Inside Logistics

Robotics for warehousing and logistics set to boom

The demand for robots and the supply of mature robotic solutions for the optimization of logistics processes have created a tipping point

April 18, 2017

Thanks to the increased speed and efficiency required of today’s logistics operations, robotic technology is set to boom in distribution centres and warehouses.

The demand for robots and the supply of mature robotic solutions for the optimization of logistics processes have created a tipping point that, according to a new report from Tractica, could lead to widespread acceptance and presence of robots in warehouses and logistics operations.

Tractica forecasts that worldwide warehousing and logistics robot unit shipments will increase from 40,000 in 2016 to 620,000 units annually by 2021. The market intelligence firm estimates that global market revenue for the sector reached US$1.9 billion in 2016 and anticipates that the market will continue to grow rapidly over the next several years, reaching a market value of $22.4 billion by the end of 2021.

“The warehousing and logistics robot market is experiencing strong growth, with many prominent companies showing greater confidence in new robotics technologies that could yield a return on investment (ROI) in less time than it took a few years ago,” says research analyst Manoj Sahi. “The next five years will be a period of significant innovation in the space, bringing significant opportunities for established industry players and startups alike.”

Sahi adds that mobile robot platforms and industrial robot manipulators will be the segments that will drive the largest market growth during the forecast period, followed by shuttle automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) and gantry robots.

As if on cue, a new entrant burst onto the mobile platform scene in March, with inVia Robotics launching the inVia Dynamic Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS). This is the second such release from inVia Robotics in less than a year, focused on mobile robots in warehousing.

The inVia system delivers existing totes, corrugated trays, and more, directly to pickers, packers and replenishers, reducing human travel time and risk in warehouse aisles. This dynamic system integrates with existing operations, resulting in dramatically lower up-front costs.

The inVia RMS (Robot Management System) connects with any WMS and dynamically adjusts its behavior to maintain the highest units per hour in the industry, resulting in what the company claims is the lowest cost per pick and fastest ROI available in the market.

“We work closely with our customers to understand and provide solutions to the challenges they face. Increased consumer demand, labour shortages and tough competition have changed the industry drastically. Fixed automation solutions with high capital expenditures are no longer cutting it,” said Corwin Carson, chief revenue officer at inVia.

It’s just one of many examples of new robotics technologies being introduced for the distribution centre market in the past several years, including Otto Motors, Kiva (now Amazon), and Locus, to name only a tiny fraction of the launches.

Tractica’s report, “Warehousing and Logistics Robots”, examines the global market trends for warehousing and logistics robots and provides six-year market sizing and forecasts for shipments and revenue during the period from 2016 through 2021.The report focuses on crucial market drivers and challenges, in addition to assessing the most important technology issues that will influence market development. In total, 75 key and emerging industry players are profiled. Market forecasts are segmented by world region and by robot type.