More than 4 million commercial robots will be installed in more than 50,000 warehouses by 2025, up from fewer than 4,000 in 2018, according to ABI Research.The need for flexible, efficient and automated e-commerce drives this trend, as same-day delivery becomes the norm.As more and more infrastructure -- lightweight robots -- becomes more affordable and ROI increases, the global use of warehouse robots will also be boosted as they are a compelling and more capable alternative to traditional fixed mechanical automation or manual operations.
Flexibility and efficiency have become major differentiators in e-commerce's market performance as retailers and third-party logistics (3PLs) struggle to cope with fluctuating product demand, seasonal peaks and rising consumer delivery expectations."Robots enable warehouses to scale up or down as needed, while providing greater efficiency and alleviating inherent challenges related to workforce and staffing."Said Nick Finill, senior analyst at ABI Research.
Automated guided vehicle (AGV) and autonomous mobile robot (AMR) cargo to human systems can directly replace heavier mechanization and automation, which usually requires substantial upfront investment and rigorous physical infrastructure.Robots can optimize space in expensive warehouse facilities, reducing the need for new and expensive operations centers.Mobile robot systems also offer great flexibility advantages.Robot vendors such as FETCH, Geek+, and invia enable additional robots to be added to or removed from the queue as required by the operation.They also allow for easy and relatively quick reconfiguration of entire workflows and operations if product lines or basic operational requirements change.This is a major advantage of the unpredictable and dynamic e-commerce market.
Thanks to impressive innovations in computer vision, artificial intelligence, deep learning and robotic mechanics, robots are also becoming better at performing tasks that have traditionally been harder to automate.Economically viable mobile robots, such as dextrorobots and Kindred systems, are now allowing a wider variety of personal items to be automatically selected and placed into completion operations.By combining mobile robots, picking robots, and even automated forklifts, operations centers can achieve higher levels of automation in an efficient and cost-effective way.
Many robotics vendors offer additional value by offering flexible pricing options.The robot-as-a-service model means that a large number of capex costs can be replaced by more easily available operating costs, which are proportional to the consumption of technology or services, thus improving the affordability of robot systems in the intermediate market and further promoting the adoption.
"Suppliers are changing the broader logistics value chain by lowering barriers to the use of robots in warehouses."Finill explains, "if advanced automation is possible for medium-sized e-tailers, they will be able to push back against the dominant enterprise and bring the implementation back inside the company, changing the relationship between retailers and 3PL."