Warehouse automation is the need of the hour as delays in deliveries outrage E-commerce customers. Robots have entered this segment and are changing the way companies handle their fulfillment processes. Robots are now collaborating with humans and in some instances working autonomously.
Logistics trends in E-commerce are evolving at fast pace. Over time, companies are looking for alternate ways to ensure rapid delivery to customers to drive business success.
The number of drivers have decreased over the past few years, labor unions have demanded higher wages and fewer hours, and some companies simply do not have the money to spend on hiring additional workers. The “Robotics World” holds the answer to this problem.
Therefore, the current trend is machines replacing humans at logistics operations as they try to keep up with demand from the fast growing e-commerce segment. Amongst the major players in the e-commerce segment, Amazon has been the modernizer by embracing robotic solutions. Amazon was a pioneer in using robots in a fulfillment centers. In 2011 Amazon started using 1,300 robots. Amazon was keen on implementing robots in their warehouse. There are now 15,000 robots spread across 10 of Amazon’s warehouses.
Robots can select items from the shelf (up to 13 pounds), while Freight provides transit through the warehouse. The system includes software to support the robots and integrate with the warehouse environment. With the help of its automated warehouse, Zappos grossed over $ 1 billion in 2009, which eventually led to Amazon.com paying $ 1.2 billion deal to acquire Zappos. Zappos is able to maintain free shipping, a 365-day return policy and delivery within 24 hours of purchase.
Following this trend of robotic solutions, Kerry logistics product customization and consolidation center in Hong Kong is scurrying around six fully automated and programmed robotic “butlers” to speed up the fulfillment of e-commerce orders. Real-time sales orders are transmitted to the robots, and then the warehouse management system indicates the item to be picked up by using a lighting system in which every item is tracked using a barcode. The butlers operate continuously and can pick 280 items per hour, four times faster than by a human.
Another robot manufacturer, Hitachi has developed a two-armed robot that it says can pick up items from shelves in less than half the time required by existing robots. The camera on its arm can locate the requested item while the machine is still moving, which enables it to work more quickly. It should be commercially available in 2020.
Robots don’t require health insurance, lunch breaks, or vacations. They can work 24/7 and don’t fall sick. This is particularly useful during the holiday season when ecommerce merchants typically hire additional warehouse workers. Robots can reduce logistics costs substantially with minimal human intervention.
However using robots also brings forward one major drawback which is inaccuracy. For example in the case where a hopeful customer received a packed dish wash bar instead of phone.
Third-party logistics providers are also converting to automation. The courier firm DTDC in India, uses a 25-arm robot to pick orders at a rate of 3,500 orders per hour, about one per second.
As a spectator to this situation, one can easily foresee robots replacing humans to perform simple repetitive tasks in many industries. In five years a robot will be less expensive than a human employee with benefits.
The entire idea of automation centers on customer satisfaction. Whilst robots and automation will reduce employment opportunities and might lead to inaccuracy in deliveries however it will be paramount in enhance the supply chain efficiency.
Robotics is the best solution for the dynamic and complex challenges faced by in the manufacturing, contract logistics and distribution .Hi-tech solutions will radically remove the challenges faced by the 3PL’s in these segments.
HCL is also focusing in building new solutions and propositions to meet increasing customer expectations in the 3PL industry.