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August 28, 2023

Upgrade Your Brownfield Warehouse with Flexible Robotic Automation

Author Icon Mary Hart, Senior Content Marketing Manager

When you’re pondering how to improve operations in your older, brownfield warehouse, you may be tempted to just start fresh with a greenfield site. But that might not be the best, nor feasible, solution for your warehouse operations. 

Interact Analysis has seen a slowdown in greenfield sites, stating “Compared with 2022, there has been a 25% slowdown in the number of new warehouses being built in the US and Europe in 2023.” They added that they’ve also heard this anecdotally, with almost all automation vendors they talk to claiming to see far fewer greenfield sites with a lot more interest in brownfield sites.

If you can’t, or don’t want to, start from scratch with a greenfield site, you can optimize your existing brownfield site and infrastructure with flexible and scalable automation technology, such as autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Robotic solutions can be implemented quickly and cost-effectively in brownfield environments, bringing transformative productivity and efficiency gains. 

Why not optimize the facility you already have by automating? Learn the compelling reasons to embrace robotic automation in your brownfield facility. 

Quick Implementation for Immediate Improvements

A major advantage of flexible robotics systems is they can get up and running in your current brownfield warehouse layout in just weeks. With AMRs, there’s no need to halt operations for months or longer and redesign workflows for fixed conveyors and other solutions. The robots simply start collaborating with your team, bringing improved efficiency and productivity.

For example, AMRs can handle point-to-point (P2P) transport tasks, carrying picked items or inventory to restock or replenish around your facility. This allows your workforce to focus on more value-added tasks. The AMRs navigate safely around workers and inventory using sophisticated sensors and software. It's a quick, non-disruptive way to upgrade brownfield operations.

Move Up Instead of Out with Mezzanines

Maximizing your existing brownfield warehouse footprint is imperative as order volumes increase. The solution? Go vertical with mezzanines and pick towers to substantially increase your facility’s pick density and picking capacity.

Mezzanines cost-effectively double your footprint by adding partial floors floating above current operations. Meanwhile, pick towers leverage vertical space even further with shelves and stations stacked over multiple levels.

Together, mezzanines and pick towers allow you to make the most of every inch of clearance up to your warehouse ceilings. The additional headroom is transformed into valuable picking and storage real estate.

This density boost is key to accommodating escalating order volumes in constrained spaces. What's more, you can strategically deploy different functions on each level based on ergonomics, interchangeability and workflow. Optimize material movement and picking across floors.

To tie these levels together cohesively, a robust pick-and-pass technology with seamless multi-level fulfillment is essential — this is where flexible automation like AMRs shine. 

With mezzanines and pick towers, LocusBots empower efficient batch picking across floors. By leveraging vertical space, you can accommodate surging order volumes without expanding your facility's footprint.

Easy Scalability 

Order volumes fluctuate in warehouses, but robotics systems like AMRs can easily scale up and down as needed. A robots-as-a-service (RaaS) subscription model allows you to pay only for the number of robots you currently require. When volumes increase, you can temporarily add more robots. This flexible capacity helps you cost-effectively meet seasonal peaks and workflow changes without over-investing in automation.

In contrast, fixed automation systems like conveyors require major construction to install and can’t be easily reconfigured. The scale-as-you-grow model of flexible robotics perfectly matches the evolving requirements of brownfield warehouses.

Increased Labor Productivity 

AMRs are the ultimate warehouse teammates. They handle repetitive, physically tiring tasks like transporting loaded pallets or totes around facilities up to 24/7. At the same time, they optimize the talent of their human coworkers. 

This allows your skilled associates to focus on more complex, quality-focused activities like inventory management, picking, packing and quality assurance (QA) checks. Workers who spend less time walking and more time handling value-added fulfillment see dramatically improved productivity and job satisfaction.

In addition, by reducing human miles walked per day from up to 14 to under 5, robotics cut fatigue and injuries. In turn, this optimized workforce retention saves you operational costs. When you combine satisfied employees with the consistent, reliable performance of AMRs, inventory accuracy also improves.

Quickly Generate ROI

Brownfield warehouses require automation solutions with fast payback periods, not multi-year investments. AMRs like our LocusBots enhance your operations in as little as 4-6 weeks with limited integration costs. There's no need for major construction since the robots work seamlessly with your existing layout, operations, and processes.

The RaaS subscription model lets you shift capital expenses for automation to operational or labor expenses. The minimal initial investment means a simpler budget approval process and dramatically shortens your time to ROI from years to months. There are no hidden expenses or maintenance contracts. You’ll always have the latest software updates and hardware

AMRs typically generate ROI within 6-9 months — much faster than fixed automation systems. That rapid return on investment allows you to quickly realize savings from optimized labor, reduced injuries, and improved inventory accuracy.

The Right Automation for Brownfield Success

LocusBots handle a wide spectrum of warehouse tasks:

  • Inventory transport and replenishment
  • Pallet/tote movement
  • Multi-floor goods transfer
  • Returns processing
  • Dynamic picking support
  • And more

This allows you to replace the manual material handling processes across your entire brownfield facility with worry-free automation for end-to-end optimization. 

Robotic automation in the form of AMRs from Locus Robotics gives brownfield warehouses like yours an easy, cost-effective way to upgrade operations, reduce costs, improve workforce productivity, and scale flexibly. All without the need for major construction or process redesign. 

In brownfield warehouses constrained by small aisles and tight turns, AMRs excel thanks to their flexibility. The robots drive measurable improvements in productivity, order accuracy, labor retention and more.

With our rich history in warehouse management, we understand even the most complex brownfield requirements. Our AMRs will help you cost-effectively upgrade your aging facility without expansion or reconfiguration. 

Talk to us today to evaluate your brownfield automation opportunities!