A new generation of smarter, more versatile and affordable robots is helping distribution centers function at levels far higher than ever before.
Today’s distribution center (DC) operations struggle to keep pace with the speed and complexity of modern e-commerce, with volume increasing at around 25 percent each year. DCs need to keep pace with rising customer expectations for order speed and accuracy, even as growth pushes the limits of their capacities.
The demand for labor is increasing significantly, outstripping the available labor pool by a ratio of six to one. Worse, 60 percent of supply chain jobs require skills that only 20 percent of the workforce possess. And if workers can be found, many jobs are repetitive and even dangerous — resulting in low morale, high turnover, retraining and the associated costs. These factors make the case for robotic automation stronger with each passing year.
A new generation of smarter, more versatile and affordable robots is helping distribution centers function at levels far higher than ever before. Armed with the latest advances in vision systems, sensors, grasping, mobility and other technologies, these new mechanical helpers are cost-effective methods to maximize DC productivity, from receiving to sortation to shipping.
Robotic automation in warehousing and distribution environments can be challenging. Products and packaging materials constantly change. Orders and logistics needs dictate the movement of products. Robots also need to “share the road” with people, both on foot and on equipment. Navigating these environments requires human-equivalent levels of awareness and flexibility.
That complexity may be why manual operations are still the norm for many DCs today. But that business model is becoming increasingly unsustainable — and not just because of labor shortages. E-commerce requires more labor per item as DCs pick and pack more online purchases individually. Freight and parcel handling labor requirements are also on the rise, as more goods are being shipped directly to consumers’ homes.
The latest wave of automation, robotics address many of these challenges by providing support in the most labor-intensive DC areas and taking on the burdens of the most physically demanding and injury-prone jobs. Today’s DC robotic solutions include:
Read the full story on The Robot Report