Skip to content

Blog Post

Thinking in 3D: The Future of The Warehouse is Looking Up


When solving problems, it’s not always possible to go with what feels familiar. Although keeping inline with what we know is sometimes more accessible, this hinders the possibility of innovation. Sometimes finding a new solution to a problem can be as easy as asking questions and trying a new way of doing things, but sometimes solving a problem could mean changing your whole perspective.

The Answer is Looking Up

An immediate improvement to the current warehouse real estate shortage could include making better use of existing space resulting in more efficient utilization. Most warehouses cover millions of square feet of surface area, but much of this vertical space is not being functionally utilized. This underutilization makes what is available scarce, driving up costs. Businesses with warehouse leases that are up for renewal are seeing exponential cost increases, including one Toronto company facing an increase from a previous $5 per square foot to a current cost of $15 per square foot. With these increases in lease costs, organizations must find a way to do more with less.

Traditional warehouses do not currently allow for reutilization of space in their legacy layouts. For example, aisles are spaced widely to accommodate forklifts and cherry pickers while items can only be stacked to a certain level, making a finite height of accessibility. And this is just high-level issues of traditional warehouse limitations.

Looking up (and thinking smaller) is what’s will drive the needle to alleviate the current real estate shortage.

A New Perspective: Attabotics

The face of modern retail has changed drastically over the past few years. Gone are the days of exclusive pallet and case pick inventory. With the pandemic came an uptick in demand for each-pick online orders and the desire for same- or next-day delivery. Unfortunately, many retailers were not ready. Faced with challenges ranging from labor retention to real estate, a change in perspective was needed.

Attabotics founder and CEO, Scott Gravelle, quickly saw the need for a shift of perspective in the traditional warehouse layouts. Inspired while watching a documentary on leaf-cutter ants (genus “Atta”), Scott saw potential in how these ants build their colonies vertically underground. This simple change in perspective from2D to 3D gave Scott the idea of building warehouses similar to how leaf-cutter ants build their colonies.

What if instead of horizontal rows and aisles, they were vertical? What if instead of designing for what humans can and historically have done, we built a new storage system from the ground up? What if we could reduce warehouse footprints simply by moving both horizontally and vertically in space to access inventory, with no need for wide aisles intended to accommodate human-focused picking?

This change in perspective allowed Scott and the Atta team to bring an entirely new disruptive warehouse approach to the industry at a time when a change was not just imminent but essential.

It’s All About How You Think

In the moment, it can be easier to go with a legacy system to hold a problem at bay, but down the line, new ways of thinking will solve the problem and allow your supply chain evolution to happen rapidly. Business conditions, especially in eCommerce, retail, and eGrocery, are changing rapidly, and today’s systems can’t keep up. Business leaders need to shift perspective to look for new answers.

Take a moment to think about how many problems could be solved with a change in perspective. While this is easier said than done, a shift in perspective is sometimes all that’s needed to solve the problem at hand.