Warehouse Automation: A Glossary of Important Terms


In the fast-paced world of modern warehousing, the concept of automation has become more than just a buzzword; it’s a game-changer.

As the demand for efficiency, accuracy and speed continues to rise, warehouses are turning to cutting-edge technology to revolutionize their operations.

In this warehouse automation glossary, you will find a go-to guide for the terminology that powers the future of warehousing. From automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) to cyber-physical systems (CPS), this glossary is your key to understanding the automation solutions that are reshaping the logistics industry.

3D Vision Systems

Computer vision systems that use sensors to create a 3D model of a warehouse environment, allowing for more accurate navigation and positioning of automated equipment.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The simulation of human intelligence processes by computer systems, including learning, reasoning, and self-correction.

Augmented Reality

A technology that overlays digital information onto the real world, which can be used to provide additional guidance or information to workers in a warehouse.

Augmented Reality (AR) Picking

A picking system that uses AR glasses to display picking instructions and guide workers to the location of the items to be picked.

Automated Docking System

A system that uses sensors and automation to guide trucks to the correct loading and unloading docks.

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)

Mobile robots that are used to transport materials and products within a warehouse.

Automated Inspection Systems

Computer vision systems that use cameras and other sensors to inspect products for quality control or other purposes.

Automated Inventory Management System

A system that uses sensors and other technologies to automatically track inventory levels and reorder products when necessary.

Automated Labeling System

A system that automatically prints and applies labels to products as they move through a warehouse.

Automated Packaging System

A system that uses machines to package products for shipping.

Automated Picking System

A system that uses robots to pick and pack orders.

Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS)

A system that uses computer-controlled machines to handle and retrieve materials from a storage area.

Automatic Replenishment System

A system that automatically replenishes inventory levels when they fall below a certain threshold.

Automatic Sortation System

A system that uses conveyors and other equipment to sort items based on predetermined criteria such as size, weight or destination.

Automatic Storage and Retrieval Crane (ASRC)

A crane system that automatically stores and retrieves goods from high-density storage systems, such as a high-rise automated warehouse.

Warehouse Automation Glossary

Barcode Scanning

A method of automatically capturing product information using a barcode reader, which can be integrated into automated picking systems or other warehouse equipment.

Batch Picking

A picking strategy in which workers pick multiple orders at once, and then sort and consolidate the items by order in a put wall.

Collaborative Picking Robots

Robots that work alongside human workers to perform tasks in a warehouse, specifically the task of picking and transporting items.

Collaborative Robots (Cobots)

Robots designed to work alongside humans in a collaborative way, with the aim of increasing productivity, efficiency, and safety.

Computer Vision

A field of study that focuses on enabling machines to interpret and understand visual information from the world around them.

Conveyor System

A system of belts or rollers that move goods from one location to another within a warehouse.

Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS)

Systems that combine physical and digital components, including sensors, actuators and communication networks, enabling them to interact with each other and with humans, and enabling more efficient and effective control and optimization.

Deep Learning

A subset of machine learning that uses neural networks to enable more complex and sophisticated data analysis, which can be used to improve the accuracy of computer vision systems in warehouse automation.

Digital Thread

The digital representation of the entire lifecycle of a product or process, from design to manufacturing to maintenance and beyond, providing a comprehensive view of the product or process and enabling better decision-making and optimization.

Digital Twins

A digital replica of a physical object, system or process that can be used to simulate, analyze and optimize its performance and behavior.

End Effector

The part of a robot that is attached to the end of its arm and is used to interact with objects.

Goods-to-Person System (GTP)

A system that brings products to the worker instead of requiring the worker to travel to the products.

Immersive Analytics

A type of data visualization that uses virtual and augmented reality technologies to create immersive and interactive visualizations of data, enabling more intuitive and insightful data analysis.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The interconnection of everyday devices, allowing them to send and receive data, and enabling them to interact with each other and with humans.

