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ASCM Insights

E-Commerce Surge Plus Scarce Labor Equals Rise in Warehouse Automation


ABI Research recently released its Smart Warehousing market data report, which found that warehouse automation is primed to reach all new heights. In addition to solutions such as headphone-enabled voice picking and exoskeletons to reduce human effort, mobile robots are proving to be the most prevalent productivity-enhancing solution in the warehousing sector. In fact, worldwide mobile robot shipments in warehouses will have a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 40% from 2021 to 2030 and exceed 500,000 global shipments in 2030.

Productivity technologies can achieve far greater return on investment if correctly combined with other technologies. For example, by combining location-tracking data with a voice solution, warehouses using a warehouse execution system (WES) platform can optimize workflows by minimizing the distance traveled based on the location of each worker.

In addition to mobile robotics, the growth of solutions such as automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) has been explosive. AS/RS consists of a variety of computer-controlled systems for automatically placing and retrieving loads from defined storage locations, which is ideal for high volume of loads being moved into and out of storage. The global AS/RS industry is set to be valued at more than $18 billion by 2030, with a year-over-year growth of 9% from 2021 to 2030. This trend falls in line with the fact that the logistics sector has been experiencing high volume over the past year. Parcel shipping reached 95 billion in volume globally in 2020, and this volume is expected to double by 2026, with a 14% CAGR between 2020 and 2026.

The report includes the following noteworthy data:

  • The global warehousing-as-a-service market (which includes third-party logistics providers, logistics service providers, and warehouse and storage easing) was valued at $1,189 billion in 2020. It is expected to grow to $2,574 billion by 2030, with an 8.2% CAGR between 2020 and 2030.
  • The global e-commerce industry had $4,703 billion in revenues in 2020. By 2030, data shows revenues will equal $21,100 billion.
  • Warehousing software revenues (warehouse management systems, commercial blockchain, demand planning and others) rose to $3.5 billion last year. The anticipation is they will reach $17.5 billion in 2030.
  • Warehousing hardware solutions revenues (scanners, PDAs, warehouse robotics and so on) had $16.2 billion in revenues in 2020. By 2030, they’re on pace to total $123.5 billion.
  • More than 95 billion parcels and packages were shipped globally last year, and this number is expected to cross 200 billion by 2026.
  • More than 100,000 AS/RS were deployed in warehouses in 2020 and should more than double by 2030.
  • More than 7 million handheld devices were used in warehouses in 2020 and is anticipated to grow to 23 million by 2030.

For supply chain professionals, the key takeaway is this: As the shift toward robotics continues to occur with busier warehouses, more manual workflows can be automated. Or workflows that have traditionally been carried out by highly specialized and inflexible machines could soon be carried out by robots that can be moved and retrained as needed. Now is the time to prepare your warehouse for what’s coming.

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About the Author

Adhish Luitel Industry Analyst

Adhish Luitel is an Industry Analyst with ABI Research. As part of the Vertical & End Markets practice, his research focuses on supply chain, freight transportation, and logistics. He may be contacted at

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