Robotics has found a home in the logistics sector over the past few years, in a massive way! And with every year, the technology becomes more advanced and more widely accepted as a standard logistics asset.
In fact, the tech market represents nearly $3.9 billion worth of sales each year. A recent report indicates this is just the tip of the iceberg. By the year 2026, robotic technology sales could approach $20 billion annually.
Many attribute the growth of omnichannel retailing and e-marketplace expansion, the integration of robotic technology for order picking, warehousing, and other distribution center activities to the popularity of integration of robotic equipment. Most of the robots employed currently automate the process of moving and storing goods. As technology continues to improve over the next few years, more daily supply chain tasks will be handled by processors, not people.
As supply chain and logistics companies begin staking out new opportunities and financial goals for 2020, many of them are seriously considering adding robotics to their logistic operations. In this blog post, we outline a few of the pros and cons of implementing robotic technology. Additionally, we address some of the potential robotics problems that logistics partners encounter.
How is Robotic Technology Used in 2019?
For the most part, robotics feature prominently in distribution centers and fulfillment warehouses. They also operate automatic pallet jacks and offload freight at the warehouse dock. Robotics also helps the order picking and packaging process in larger, more advanced fulfillment centers. In fact, some larger fulfillment centers use complete robotic technology to pull, distribute, package, and route for delivery.
Another perfect example of this enduring integration of robotics in the logistics industry is the use of drones. While some drones are currently being used in suburban areas, FAA regulations currently prohibit their rapid expansion and use. Nonetheless, the technology exists for delivering goods within a 15-mile radius of existing fulfillment centers using drone technology.
In March of 2018, Waymo, a Phoenix, Arizona-based technology firm introduced a pilot program that shifted their focus on automated driving ride-share to self-driving trucks and other automated logistics-based technology. Their primary rationale is attributed to the rapid expansion of the e-commerce marketplace, and the need to introduce robotics for better logistics capabilities.
The expansion of robotic technology is not exclusive to North American fulfillment centers. One of the largest drop shipping facilities in China, Alibaba, uses robotic technology to power more than 70% of daily operations. More recently, Ocado facilities in the United Kingdom use robots for storing, retrieving, and packaging grocery items.
What’s the Primary Purpose for Robotic Expansion?
The driving force of all technological expansion, at its root, is the optimization of the workforce. Additionally, increases in wages, cost of living, and other human-related expenses have contributed to a robotic presence within logistics.
There is a lingering concern flowing through the industry about this expansion, though...
While there are more than 20,000,000 people in the United States who work in the logistics space, the rush to robotic replacements of many of these positions has many industry experts concerned about the significant financial impact to the workforce.
What are the Hurdles to Full Robotics Implementation?
When it comes to simplicity, the main hurdle to full robotic integration of logistics operations daily is people. The need for more than 20,000,000 people to have a job is the biggest hurdle the logistics world faces. Scaling down the human workforce is one of the primary objectives and reasons to implement robotic technology. So long as the approach toward robotics in the coming years takes this into consideration, the future looks bright!