Robotics help to complete orders quickly

Amazon warehouse workers may soon have new employees joining their ranks: “Bert” and “Ernie”.

Named after a pair of puppets in an American educational TV series Sesame Street, Ernie is a system with a robotic arm that can transport containers to employees, reducing laborious reaching and bending over, while Bert is an autonomous mobile robot that can be called to carry items.

They emphasized how American retail and logistics giants are leading the way in warehouse automation—according to consulting firm Interact Analysis, this market will almost double to $68 billion by 2025.

Analysts say Chronic labor shortage Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the complexity of e-commerce has accelerated the application of automation, turning cost-saving activities into a key issue for improving competitiveness.

Tom Bianculli, Chief Technology Officer of Zebra Technologies, is an Illinois-based company that produces wearable computers, rugged scanners and industrial printers for warehouses.

“Automation is not about return on investment, but about business continuity,” he said when recalling a recent conversation with executives. “Unless I solve the labor shortage problem, I will not be able to realize income.”

Supply chain managers are now focusing on mature technology to reduce the pressure on employees.

Markus Voss, Global Chief Information Officer and Chief Operating Officer of DHL Supply Chain, said that one of the technologies is automated forklifts. DHL Supply Chain is the logistics contracting department of the international express group. Its goal is to achieve one-third of the 20,000 machines worldwide. Automation.

He said: “At present, all of our markets have serious labor shortages.” “I believe this problem will not disappear.”

Automated warehouse robot made by AutoStore © Bloomberg

According to Adhish Luitel, an analyst at ABI Research, another area with huge growth is micro fulfillment centers that use robots on track, such as those used by online retailer Ocado or its Norwegian competitor AutoStore, which recently went public in Oslo.

Supply chain managers have also turned their attention to integrating all the different robotics and automation technologies with data to better predict demand and optimize the use of robots and humans for the most urgent tasks.

To help achieve this goal, Gartner analyst Dwight Klappich said that customers may encourage the transition to a universal robotics software platform that many vendors can plug in—just like Android has become the underlying operating system for many smartphones.

“A lot of smart people are studying what the robotic platform looks like,” he said. “I don’t know what will happen here. It depends on whether one of the large technology companies wants to make a robot operating system.”

However, although robots can speed up goods passing through warehouses, external issues such as the shortage of truck drivers have been putting pressure on the logistics industry.

Since autonomous trucks are still several years away, an important factor in ensuring efficient automation is to integrate warehouse automation with other links in the supply chain.

Thomas Evans, chief technology officer of Honeywell Robotics, said that technologies such as 5G, connected cities, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications can help “coordinate” the higher throughput of automated warehouses and move goods away with the arrival of trucks.

However, despite the excitement of deploying robots, there are other obstacles to progress.

On the one hand, the industry as a whole is still in the Victorian era. It is estimated that three-quarters of the world’s warehouses are not automated at all, because it turns out that large conveyor belts and fixed infrastructure are too expensive.

Robots can be much cheaper, but Rueben Scriven, a senior analyst at Interact Analysis, pointed out that Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva Systems in 2012 shook the market because the Massachusetts-based group stopped selling robots to new customers or for customers that were already operating. Provide services.

“Many people worry that a large company like Amazon might acquire a mobile robot company, which will make customers hesitant to invest when the market is at such an early stage,” he said.

The absolute growth rate of e-commerce has also brought retailers
Evans said there was very little downtime to integrate the new system into their facility.

Joe Daft, head of robotics at British manufacturer Wise Robotics, said the idea that automation is overpriced remains an obstacle.

“It’s a question of mentality,” he said, adding that business owners are afraid of the prospect of automation. “No company knows what they want.”

But he believes that the pandemic has stimulated change. “In the past 18 months, I have seen generational changes [smaller businesses],” He said.

When this kind of tailwind emerges, few people predict that the pressure on the labor force that promotes automation will ease.

The aging population of advanced economies, stricter immigration rules, growing demand for flexible working arrangements, and the development of an on-demand economy make it difficult to see how the shortage of workers will be alleviated.

Rick Falk, CEO of Locus Robotics in Massachusetts, said: “Covid has brought it a peak-the elves in the bottle will not come back soon.” The company made take away and take away from people The robot walks the cargo and has a preliminary plan. It will be available for sale in the next 12 to 18 months. “The gig economy is absorbing labor from the logistics business.”

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