to address labor shortages, rise in customer demand, and need to optimize processing times.
  • However, most companies are struggling to build the right solutions to get the desired returns on their investments.
  • Accenture identified 4 key elements that are essential to transforming warehouses into drivers of new value and growth.


Warehouse automation is now essential

The need for efficient warehouse operations has only grown with the rise of e-commerce. Warehouses play an important role in the relationship between companies and their customers, and inefficient operations can negatively impact customer satisfaction.

Companies are turning to warehouse automation in response. The right level of automation and autonomy enables faster, safer and more efficient day-to-day operations. It cuts costs and improves delivery times for a faster, leaner, and more scalable and sustainable operation.

Yet companies across industries are struggling to select the right solutions to get their desired returns on investments. They’re mixing innovation solutions with ‘tried-and-true’ approaches that ultimately hinder success.

Companies visualize new, quick-fix solutions and end up executing siloed, digital projects that add incremental value but fail to achieve the scalability required to drive strategic returns:

Getting distracted by the better mousetrap syndrome

  • Big-picture opportunities around “reimagining” warehouses are missed.
  • Impulse investments lack a clear understanding of objectives and application.

Choosing one-size-fits-all solutions

  • Increased investment in new technologies, irrespective of the size, scale, and purpose of operations.
  • Lack of appropriate due diligence in assessing warehouse complexity and labor requirements.

Calculating ROI from a narrow perspective

  • Only traditional measures related to labor costs and productivity improvements are used. Hidden gains are missed.
  • Gains linked to overall supply chain objectives, such as service level improvements and customer satisfaction, are missed.

Failing to integrate technologies

  • Investments in point solutions aim for quick wins.
  • No clear plan to integrate legacy infrastructure with new technologies.
  • Unable to identify the right platform to integrate various automation solutions.

Not effectively leveraging human and machine intelligence

  • Platforms for seamless integration between humans and machines are missing.
  • Investing only in robotics, not the technologies needed to integrate other parts of the value chain.
  • Robotics seen as a solution to labor shortages—misses collaborative or augmenting capabilities.

To maximize potential, companies must adopt a new strategy that puts warehouse automation at the center of operations.

A new path to warehouse automation

The key to successful warehouse automation is to be mindful of the expanding role of warehouses. Companies must transform their warehouses to deliver more impactful, longer-term value. With the right strategies, warehouses become more productive and efficient, drive customer-centric experiences and operate sustainably.

Our research can help make this ambition a reality. Accenture identified four key elements that are vital to transforming warehouses into drivers of new value and growth.

Align around a broader vision

Re-evaluate the relevance and role warehouses are expected to play in overall supply chain strategies.

Avoid one-size-fits-all solutions

Categorize warehouses based on the complexity of operations and labor intensity requirements to identify the right technology solutions.

Measure all that matters

Identify and include the less obvious but vital returns when calculating ROI.

Build end-to-end digital connectivity

Integrate and combine technologies to facilitate impactful automation and autonomy.

View All

Painting a bigger picture

Companies cannot risk delaying a strategy shift to warehouse automation. The 24/7 digital economy we operate in, the impact of Covid-19 on supply chains, and the increasing consumer demand for instant, sustainable commerce are forcing companies to transform their operations.

However, old approaches to deploying new technology solutions will not deliver the expected levels of return: it’s time for a greater strategic shift. Companies must have the foresight to visualize the true, long-term potential of the right technology investments.

Warehouse automation and autonomy will result in more efficient, competitive operations, a thriving workforce, and a resilient business that is prepared for any opportunities or crises ahead. By leveraging the four key elements identified above, companies can succeed in their automation efforts and transform operations into well-oiled thinking machines.

About the Authors

Antoine Martin

Managing Director – Industry X, Autonomous Robotic Systems, Global Lead


Raghav Narsalay

Managing Director – Global Research Lead, Industry X


Umesh Inamdar

Associate Director – Digital Transformations and Detroit Innovation Center Lead, Industry X


Martin Brickell

Senior Manager – Retail


Rushda Afzal

Manager – Digital Transformation Research and Detroit Innovation Center Research Lead, Industry X


Ida Nair Sharma

Associate Research Manager – Digital Manufacturing and Operations, Accenture Research, Industry X

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