Average height of industrial buildings set to increase to accommodate robotic tech

Growing use of robotic technology in high-volume commercial and food production facilities will see the average height of new industrial buildings in Auckland increase in the next three to five years, according to an industry expert.

The expanding utilisation of robotic infrastructure in new warehouses is due in part to the rise in ecommerce sales, and is also set to increase demand for local workers skilled in its design, installation and operation.

Stephen Hughes, CEO of Drury South Crossing, says the project south of Auckland will be the country’s largest industrial and residential development, and there is increasing interest from businesses wanting to operate at a production scale not commonly seen in the region – including those in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and automated cold storage facility sectors. 

Stephen Hughes, CEO of Drury South Crossing: “Plans to warehouse products at this level indicate these operators expect to be processing significant volumes of product”

He says large-scale warehouses are set to be built on sites of between 0.5 and 20 ha at the Drury development. These could be capable of processing millions of units of product annually, but will rely on robotic technology such as automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS).

The robotic systems require building heights of up to 25 m or more. ASRS are capable of safely retrieving a pallet of product at this height and returning it to ground within seconds. This height is in contrast with a typical warehouse height of 8–10 m that has been fairly common in New Zealand over the past decade. 


Mr Hughes says that according to their sales data and current enquiries, roughly 20% of sites in their industrial precinct are likely to integrate some form of ASRS. He says the increased efficiency and scale of these operations will have a direct benefit for the local economy – particularly the logistics sector. 

“Businesses are looking to ASRS for a number of reasons: to provide optimum utilisation of space, a safer working environment, improved accuracy, improved energy efficiency – and a need to provide for smaller and more frequent orders as a result of ecommerce,” he notes.

“This level of automation also allows goods to be loaded into trucks incredibly efficiently, taking into account their destination, and goods can be offloaded in the exact order that suits the customer. With advances in this type of technology, it has become more cost-effective and efficient to build upwards.

“Plans to warehouse products at this level indicate these operators expect to be processing significant volumes of product – some of which are likely to be local food products suitable for the export market.”

Mr Hughes says they expect to see benefits in the North Island flow through from the construction phase of the development to local production and manufacture, and then to the end consumer.

The Drury South Crossing development is expected to contribute $2.3 billion to the economy and employ 6000 Kiwis when completed in 2027.

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