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Mobile Warehouse Robotics: The Cornerstone of Modern Warehouse Automation

By July 3, 2024Uncategorized

The mobile warehouse robotics market is no doubt a crucial piece of technology to achieve warehouse automation. At this point, we can see the market reaching some maturity, where more end users recognize the benefits and essentiality of automating warehouse and logistics operations with mobile robots. The increasing number of successful cases shared by key market leaders and the rising funding activities in recent years, with several key market leaders advancing past Stage C funding and one company progressing toward an IPO, are indicators of the market’s potential health.

The update to the mobile warehouse robotics market report has been. For the purpose of the study, we define mobile warehouse robotics as load-carrying vehicles that travel under their own control with a level of autonomy adequate to perform intended tasks based on the current state and sensing without human intervention. The robots in the system must be capable of dynamically traversing from origin to destinations along multiple paths. We are explicitly excluding vehicles that travel along a static, fixed path, whether guided by physical or virtual wires or lines.

Examining Market Dynamics and the Role of Flexibility

When discussing with vendors on why mobile robotics are essential in warehouses, labor shortages continue to stand out as a critical issue in the industry and are a major factor driving the growth of mobile robotics. Productivity and efficiency are also central topics, with e-commerce retailers facing high SKUs, high volumes and customers’ high expectations for fulfillment, along with intense seasonal fluctuations during major sales and festive seasons. Safety and reliability are key concerns as well, as human errors can lead to significant property loss and cripple operations. In the lithium battery industry, inappropriate material handling can be particularly costly and dangerous.

Beyond these perennial factors, mobile warehouse robotics also provide another dimension of value: flexibility. During a presentation on mobile warehouse robotics at a supply chain conference in Singapore this year, a local SME posed a question about the flexibility in choosing automation technology. He mentioned his short warehouse lease of only five years and asked what kind of automation would best fit his needs, considering that by the time an automation system is set up, there might be only a few years left to fully capitalize on the technology. He wondered which solution would yield the best return on investment. No prize for guessing what solution was proposed: mobile warehouse robots, since he can typically consider reusing the robots in his next warehouse setup, unlike traditional bolt-down automation.

In my view, the flexibility provided by mobile warehouse robotics can help democratize its adoption. This flexibility is useful for integrating existing infrastructure and automation technologies in brownfield facilities. Flexibility also supports scalability, enabling operators to introduce new robotic automation gradually, minimizing risks in technology adoption. For business models, there exists flexibility too. End users can choose between capital investments or robot-as-a-service (RaaS) like what Locus Robotics offers, which can be particularly beneficial for managing fluctuating needs in e-commerce. Flexibility also exists for end users on using different types of robots within the same designated zone, like Geek+ Roboshuttle Plus. And Exotec’s Skypod system provides flexibility by functioning as a mobile AS/RS, allowing end users to adapt to changing needs. Yet, these examples are probably just the tip of the iceberg regarding what the market can offer, to adapt to the ever-changing needs and endless use cases of the industry.

Technology: The Next Differentiator?

Several companies surveyed for this study indicate that 2023 marked a challenging year with a high-cost environment from inflation, which impacts both costs and consumer behavior. But what I also noted was that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Some market leaders have thrived better than others in the challenging landscape, and there seems that new players are also entering the space. My view is that technology could be the next differentiating factor, as robots are becoming more autonomous. LiDar and Visual SLAM navigation are good enablers, and with the current hype around AI, I’m pretty sure the landscape will evolve. Recently, Kait Peterson, Vice President of Global Product Marketing at Locus Robotics, wrote an educational post at Logistics Viewpoint on how AI can shape the industry. You may find it here.

The post Mobile Warehouse Robotics: The Cornerstone of Modern Warehouse Automation appeared first on Logistics Viewpoints.

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