7 questions about the Pio system for smaller e-commerce businesses with AutoStore

The Pio P100 is designed to improve storage efficiency and product throughput.
The Pio P100 is designed to improve storage efficiency and product throughput. Source: AutoStore

Automated storage and retrieval systems, or ASRS, can significantly improve space utilization but are often considered to large or rigid for smaller warehouses. Last month, AutoStore Holdings Ltd. announced the availability of its Pio ASRS for small to midsize e-commerce businesses.

Pio, which stands for “Products In/Out,” is intended to address U.S. labor shortages and consumer expectations for rapid order fulfillment, said AutoStore said at the time. The company, which has offices in Nedre Vats, Norway, and Derry, N.H., is offering its ASRS through a subscription.

Magne Hatteland, vice president and head of Pio at AutoStore, replied to the following questions about the new offering from Automated Warehouse:

AutoStore tailors technology for SMBs

How did AutoStore scale down its technology for Pio? Did it involve more hardware or software alteration?

Magne Hatteland, AutoStore Pio
Magne Hatteland, AutoStore Pio

Hatteland: AutoStore created Pio with its acclaimed cube-storage technology to specifically tailor to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) rather than targeting the big-box retailers like Macy’s, Best Buy, and Ikea.

Pio uses AutoStore technology and tailors it for SMBs with a user-friendly app and plug-and-play integration. Like AutoStore, Pio enables same-day order processing and eliminates backlog.

Were you getting a lot of requests from SMB customers?

Hatteland: Yes, but access to fully automated systems has previously been for larger companies. AutoStore is not expensive, as it pays itself down very quick, but you need access to capital, and that is reserved for larger, more established companies.

Today, we have 10 customers in Norway and recently expanded to the U.S. market with five new customers, including Privada Cigar Club, Sunday Swagger, Souko, Barnes 4WD, and AI Stone. 

What are the minimum space requirements for Pio?

Hatteland: Pio’s P100 [footprint] is 500 sq. ft. [46.4 sq. m], meaning it can fit virtually anywhere.

Customers can customize how many bins they need for inventory, too. The maximum is about 1,360 bins, and each bin can hold up to 66 lb. [29.0 kg]. For example, one bin can hold 120 T-shirts, eight pairs of shoes, and 100 phones. 

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Pio requires little worker prep

How much training do staffers need to operate or work with these smaller cube-storage systems?

Hatteland: Very little training is required. After installation, we make sure to orient and train the customer team on using the system. We created Pio to be so intuitive, that nearly anyone can learn to use it in about five minutes.

Pio can be operated by any employee who works at an e-commerce small business. All someone needs to do is use the Pio app on a device to access orders, and the cube storage system will automatically bring the selected product or products to you.

Storing inventory in the bins is equally simple – you select the product by searching or scanning it, place it in a configured bin, and update the quantity.

While Pio can work around the clock, do customers then need to hire or reallocate more staffers to do the picking?

Hatteland: Quite the contrary. Pio allows our customers to reduce their labor by up to 50%. Pio’s robots work 24/7 to prep bins for order picking.

So no matter what time a new order enters the system, when staffers come into work in the morning, the bins are already organized so that the relevant inventory is at the top of the grid—ready to go. And because the entire system is so efficient, fewer workers are needed to get the job done faster.

Pio promises numerous benefits to small and midsize businesses.
Pio promises numerous benefits to small and midsize businesses. Click here to enlarge. Source: AutoStore

Integration and RaaS

Does Pio integrate with other robots or automation?

Hatteland: Pio can be integrated with a wide range of e-commerce platforms and shipping software including Shopify, MyStore, WooCommerce, Shipstation, Webshipper, and InventoryPlanner.

SMBs can log into their Shopify or Shipstation account through the app on an iPad and attach it to their P100 warehouse robotics system to start operation within minutes.

For the robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) offering, is Pio providing the service, or is that handled by third parties as with other AutoStore offerings?

Hatteland: Pio is offering RaaS with its P100.

Written by

Eugene Demaitre

Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of the robotics group at WTWH Media. He was senior editor of The Robot Report from 2019 to 2020 and editorial director of Robotics 24/7 from 2020 to 2023. Prior to working at WTWH Media, Demaitre was an editor at BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, TechTarget, and Robotics Business Review.

Demaitre has participated in robotics webcasts, podcasts, and conferences worldwide. He has a master's from the George Washington University and lives in the Boston area.