Robotics, from warehouse to shop there is a short step

robotics
09 Sep 2019

For years, robotics has been at the centre of the discussion regarding the society of the future. However, it is already much more a current matter. The Frankenstein complex often dominates, but there are strong arguments against the fears of many.

Technology as driver of development and of new social balances? Yes, it is possible. According to the World Bank, the UN’s financial organisation, “is important to understand that children who are attending primary school will occupy jobs that do not yet exist”.

It is a common hope, but any prediction in this regard is a gamble.

The market

Transparency Market Research, a research company with a high reputation in the global robotics market, claims that the industry will grow at an annual rate of 17.4% from past 2017 to the future 2025.

The global retail robotics market is estimated at $19.4 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $144.93 billion by 2026.  The annual compound growth rate is expected to be 28.96%, from 2019 to 2026.

 

Robotics and retail

News of just these days is the partnership between the American giant AT&T and Badger Technologies. The latter produces robotics to manage the shelves of food stores, to identify out-of-stock items. The partnership relates to 5G projects to speed up the automation of supermarkets.

If robotics is a sure fact in warehouses and distribution centres, its use is now wide spreading in shops. Walmart, for example, is introducing 350 mobile robots to its major stores. The mobile devices will inspect the aisles of the stores, checking price problems, off-stock products and irregularity of the shelves.

However, the functions performed by robotics for the present and the near future are more numerous.

Safety and maintenance

Ahold Delhaize launched almost 500 robots in its GIANT and Stop & Shop supermarket chains. The navigation system adopted is similar to that of a self-driving car, which allows you to map and walk through the point of sale in all its parts.

The task is to detect unexpected obstacles (leaks or physical encumbrances) and to position itself between these obstacles and customers, waiting for the repair service. When Marty (that is the name assigned to the robot) senses a presence within a few meters, he waits for the customer to leave before resuming the “patrol”.

The last mile

With robotics for the last mile, retailers aim at the progressive transformation of stores into distribution centers. The importance could become central in the whole distribution ecosystem.

The driver “SameDay Bot” of Fedex is collecting a lot of attention. Perhaps too much, to the point that the collaboration with Amazon has just come to an end due to the continuous overlap of the services offered.

Many, however, are the operational factors still being tested before it is possible to talk about consolidation. Battery life, monitoring and safety issues. And, above all, the correct space distribution between warehouse and point of sale. Without this, it would be impossible to choose the most suitable technologies.

The whole thing has to be combined in an economically profitable way, before the retailers can definitively assume the robotics as organizational precondition of the entire distribution cycle.

 

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