Industrial automation has been in use in the form of water wheels, windmills, and water pumps for centuries. However, these devices may not seem like industrial automation to modern eyes. They require lots of human oversight and labor to keep running, and in the twenty-first century, industrial automation is designed to reduce the human element. This modern automation–the kind that makes modern industry possible–is generally backed by the intelligence of computer systems.
Intelligent automation adds another layer to industrial automation by combining automation with programmable logic. Conditional statements like “if this, then this” allow nearly every scenario contingency to be planned and accounted for in order to allow machinery to operate with minimal human oversight. Intelligent automation was incorporated into manufacturing processes in the 1960s, but it didn’t start to make its way into warehouses and logistics until the 1970s. Today, as computers grow cheaper and more powerful and innovations like Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) become more feasible, forward-thinking leaders in logistics are realizing the potential of intelligent industrial automation in their warehouses. The promise of warehouse automation is higher efficiency, better safety, lower labor costs, and lower Total Cost of Business (TCOB).