IoT-enabled Digital Twins

Digital twins that are connected to IoT sensors and devices, allowing them to receive real-time data and feedback from the physical world, and enabling more accurate and efficient simulations and analyses.

Light-Based Picking System

A picking system that uses light displays to guide workers to the location of the items to be picked, reducing picking errors and increasing picking speed.

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Machine Learning (ML)

A subset of artificial intelligence that enables computer systems to learn from data and improve their performance over time, which can be used to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of computer vision systems.

Machine Vision

A type of computer vision that is specifically designed for industrial applications, including warehouse automation.

Object Detection

A technology that allows a robot to identify and locate objects within its environment.

Object Recognition

The ability of a computer vision system to identify and classify objects in an image or video stream.

Palletizing System

A system that uses machines to stack and arrange products onto pallets for storage or shipping.

Path Planning

The process of determining the best route for a robot to follow from its current location to its destination.

Pick and Place

The process of selecting an object and moving it to a new location.

Pick-to-Light (PTL)

A light-based picking system that uses light displays to guide workers to the location of the items to be picked and confirms the pick by illuminating the corresponding location.

Predictive Maintenance

The use of data analysis and machine learning techniques to predict when maintenance of a system or equipment is required, with the aim of minimizing downtime and reducing maintenance costs.

Put-to-Light (PTL)

A light-based system that is used with put walls to guide workers in placing the picked items into the correct location on the wall.

Put Wall

A wall with shelves that is used to consolidate and sort items that have been picked from various locations in the warehouse, before they are packed and shipped.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

A technology that uses radio waves to identify and track inventory items.

Real-time Monitoring

The continuous monitoring and analysis of data from sensors and other sources, enabling real-time decision-making and optimization.

Robotic Material Handling System

A system that uses robots to handle and move materials within a warehouse.

Safety Sensors

Sensors installed on a robot that detect the presence of objects or humans in its immediate vicinity, helping to prevent accidents.

Simulation Modeling

The process of creating a mathematical model of a system or process and running simulations to test and optimize its performance.

Virtual Warehouse

A digital twin of a warehouse, used for planning and optimization of warehouse operations, including inventory management, order fulfillment and shipping.

Vision Guided Robotics

Robots that use computer vision systems to navigate and manipulate objects in a warehouse environment.

Voice-Picking System

A system that uses voice commands to guide warehouse workers through the picking process, eliminating the need for paper lists or handheld devices.

Warehouse Control System (WCS)

A software system that manages and coordinates the activities of automated equipment within a warehouse.

Warehouse Execution System (WES)

A software system that manages and optimizes the movement of goods within a warehouse, including equipment and labor.

Warehouse Management System (WMS)

A software application that manages warehouse operations, including inventory management, order fulfillment, and shipping.

Warehouse Robotics

A broad term that encompasses all types of robots and automated systems used in a warehouse, including those for material handling, picking, packing, and transportation.

Wave Picking

A picking strategy in which workers pick items for multiple orders in a predefined sequence, with the aim of reducing travel time and improving efficiency.

Wireless Communication

A method of communication that uses radio waves to transmit data wirelessly between devices.

Workflow Optimization

The process of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of workflows in a warehouse through the use of technology and automation.

Zone Picking

A picking strategy in which workers are assigned to specific zones of the warehouse and are responsible for picking items from those zones only.

The warehouse of tomorrow is a place where technology meets ingenuity, where automation fuels progress and where efficiency knows no bounds. This warehouse automation glossary has provided you a glimpse into the future, where robots collaborate with humans, where digital twins simulate reality and where predictive maintenance minimizes downtime. With this knowledge, you’re not just prepared for the warehouse of the future, you’re poised to be a part of its ongoing evolution.

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About the Author: Bill Denbigh is VP of Product Marketing & Business Development In the supply chain world, and his special focus is on transportation and logistics management systems. He am particularly an advocate for excellent customer experience and supply chain solutions that stress accessibility and ease of use.