The benefits to the use of warehouse robots, loading, unloading and delivery are evident. Robots do not sleep. They do not drink. They do not complain, and they do not need a paycheck.
Robots are rapidly becoming one of the most prevalent enterprises within the logistics industry. As explained by Steve Banker of Forbes magazine, Amazon has unleashed an army of robots in their distribution centers for picking and packaging. Around the globe, different companies and organizations are continually looking for ways to design, build, and sell robots for the logistics industry that do not impinge upon the Kiva hat. However, a particular set of driving forces is growing to propel the use of robotics in the logistics industry, and robots will provide one of the greatest surpluses and expansion of services for the logistics industry in history. Let’s take a closer look at these factors now.
Driving Forces Behind the Increase in Use of Warehouse Robots
- Foreign Investment – According to Eugene Demaitre of Robotics Business Review, the use of robots in warehouse and manufacturing environments is not a new venture. However, robots are being actively used to reduce the number of staffers within the facilities of logistics operations. As a result of demand for cheaper labor in overseas markets, as well as a demand by European countries to explore and develop more robust, accountable robotic systems, as explained by the staff of Supply Chain 24/7, governments and foreign investors are poised to invest up to 2.1 billion euros into robots by 2020.
- Aging Workforce – The second most prevalent driving force behind the increased use of warehouse robots, loading, unloading, and delivery revolves around the number of workers within the packing and shipping industry. Millennials are part of this trend. Millennials are turning to more jobs in science and engineering, but the logistics industry cannot afford to let go of everything that has been created and built over the last century to please one generation. As today’s workers in the logistics industry retire or resign, which can be best exemplified by the growing driver shortage, the push toward the use of robots throughout the logistics industry will grow exponentially.
- Omni-Channel Demands – The third driving force, and perhaps the most significant driving force, behind the increased use of warehouse robots, involved the global shift of all economies toward an omnichannel supply chain market. Look at the logo for Amazon itself. The logo was designed to show that Amazon provides virtually any product from A to Z. that is why the logo for Amazon appears to have a smiley face. This simple arrow, hidden in plain sight, indicates how the overwhelming majority of citizens view the online frontier. It is seen as the ultimate marketplace, but brick and mortar retail locations will continue to stand. As a result, today’s logistics providers must meet the demands of both a physical and a digital marketplace.
How Will Robots Impact Logistics Processes?
Robots will impact the logistics industry in profound ways, which will include the following seven benefits:
- Increased Order-to-Delivery Times – The concept of real-time order fulfillment as soon as an order is received is becoming reality. Robots will facilitate the transportation of orders to a facility, to a picking robot, to the pallet, to packaging and dimensional pricing, to the loading dock, and to the shipping container. This is even more realistic when you consider how many engineering and software giants are pushing toward autonomous vehicles and the idea of drone delivery.
- Reduced Errors and Need For Reverse Logistics – The ability of robots to log huge sums of data and review this data for errors with pinpoint accuracy will lead to an unparalleled reduction in errors. As a result, the need for reverse logistics processes that revolve around inaccurate order fulfillment will decrease.
- Greater Preventative Maintenance Measures – Although robots do not require food or water, they do require maintenance. The increased use of warehouse robots and throughout the logistics process will demand a greater presence of engineers and specialist to perform preventive maintenance, powered by the Internet of Things, and make repairs with issues to arrive. Basically, the role of the human worker in the logistics industry is changing.
- Reduced Burden on Workforce – As mentioned previously, the use of robots in the logistics industry will directly impact how much physical work is placed on human workers. While this may seem counterproductive to ethics and compassion, it opens the opportunity for workers to move to more insightful, fulfilling positions. For workers who are incapable of performing manual tasks, such as walking for an extended period of time, lifting products and objects of excess weight, or engaging in other forms of physical exertion, the use of robots will provide a way to increase the workforce by providing jobs to those who cannot work in a traditional logistics operation.
- Reduced Delays in Mode of Transport Between Manufacturers and Distribution Centers – As robots become more involved in logistics processes, which include the use of driverless cars, drones, autonomous trucks, delays in shipments throughout different modes of transportation will decrease. This will be the result of rapid analysis of delivery-impacting factors, such as weather, traffic conditions, and poor tire pressure. Ultimately, products that get to the center distribution faster can get to the customer faster.
- Delivery Outside of Traditional Times – Since robots can operate without human interference, the use of warehouse robots in loading, unloading, and delivery implies the ability to deliver products outside of traditional standards or times. As described in our blog on the use of drones, robots will enable products to be delivered before they ever reach the distribution center, and robots could be deployed to deliver products as soon as a person arrived at his or her home, reducing the incidence of package theft and further strengthening the argument for the use of robots in the logistics industry.
- Greater Push For Better, Faster Processing Power Via and Within the Internet of Things – One of the greatest reasons and benefits to the use of robots in the logistics industry focuses on the Internet of Things. As robots come online, the need for more integration between devices will grow. As a result, the Internet of Things will enter a symbiotic relationship with robotics. As one part of the relationship expands, the corresponding element must grow and vice versa.
The discussions about the use of robots in the logistics industry, particularly in warehouses, loading, unloading, and delivery can quickly become boring and stale. However, warehouse robots and other robots, such as the ones used in manufacturing, like our two best cobot friends, Baxter and Sawyer of Rethink Robotics, are undoubtedly one of the most innovative and life-changing improvements that the logistics industry could have ever hoped for. Robots will change the game in how fortunes are made and how competition will drive rates down in spite of all the adverse problems, such as the driver shortage, within the logistics industry. Ultimately, robots are not a force to be feared. Robots are a force to encourage competition, reduce injuries, and propel the logistics industry forward in a demand-driven economy.