Reimagining Logistics: The Intersection of Robotics and AI in WMS

August 14, 2023
Ankit Agarwal

With the rapid rise of new technologies, Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are constantly evolving to drive greater efficiencies and reduce costs. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Robotics are some of these transformative technologies that we’re keeping a close eye on, as they will have a significant impact on warehouse operations through the development of Warehouse Execution Systems (WES).

  • What is a WES? 
  • How are Robotics and AI different? 
  • What exactly is Machine Learning?

At K2S, we take pride in being at the forefront of what’s next in WMS by deploying cutting-edge technologies and robotic integration in warehouses. With over 18 years of experience on average, our team members have been part of many WMS implementations across various industries. 

Join us today, as we deep dive into these questions and learn more about how the field of WMS will be transformed by these technologies.

Robotics & AI - what’s the difference? 

The terms Robotics and AI are frequently used interchangeably in warehouse management. However, they are separate technologies with very different capabilities and applications. In the following, we will look at each of these technologies in turn to understand their role in warehouse operations.


Robotics is a multidisciplinary field that involves the design, construction, operation and application of robots. Robots are machines or mechanical devices that are programmed to carry out particular activities autonomously or semi-autonomously. These machines are perfect for jobs that could be hazardous to humans and/or need repetitive actions to be completed quickly and accurately.

They are highly effective at activities with explicit instructions because they can be programmed to work within predetermined parameters. However, robots cannot automatically adjust their course of action when variables change in their surroundings or the task at hand. Hence there are limits to their capabilities when it comes to handling exceptions or anomalies.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think, reason, learn, and problem-solve like humans. The goal of AI is to create systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as decision-making, without human intervention.

By digesting enormous volumes of data and applying Machine Learning, a subset of AI that enables computers to learn from data and improve performance without being explicitly programmed, AI allows machines to identify patterns, derive insights and make decisions on their own.

To summarize it in the words of our founder, Ankit Agarwal: “Robotics looks cool and is cool, but the magic happens with AI.” 

So, what does it all mean in practice? 

Robotics and AI in Warehouse Management

AI systems can adapt and change their activities in response to various scenarios or unanticipated events because of their capacity to learn from data. Robots can perform monotonous chores persistently with incredible physical prowess and accuracy. Combining both technologies, unlocks exciting new opportunities!

Systems that combine Robotics and AI are enhanced with the cognitive abilities to comprehend information about a situation, weigh their options and decide for themselves. This allows them to adjust their course of action and respond to cues in their environment. This fusion of physical and cognitive prowess will allow warehouse systems to swiftly overcome bottlenecks.

It is crucial to understand the distinctive qualities of each technology to appreciate the tremendous impact they offer on their own and in combination as we continue to explore the convergence of Robotics and AI with the development of Warehouse Execution Systems (WES).

The rise of Warehouse Execution Systems (WES)

A Warehouse Execution System is a software application that manages and optimizes the day-to-day operations within a warehouse or distribution center. It is responsible for coordinating and orchestrating various tasks and processes to ensure efficient and timely execution of warehouse operations.

The development of WES represents a fundamental paradigm shift that promises to reshape the future of Warehouse Management Systems. Blue Yonder reports 60 customers are using its WES now, a significant increase from just a couple  a few months ago, illustrating how quickly this new space is developing.

Layered on top of the WMS, the WES has the potential to fluidly manage the work queue, effortlessly orchestrating the efforts of humans, robots, and their vendors. It utilizes automated task decision-making to analyze and process the vast amount of data generated in a warehouse setting. Thereby, a WES makes a warehouse’s operations more efficient in handling exceptions and increases its agility, which could have a significant upside for businesses.

At the core of a WES lie two focus areas:

1. Tasking Automation: A WES’ capability to automate tasks smoothly consists of two essential parts - Task Chaining, which streamlines workflows and cuts down on wasteful downtime and transit times, and Work Priority, which enables the WES to intelligently categorize jobs based on urgency, importance, and other relevant characteristics.

2. Resource Automation: A WES simplifies resource management within a warehouse by smoothly onboarding new resources, such as robotic systems or employees. It achieves this by ensuring minimum interruption and the coordinated orchestration of human, robot, and external vendor capabilities.

By simplifying processes and optimizing resources in a warehouse, a WES leads to increased productivity among workers and improved inventory availability. For example, maximized pick tours ensure reduced travel time and quicker order fulfillment. As a results, Blue Yonder has observed a 5% to 15% increase in throughput with its WES.

