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Emerging Robotic Applications in Warehousing

Samuel Bouchard
by Samuel Bouchard. Last updated on May 05, 2016 4:26 PM
Posted on Feb 09, 2011 10:59 AM. 3 min read time

Another interesting presentation I had the chance to hear at the recent Robotics Industry Forum was the done by Tom Bonkenburg  from St-Onge Company who advises companies looking to improve their distribution logistics. I present here the technology roundup that was in his presentation.

Bonkenburg classified robotic opportunities in distribution in three categories:

  1. Moving pallets
  2. Moving cases
  3. Moving pieces

Here is a list of emerging robotic technologies in the three categories with selected videos.

1. Moving Pallets

Bonkenburg named more than 20 companies that are targeting the AGV (Automated Guided Vehicule) market. Due to time, he focused on the following examples.


  • Ellettric80 builds an automated lift truck. See how it can be integrated in fully autonomous end-of-line packaging in the video above.
  • Seegrid use standard technology and add vision and controls to improve it. They do build and sell their own AGV – the key is that their pallet jack is basically built out of standard mechanical parts and components. Their special addition is the controls and software.
  • E&K Automation retrofits an existing mechanical platform with vision and software, leveraging the maturity of today's accepted technology. They also offer some AGVs of their own.
  • KollMorgen is following a similar model with their NDC Suite.

2. Moving Cases

  • ThyssenKrupp's Parcel Robot empties containers automatically. See it in the video above.
  • The TEUN concept does the same thing using a different approach. See the concept video here.
  • Universal Robotics adds vision and learning software to existing industrial robots just as Motoman's dual arm to manipulate cases. You can see a brief video here.
  • The Pick 'N Go is a intermediary approach where a human follows an AGV in the warehouse. The AGV guides and transports cases, while the human picks and places them from the shelves. See the product presentation video here.
  • Power Automation Systems make automated systems for layers of cases on a pallet.
  • Lightfoot System is a startup company that develops a solution that can be used in the current warehouse environment.

3. Moving Pieces


  • Kiva Systems (see above) turns the problem upside down, by bringing the shelves to an operator who pick the parts. The CEO and founder of the company was part of the infamous Webvan history, where he realized how current fullfillment technologies were costly and not flexible.
  • SSI Schaefer also works on a fully automated piece picking solution.

A stricking fact in Bonkenburg's presentation is that there are more robots on Mars, on average, than there are in many warehouses. From the examples above, it demonstrates there is a great business opportunity emerging for the robotics industry in warehousing applications.

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Samuel Bouchard
Written by Samuel Bouchard
Samuel is CEO and co-founder of Robotiq. His mission is to free human hands from repetitive tasks. He is also the author of Lean Robotics: A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory. He lives in Québec City with his wife and four children.
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