Postgraduate research student, Sina Khodaee, was shortlisted from a pool of applicants and invited to the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA) conference alongside peers from the University of Warwick and Manchester Metropolitan University.

On the conference’s inaugural day, Sina was announced as the overall winner of the competition.

Their recent annual practitioner conference took place in Nottingham, commemorating the association's 80th anniversary. As part of the conference, a competition was held for students to share their thoughts about the future of warehouses in an essay format.

Emphasising the crucial role of collaboration between humans and robots, Sina discussed:

  • The growing importance of machine-learning algorithms in the future of warehouses, and the need for robots' mechanical capabilities to be evolved in tandem with the strides made in artificial intelligence
  • The concept of "dark warehouses", envisioning a future where robots can learn and adapt to tasks on the fly, drawing inspiration from fully automated factories where human involvement is minimal
  • The idea of an "Adaptive Picking System" as an illustration of such transformations, advocating for a unified approach to streamline the picking process
  • A shift towards more supervisory and control-oriented positions, acknowledging the evolving nature of human roles within warehouses. Despite the potential efficiency enhancements, the challenges associated with aligning software and hardware were highlighted, questioning the timeline for realising fully automated warehouses

"I was honoured to be announced as the competition winner and to be awarded the bursary prize," says Sina. "My essay explored the changing landscape of warehouse automation, contemplating the prospect of warehouses operating entirely independent of human intervention and the path toward achieving this vision."

He continues: "However, my analysis concluded with an optimistic outlook for the future, visualising a time when we can ‘turn off the lights’ in warehouses, as automation continues to advance."

The United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA) is Britain’s leading trade organisation dedicated to warehousing and advocating for the industry's interests.