Across many different industries, it’s not a matter of if robots will begin getting to work, but a matter of when. And, in many cases, they are already hard at work.
Since TOC provides total solutions for warehousing, fulfillment and distribution, we work to stay-up-to-date on the latest warehouse technologies, and, as of late, that technology includes robots and we’re not talking R2D2. Utilizing robots in a warehouse setting can have a number of benefits. Companies like Amazon are already putting machines to work. Here’s a bit on the role of robots in logistics and other industries.
As one of the first big players to hop on board, today, Amazon uses over 30,000 robots in their facilities. These robots are loading, lifting, sorting, and pulling the products that Amazon ships every single day. While they started by using Kiva robots, which they both used and sold, the online powerhouse has decided to keep the Kiva robots to themselves and officially named them, “Amazon robots.” While many fear that robots will take the place of humans, in an on-demand world where consumers require their goods at breakneck speed, robots are merely making these speeds possible. Human workers and robots are often working side by side, each performing tasks that the other cannot. The robot will pick items from shelves and hand it to a person, increasing order fill times by 2-3x.
According to a WSJ Logistics Report, more than half of supply chain managers surveyed by Deloitte and MHI expect robotics and automation to have a significant impact on their business. Companies that want to exceed customer expectations, promote efficiency, reduce operating costs, and decrease human error, are looking to the autonomous technology robots. 35% of respondents claim to have already adopted robotics into their supply chains, and that number is set to grow to 74% in the next decade.
Moving and Shaking
While the technology seems complex, in many cases their roles are simple. The Otto line of self-driving vehicles were designed to simply move materials around a warehouse, in ways that humans cannot. These machines can carry up to 100 kilograms; the Otto 1500 up to 1,500 kg. By giving one vehicle a “tour” of the warehouse, the machine can relay that information back to its fleet and the entire pack can then move around the warehouse and avoid obstacles. You are able to “tell” the machine where it can and cannot go in the warehouse. These bots enable warehouse operators to reduce the time it takes to get merchandise to loading docks and lower labor costs.
While not necessarily in the warehouse, robots are proving useful in the healthcare industry as well. In hospitals, they are being used to transport and deliver medications, specimens, meals, soiled linens, surgical supplies and more. They can touch the regulated waste, which is ill-advised for humans to handle.
Rather than be afraid that robots will replace humans, we are excited to see how these machines will work with people to improve warehouse management. Stay up-to-date on this, and other technologies affecting the logistics industry by following our blog.