Why is Interest in Warehouse Robotics Growing?
There are several drivers behind the robotic installation boon, but a few include investments and a desire for automation. Venture capitalists propel robotics startups into the future as they predict technology is necessary for advancing Industry 4.0. Population growth and expedited urbanization will increase demand to the point where humans won’t keep up unless robots bridge the gap.
There is a pervasive theory that robots will replace humans in the workforce, and warehouse robotics is here to prove that wrong. The interest in warehouse automation stems from labor shortage concerns, as 61% of warehouse executives stressed during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In reality, warehouse robots will be an addition to standard workforces — not a substitute.
Automation is another catalyst for rapid robotic enactment. Supply chain shortages and lack of talent have slowly destroyed warehousing from within for years, and pushing for automation pushes for new educational standards for incoming workers. Warehouses want to make up for lost revenue. Looking to technology to obtain performance metrics and automatically recommend and install changes as needed could jettison companies back in the black, especially as robotic capabilities have expanded to perform a broader range of tasks, including:
- Organizing and placing
- Wrapping and packaging
- Moving and transporting
- Scanning and categorizing
Robots allow warehouses to keep up with more than just consumer demand. Global expectations, such as meeting climate change standards, pressure companies to retrofit operations to be more eco-friendly. Warehouses leveraging robotics will reduce waste and energy by optimizing space and having greater insight into inventory status. Their skills have the mobility that companies can’t ignore if they want to please their clientele and stay relevant in their sector.
How Do Robotics Make Warehouses Better?
More durable and efficient SCARA, Cartesian, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are only a few variants that bring warehouses into a technologically advanced age. Every facet of a warehouse, from vision guidance informing inventory to forklifts organizing palettes, will execute faster and cheaper than ever.
Safety is the most apparent benefit of employing warehouse robots. With palettes stacked on sky-high shelving with countless tons of product, warehouses have never been the safest environment for humans. Robotic lifts and placers can save workers stress and injury by reducing the need to climb tall ladders or lift heavy payloads. Human error is another cause of safety incidents, and AGVs could have sensors that detect nearby human activity to stop in their tracks before causing a dangerous collision.
Worker safety is one benefit for humans, but having robotic assistants will also improve morale. Stress decreases as robots perform monotonous or back-breaking tasks that cause workforces to understand high turnover rates.
From a management perspective, robots in the warehouse make sense to keep quality talent in tenured positions and save budgets from funneling too much into recruitment. It also incites more internal training opportunities, increasing confidence as workers refine their skill sets and move into more advantageous positions.
Every adjacent department and partner in the supply chain will benefit. Procurement could have constantly updated inventory stores to inform their ordering decisions. IT teams can have a hub that provides an overview of security measures. Management teams can view analytics against sustainability initiatives or other process discovery objectives.
What Does the Future of Warehouse Robotics Look Like?
Putting robots in warehouses promises numerous advantages, but transitioning to a warehouse environment where robotics are the norm will take time. As experts discover a new routine with the robots, alongside other inarguably necessary smart technologies to compound success, there are also a few obstacles warehouses must compensate for and overcome.
Training is one of those hurdles because the robots need operators. They run autonomously when workers assign tasks. However, that requires programmers, engineers and mechanics familiar with the new technology to control, maintain and repair it for longevity. These skills are necessary for installing the robots in warehouses to retain their value as maintenance escapes them and workforces stand by, unknowing how to synergize with them.
Another struggle is standardized education on the benefits of warehouse robots. Venture capitalists may fund startups in developing countries. Still, underdeveloped regions that provide essential warehousing services may need access to the knowledge or resources to enforce the tech in their value chain. The disparity could cause hiccups throughout a supply chain as productivity and inventory management expectations get warped based on what warehouse has robotic assistance.
One inarguable byproduct of warehouse robotics is how it will inform other technologies, like AI and machine learning. Sensors abound with warehouse robots, feeding an infinite database of points that continually notify operations.
Robots and AI will bounce off one another, improving as one gains more intimate details about a specific warehouse’s operations. Robots are an inevitability if the AI sector wants to become more proficient in this setting, because they are the entities feeding databases with current data for the AI to compare to its wide breadth of historical information. Warehouses want to be part of this data collection and revolution to stay relevant.
Exploring the Hype Behind Robots in Warehouses
Robots will exceed revenue expectations in the next decade. Industry desires swift advancement to supplement labor, meet fiscal goals and outpace the competition. Alongside warehouse robotics will be other Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) assistants and new expertise as up-and-coming professionals enter the sector.
Robotics in warehousing has the potential to meet deliverables more consistently, solidify more meaningful B2B and B2C relationships, and transform the industry’s mindset to one that embraces robotic implementation.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine discussing the latest industry innovations and trends.