Mobile robots have revolutionised the intralogistics industry. Specifically, Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) have played a pivotal role in tackling major productivity blockers such as labour shortages and manual errors by automating warehouses. Moreover, automation is at the heart of making work easier for employees while delivering products faster to the customers. At least, this is what the champions of robotics would have us believe. But do these robots really increase productivity? Join us in this blog post to separate mobile robot facts from fiction.
Businesses are always looking to increase productivity through faster product manufacturing, transportation, and delivery. However, hurdles such as labour shortages, errors, high costs, and lack of time usually offset this goal. Technological advancements have been the most powerful tool for solving these problems. One such tech solution is using Mobile Robots for transportation to ensure better efficiency and productivity.
Mobile Robots: Types and Definition
Simply put, Mobile Robots are machines that can identify their environment and move automatically from one location to another using sensors and other technology. Mainly, they can be of two types:
- Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs): AGVs typically follow a predetermined path or route using physical guide paths such as magnetic tapes, wires, or markers on the floor. They rely on sensors to detect and follow these paths accurately.
- AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots): AMRs are more flexible in terms of navigation. They can use advanced technologies such as Lidar sensors and real-time data to navigate autonomously. This makes them capable of adapting to dynamic environments.
Where AMRs are flexible, AGVs are preferred for more fixed-path transportation. Despite the difference, both types of Mobile Robots are used for transporting materials in several industries, including food, medicine, automotive, and intralogistics.
Common arguments favouring Mobile Robots state that they are fast and less prone to errors compared to manual logistics systems. These claims are rooted in the assumptions that they:
- Avoid errors: They eliminate the risk of human errors that may result from fatigue and frustration in a manual warehouse system. For example, AMRs like our arculees can cut error-related costs through precise and accurate sensing and transportation.
- Solve labour shortage: In the face of workforce challenges, AGVs and AMRs provide a solution by taking on repetitive and labour-intensive tasks. This not only addresses labour shortages but also allows human workers to focus on more strategic and value-added responsibilities.
- Reduce costs: Implementing Mobile Robots in warehouse operations reduces labour expenses, as automation streamlines processes and reduces the need for a large workforce. Additionally, lower error rates and improved efficiency contribute to overall operational cost savings.
- Increase safety: Mobile Robots can help the human workforce by handling tasks in potentially hazardous conditions. Moreover, they are always tested for safety before being used.
These points indicate that by automating monotonous, dangerous, and time-consuming tasks, Mobile Robots enhance overall warehouse productivity. Human workers can, thus, focus on more complex and strategic aspects of operations. This will lead to a more efficient and streamlined workflow. So far, so good, but does it really work?
Scope of Mobile Robots in the Warehouse Automation Market
A recent Research and Market report has predicted that the Warehouse Automation Market will reach the $44 billion mark by 2028. This amounts to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15% in 5 years. The same research has also indicated that AGVs/AMRs will be the key products in automation integration with a CAGR of approximately 30%. Finally, as reported, a hike in e-commerce is likely to make AMRs one of the most prominent players in the game.
The growth in the automation market is due to the results it offers for effective warehouse management. For example, SF DHL experienced a significant decrease in picking errors only after using 5 AMRs for 100 stores. Consequently, they decided to order 15 more AMRs for about 400 stores. This has led to a 90% reduction rate in errors and resulted in a 3x increase in productivity. Similarly, in 2022, Prodrive Technologies automated its warehouse with 14 arculees (our AMRs) for better productivity.
Moreover, according to an Interact Analysis report, warehouse automation investment will increase in 2024, possibly returning to double figures in 2025. This is in line with automation trends from previous years, where companies such as Walmart, Adidas, and Amazon invested extensively in warehouse automation projects.
The current warehouse automation trends indicate that Mobile Robots are here to stay. Thanks to the role AGVs/AMRs are playing in reducing intralogistics errors, businesses are quite eager to integrate these technologies into warehousing processes. Moreover, more companies are using automation as a successful logistics solution to the problems of labour shortages and human errors. The conclusion is thus clear and straightforward — Mobile Robots are, and will likely remain, pivotal in reshaping the productivity landscape of logistics.