Robots started to have impact in businesses several years ago. However, logistics was not affected by robots because of the complexity of the work (handling a lot of thing in many possible combinations, close to people and in small spaces).
Let’s see some data that explains the actual situation of warehouses:
- 80% of warehouses are manual operated, with no supported automation.
- 15% of warehouses are mechanized
- 5% are fully automated
However of this data, robotics research has been evolving so fast:
Nowadays, robots have started to make their impact in logistics thanks to the combination of different research fields advances: Electrical engineering, computer science, mathematics, law, cognitive schiences, psychology, biology and mechanical engineering.
For example the case of Amazon robots, called good-picker robots, used in Amazon’s warehouses to move mercancy inside the plant.
Due to their performance in recent years, Amazon is using more than 45.000 robots in their worldwide warehouses, and it seems that this amount will keep increasing, replacing humans by more advanced robots. In fact, they are testing drone transport, in order to innovate in transportation and get a pioneer position in the market. Next video shows its first trial.
Amazon is one of the most known examples of robotics users, but let’s see what DHL expects next years to happen. DHL expects great changes in their distribution centers for next years. Next picture shows just what a DHL distribution center can be in near future.
According to DHL, new operations will incorporate different types of robot each with a specific job to perform such as unloading trucks, co-packing, picking orders, checking inventory, or shipping goods. Most of these robots will be mobile and self-contained but they will be coordinated through advanced warehouse management systems and equipped with planning software to track inventory movements and progress orders with a high degree of accuracy. As we see in the picture, experts see a distribution center fully robotic.
As we can see, interest in the field of robotics is clearly increasing, and more and more, robotics are having an impact in logistics fields. More funding is pouring into development than ever before from governments, large companies, and venture capitalists. Low-cost sensors and faster computers have made previously impossible challenges more manageable. Everything looks like the turning point of a new era has been already passed. Business is changing due to this innovation and logistics is evolving seriously in last years due to e-commerce trends.
Probably our focus should be on checking how we can take profit of robots in order to differentiate from the others. Amazon has already moved to this technology and large companies as DHL is on its way too, so better let’s see how this can affect us individually and let’s position ourselves in the new era which is about to come.
“Robotics in logistics” by Tom Bonkenburg.