The AI age needs joined-up thinking in warehouse operations

Jul 1, 2024 | Operations | 0 comments

Companies are investing in AI and automation to drive warehousing efficiency, but the results are being hampered by a lack of investment in suitable storage solutions. A joined-up approach is the only way to maintain maximum reliability.

AI and automation are revolutionising warehouse operations. Companies are investing in AI-powered robots with the ability to identify, pick and sort items, and transport them for despatch. AI algorithms are used to manage the storage and retrieval of goods with enhanced precision, reducing the time required to complete these tasks.

AI and automation are not new technologies, but their development and uptake have accelerated in recent years, and other aspects of warehousing are not in step with the speed and nature of change. Issues are starting to emerge with growing evidence of a malfunctioning relationship between robotics and traditional storage solutions.

For all the advances that automated technology has made in navigating the complex warehouse environment, it is not foolproof. While investment in technology is higher than ever, budgets for warehouse storage containers are largely still driven by cost savings. Standard mass-produced storage might provide economy of scale, but it is not designed and manufactured to keep in sync with the cameras and sensors that interpret visual information. 

Folds, overhangs and stacking create blind spots preventing the detection of stock labelling. Cheaper materials such as cardboard are prone to tear or sag, obscuring key signifiers. Mould, water damage, dust and discolouration can make printed information illegible. As a result, robotics are failing to identify stock and creating fault lines in their automated inventory management.

These vulnerabilities are not immediately obvious and usually take time to become apparent to warehouse operators. By the time they are finally identified as a drag on efficiency, numerous items have been left unpicked for months and profits have been severely dented.

In recent years we have encountered a wide range of organisations that have fallen foul of these underlying problems. We have worked with them to develop bespoke replacements for their established storage systems. Each container should be custom-designed for maximum compatibility with robotics operating in the specific physical environment of the warehouse. That objective often benefits from site visits along with the development and testing of prototypes driven by consultation and collaboration between the warehouse operator and the manufacturer. It may seem like a fairly time-consuming process, but it’s nothing compared to countless hours lost through inventory and subsequent diagnostics.

Strength and durability are essential characteristics for containers serving automated systems. Solutions must be designed and manufactured to resist damage caused by moisture/water, extreme temperature fluctuations, static, and industrial environments. Polypropylene has the inherent properties to serve this purpose. It has high tensile strength and impact resistance, excellent electrical insulation,  exceptional water repellence and strong resistance to chemicals, solvents and corrosion. This combination of attributes ensures that polypropylene solutions retain their shape and surface appearance, ensuring that robotics record every item with reliable accuracy.

Treatments can be applied to enhance resistance to degradation.  Anti-microbial additives prevent the growth of a multitude of bacteria and fungal growths by up to 99.99%. Anti-staticor conductive additives prevent fibre and dust build up. 

Developing warehouse storage solutions that will remain fit for purpose in the automated age requires an initial investment in design and material quality, but the benefits are compelling: if AI and robotics are all about maximising efficiency, that goal cannot be achieved without complete harmony between the digital and the physical world.

For advice on bespoke warehouse storage solutions, please contact Twinplast’s Technical Sales Team on 01582 361720 or

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