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Relocating with your Automation.

Automated warehouses aren’t a new concept of course. Robotics solutions have been used for years to streamline workflows and increase productivity and efficiency. However, relocating automation has historically been too complex and expensive to consider – but that has changed. 


Before, if you built a warehouse and introduced traditional automation, it was fixed in place. You typically signed a long-term 10- or 15-year lease and were locked in for the long haul, even when your business requirements changed. 


From a time and cost standpoint, it was very difficult and expensive to try to disassemble, move and reassemble fixed automation. Although relocation was an option, bringing the automation along was not. Thankfully, modern automation and robotic solutions offer much more flexibility.   


The advantages of grid-based automation


Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs)

operate on a modular grid, which means it’s much easier to lift an entire operation and move to a new location. Grids offer a dynamic solution, with very few items fixed to the ground, and they can be installed in virtually any warehouse, as long as three conditions are met:  


  • The floor must be level and even, with no cracks or imperfections.  

  • There must be easy access for incoming and outgoing goods.  

  • Wireless coverage is a must to keep the operation running smoothly.  


If you are moving to a suitable surface and environment, you can simply pick up your existing shelves with a forklift, put them on a truck, transport them to your new location, and induct them into the grid. If you are using the same grid or QR codes, the robots will immediately recognise their grid, and resume operations.  


If you need to expand, you can either reassemble the grid in the original layout and add more modules or incorporate your existing modules into a fresh grid design in your new space. Stocked shelves can be moved as a single unit or broken down with stock moved independently of shelving.  


Ideally, you’ll plan your move for your slowest production season, to minimise the impact of downtime and prevent lost revenues. Since you can move individual shelves and redeploy them on a new site individually over time instead of having to shut down completely, move your entire operation, and restart again, you can maintain business continuity.  


Another advantage of modular grid AMR systems is that you eliminate single points of failure. Most of the systems work independently, so if a shelf stops working or a robot stops working, everything else continues to function. With fixed automation, a single problem can shut down your entire distribution centre (DC).



Long-term planning

Phased designing allows for scaling to be predicted and accommodated as part of a multi-year plan. Site one can be designed to just barely accommodate the volume you expect to require by the end of the second year. Site two can be pre-planned for years three or four, designed in advance so the transition from one site to the next can happen seamlessly.  


This type of planning prevents the challenges that come with outgrowing an existing facility by getting ahead of the jump and effectively beginning design and development on the next site as the current one is launching. Knowledge gained about workflows and processes during operation of one site can be incorporated into subsequent site designs.  


For example, as picking patterns develop, items commonly ordered together can be shelved together, reducing picking time.  


Redesigning during a move


If you are moving from one location to another, you can enable your existing processes and procedures in the new site, tailoring the location of replenishments and product loading into the AMR system around the previous grid layout. The steps are simple: disassemble, move and reassemble. 


If you are expanding or scaling, the move is more than picking everything up and setting it down in the same configuration. With a new site, you have the option of redesigning your layout to suit your AMRs and the flow of your DC. The steps can become disassemble, move and reconfigure, based on how your new site redefines your workflows.  


It is worth considering your move as more than a shift from “smaller” to “bigger” in terms of square metres. Instead, think of it as a move from “A” to “B,” with an eye to continuous improvement. Some questions to consider are:  


  • How can you add value, improve productivity and decrease costs?   

  • How will goods flow through the DC – from front to back, or back to side?  

  • Where are your access points? Can you add an ingress or egress point?    

  • Do you need to add additional robots to maximise efficiency in the new grid?   

  • Who is in charge of relocating your automation?  


When you are relocating a complete warehouse or DC, there will be specific members on each team driving the process forward. Moving a modular, grid-based AMR system requires much less effort and time than a traditional automation site.  


On your side, you’ll need to assign a head project manager, who can be supported by the site operations teams, and IT teams. Your warehouse manager and site project manager will handle most of the day-to-day physical steps of your move.  


On our side, we provide a project management team to oversee the relocation, AMR engineers who will mark the grid, and wireless engineers to make sure there is adequate coverage in your new facility. Since equipment such as racks are already set up, there’s less involvement. 




Making the best use of a facility


With the availability of industrial real estate significantly decreasing, many businesses are having to work with limited space and there is an increased focus towards retrofitting and reutilising brownfield sites and existing buildings.  


A major challenge is how to make the best use of available space. To navigate seasonal dynamics and organic growth over time, you need the ability to scale up or down regardless of constraints in physical environments.  


This may mean finding new solutions for old warehouse layouts, including vertical extensions and deploying new technology to make the best use of the facility and the workforce. 


In retrofitting a brownfield site, there are a few things to consider:  


  • Whether the warehouse layout is optimised to make the best use of physical space.  

  • Whether it has robust inventory control systems to ensure the right level of SKUs.  

  • How strategically it is using technology to meet its operational needs today and the changing demands of the business. 

  • And finally, how all these factors fit together to create a truly agile and resilient business. 


Why choose Körber Supply Chain?


At Körber, processes and procedures are our priority. We design our solutions based on your own data, coming in six months before your projected move and working with you to understand your projected business growth and goals. Then we measure all of those goals and plan your relocation to ensure you get optimal value out of your technology.     


Are you ready to talk about relocating with automation? Contact us for a consultation today. 


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