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4 Reasons for Mobile Robots in Warehouse

4 Reasons for Mobile Robots in Warehouses

April 15, 2022
Research from IDTechEx shows that up-front costs for mobile robots could be about one-third of that of fixed automation.

Add e-grocery to the growing list of areas where eCommerce is driving changes in warehouses.  This trend along with continued expansion of eCommerce is causing companies to expand the use of automation. 

Traditional automation solutions, such as retrieval AS/RS, automated storage shuttles, automated sorting, robotic palletizing, and conveyor systems, are mostly complex and fixed systems. But recently, mobile robotic automation solutions, like AGVs, AMRs, and mobile picking robots, can be found more frequently on the market, and an increasing number of warehouses choose to implement them to replace traditional fixed automation. Based on the market research report " Mobile Robotics in Logistics, Warehousing and Delivery 2022-2042," IDTechEx summarizes four reasons why mobile robotics is becoming the industrial trend for warehouse automation.


Fixed automation may take months to be installed and commission, usually involving building large racks and long conveyors. The installation is always very labor-consuming and costly and sometimes is not done by the automation system providers themselves. While even though some mobile robots are dependent on fixed navigation infrastructure (i.e., AGVs), the additional installation is just to set up laser reflectors, magnetic tapes, inductive wires, barcodes/QR codes, etc., which is much easier and needs less time. Hence, the installation time for AGV systems typically only takes 2-6 weeks. For autonomous mobile robotic units, the installation can be further shorter as robots only need to be shown around the facilities and no additional change to the environment is needed. Also, other software initialization can usually be completed remotely or on the cloud. The shorter period of installation will also cause less impact on daily operations when initializing mobile robotic systems.

Cost and ROI

A large amount of up-front capital is required to implement fixed automation. But according to the report, the up-front cost for mobile robots could be merely about 1/3 of that of fixed automation. And installation, maintenance, and powering of fixed automation also cost more than mobile robots. Therefore, the ROI of mobile robots is about 1-2 years but for fixed automation, it can be 5-10 years.


Changing the fixed automation can potentially cost more money and time than installation, and may make the whole production or operation be halted. On the contrary, mobile robotic systems are much more flexible. Even though AGVs need the support of infrastructure, changing tasks of the fleet only requires re-arranging markers like QR codes or magnetic tapes, which is much easier than re-installing fixed automation. Not to mention that AMRs do not need any supporting infrastructure and are even more flexible. Hence, mobile robots are suitable for agile material handling or production lines. And the mobile robotic system occupies less or negligible space in warehouses, enabling a more complex and flexible material flow route.


Once the fixed automation is installed, it is hard to scale the size or capability. But the fleet size of mobile robots can be easily scaled so that companies can cope with demand peaks (e.g., black Friday) in the most cost-effective way by only scaling the capability during a certain period of time. In addition, mobile robots help warehouses or factories keep lean operations.

Although mobile robots can work all day with only a few breaks for charging, they are only able to carry a relatively limited load for each task; but fixed automation can continuously transport materials seamlessly. So, in large warehouses, mobile robots may not be as efficient as fixed automation for large material flows. But certainly, mobile robots can always be utilized together with fixed automation, optimizing the processes in warehousing.

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