Besides, the flexibility of a WES makes rapid deployment and scalability possible. The benefits of cost-aware decision-making and resource-aware planning also make a WES optimal for better warehouse management.

Unleashing New Possibilities

Clearly integrating Robotics and AI into warehouse management systems opens up a world of possibilities, revolutionizing how warehouses run, streamlining workflows, and achieving previously unheard-of levels of efficiency. This section examines these possibilities more closely. 


· Automated Workflows: Robotics is excellent at automating routine operations that may have previously been carried out by human labor. Robots can carry out these duties accurately and quickly - from order picking and packing to material handling, inventory management and more. By automating these procedures and processes, warehouses may drastically cut processing times and operating expenses, boosting output and productivity.

· Improved Efficiency and Error Reduction: When repetitive jobs are replaced by robots, the possibility of human error is significantly reduced. As orders are processed more correctly and with greater speed, overall operational efficiency is improved, resulting in higher customer satisfaction.

· Enhanced Safety and Work Environment: Some jobs in a warehouse can be dangerous to humans. Giving these physically taxing and potentially dangerous duties to robots ensures employees work in a safe atmosphere. Human workers are happier and healthier because they may concentrate on tasks that may be more enjoyable and fulfilling.


· Intelligent Work Queue Management: Currently, WMS systems use the 3P criteria ofpermission , priority, and proximity to decide which tasks human workers should complete first. However, the abilities of AI allow for the dynamic optimization of work queues by analyzing massive volumes of data and making decisions in real-time. As a result, tasks are distributed more effectively, ensuring that the best workers (human or robot) are given the most appropriate assignments, maximizing output.

· Exception Handling and Adaptability: AI excels at handling exceptions. AI algorithms can swiftly determine the optimal course of action when unforeseen circumstances happen in the warehouse using historical data, real-time information and predetermined rules. The system can respond intelligently to unexpected obstacles thanks to AI's capacity to adapt to new situations and learn from experiences through Machine Learning.

· Predictive Analytics: Filtering and analyzing warehouse data in real time can be challenging. Inventory management is one of the significant areas where real-time visibility is essential. Inventory levels must be monitored and precisely assessed to maintain efficient operations and prompt order fulfillment. However, the accuracy of inventory snapshots can be hampered by the movement of products between various areas of the warehouse. By leveraging AI and machine learning to identify patterns and inventory anomalies, predictions can be made to enable warehouses to identify why discrepancies happen and come up with real solutions to these challenges. 

Future Outlook

One thing becomes clear as we examine how robotics and AI interface with warehouse management systems: the future of warehouse management will see AI and humans “cohabitate”. While robotics and other innovations will improve productivity and help alleviate the labor crisis, human interaction will still be necessary to maintain warehouses to operate at their peak efficiency.

The jobs of warehouse workers will undoubtedly change as more modern technology is introduced. While some tasks might be automated, crucial decision-making, inventive problem-solving, and tasks that require emotional intelligence will still require the human element. The workforce will remain essential to guaranteeing smooth warehouse operations - even if their skill sets may evolve and some job duties may change or become obsolete.

Workers will need to adjust to these changes and continuously enhance their abilities to meet future demands. Jobs may change, but they won't completely disappear. Instead, they will change, giving workers fresh chances to learn and hone pertinent skills to remain competitive in the ever-changing labor market. The integration of robotics and AI in warehouses will similarly change how work is completed, necessitating people to adopt new tools and approaches, similar to how technology has revolutionized traditional classroom dynamics in the field of education. Personal development will be key!


Warehouse operations will undoubtedly become more productive, efficient, and optimized due to the convergence of robotics and AI with warehouse management and execution systems, but here’s the twist: While AI-driven automation will change some parts of warehouse labor, human labor will still be essential to maximize the benefits of these technologies. The human touch and innovative problem-solving skills will always be valuable, despite changes in jobs and skill sets.

The secret to surviving in this dynamic environment is actively embracing personal development, staying current by adapting to new technological advancements. It's like opening the door to a world of opportunities for growth and success in supply chain management. 

At K2S, our quest to become application-agnostic is driven by our client’s evolving needs to stay ahead of the curve. Our supply chain specialists combine vast technical and operational experience to help our clients attain previously unheard-of levels of warehouse management efficiency. 

Contact us to learn more about how we can support your WMS success!

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