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Automation is one of the main directions of development in the intralogistics sector. This trend is developing primarily due to the rapid development of online trading and the lack of specialists in the field of logistics around the world, in particular for operators of warehouse lifting and loading equipment. The growing volume of goods with integrated returns management, highly synchronized delivery processes, ever shorter turnaround times and complex warehouse environments require automated guided vehicles that operate autonomously.

Automated machinery works with people and has higher rates of flexibility and efficiency in e-commerce, automotive, fashion, and manufacturing logistics. Modern production without industrial robots is impossible. Cars are almost exclusively built by giant industrial robots that perform the same movements and the same work steps extremely accurately and quickly over and over again. This is possible in a completely static environment using the usual set of algorithms. Conventional automated guided vehicles require a modified operating environment or the specification of fixed routes, such as optical guides or ground markers.

According to a survey by Peerless Research Group, about 37% of respondents responded positively to the presence of the use of robotics in their business.

Are you using or interested in using the latest robotics technologies in logistics?

Source: Peerless Research Group

Robotization of warehouses is a global trend caused by the need to speed up logistics processes. According to World Robotics, an international federation of robotics, 75,000 robots were used in warehouses in 2022, and last year their number increased to 114,000. The global market for warehouse robotics in the supply chain is expected to reach $22.4 billion by the end of this year.

In the last decade, in the countries – technological leaders, there has been explosive growth in the robotization of warehouse logistics. Amazon in the US alone operates a fleet of around 200,000 warehouse robots. Foreign experts are confident that the world is on the verge of a logistical revolution.

One of the main issues when equipping warehouses with robots is the payback period and cost reduction. According to statistics, a robot pays for itself in 2-3 years, but already now there’s a tendency in the robotics market to reduce the cost of introducing robots in production. It’s expected that the payback period will be reduced, and the profitability of warehouse logistics robotization will increase.

The current trend is to speed up delivery and improve the quality of service. This is largely due to the explosive growth in sales in online stores and marketplaces. Therefore, the task of the fulfillment center, where shipments for e-commerce are processed, is to increase the speed of operations and reduce the number of errors.

Despite the general development, some large online stores and order fulfillment today are fundamentally not robotized. Market participants explain this by the fact that the rapid growth of the industry does not make it possible to stabilize processes, it’s necessary to quickly increase capacity, and quickly open warehouses with people, but without robots. However, later they will work efficiently, which will force the introduction of automation projects.

Do you use or plan to use robotics in the near future?

Source: Peerless Research Group

Boston Dynamics’ mobile warehouse robot called Handle is one of the clearest examples of this: the company has developed a fully autonomous compact device that can access any hard-to-reach places, and at the same time has an extended field of view. Thanks to this, the robot can quickly unload trucks, stack pallets, and move boxes around the warehouse.

The e-commerce market is growing like an avalanche and by 2025, according to forecasts, the number of parcels in delivery will increase to 5 billion a year and even more. Optimization of storage facilities, taking into account the ever-increasing cost of both rent and the land itself, is a topic of current interest for all players involved in the process. This is a good prospect, but with serious investments.

Modern logistics facilities have a good infrastructure, the robotization and automation of which depend primarily on the specifics of the products processed in the warehouse. As a rule, multi-client sites are distinguished by the fact that under one roof they concentrate the stocks of several clients with different products that differ in logistical parameters and processing requirements.

The warehouse robotization market in the world began its development only 10 years ago when Amazon began to introduce Kiva robots for Goods To Person picking in their warehouses. There have been various warehouse robot prototypes in the past. Still, we will assume that the first significant impetus for the warehouse robot market was the creation of Amazon Robotics through the acquisition of Kiva Systems. At the same time, a significant increase in the market of warehouse robots has been observed only in the last 2 years. This is largely due to the coronavirus pandemic when the need for high-speed delivery of goods with a shortage of staff in warehouses has increased.

Regarding the level of robotization, Asia overtakes America and Europe, largely due to China, then comes America, then Europe. At the same time, only the Chinese company can boast of full automation of processes with the help of robots.

How is your organization currently progressing in finding and promoting robotics in your warehouses?

Source: Peerless Research Group

In 2020, Jungheinrich AG, headquartered in Hamburg, acquired a stake in the Munich-based robotics start-up Magazino GmbH. The companies have agreed on a large-scale strategic cooperation and intend to combine the accumulated knowledge in the field of warehouse automation.

Magazino is engaged in the development and manufacture of transport robots that analyze the environment and are able to make decisions based on the situation. In 2014, the company entered the market with the introduction of a self-propelled order-picking robot that can move around the warehouse along optimal routes and accurately pick up the right boxes. This system is already used in the warehouses of various e-commerce companies.

Boston Consulting Group predicts that the share of tasks solved by robots will grow from 8% today to 26% by 2025. The leaders of robotic production will be China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the USA. Together, they account for 80% of all robot purchases. Unlike humans, which can double their productivity in 10 years, robots can double their productivity every four years, according to BCG analyst Sirkin.

In the case of Jungheinrich, our area is a warehouse, and navigation consists primarily of two things: first, find a way to a given location while avoiding obstacles, and second, perform the required cargo handling operation. For example, once in place, the robots must identify the target object on the floor or on the rack, and then successfully pick it up. AGVs, or automated guided vehicles, are primarily used in a warehouse for repetitive operations: moving goods from one point to another, stacking goods on racks, or loading/unloading trucks.

For which purposes would you prefer to use robotics?

Source: Peerless Research Group

In a survey conducted by Ernst & Young, more than 40% of respondents said

that right now they are actively investing in robotization and automation of their business because they are “preparing for a post-crisis world.” As a result, robotization and business automation, which have already gained momentum in recent years, have only accelerated during the pandemic.

For example, our company SYNEX LOGISTICS was founded in 2022 during the war. Today, it serves dozens of clients, engaged in contract logistics in Ukraine and carrying out transportation around the world using advanced robotics technologies.

However, there’s one controversial point in the terminology: are robotics and automation synonymous? If you look closely, many ordinary robots today are just very powerful machines. Although these robots are state-of-the-art, they fall under the umbrella of traditional robotics. Their actions are completely predetermined, which means that they are deterministic and not autonomous. Another example is a washing machine. Once the button is pressed, it starts its standard operating procedure. There are no variations here.

At the same time, robots are sensorimotor machines with enhanced capabilities to act where a human cannot. They consist of mechatronic components, sensors, and computer control functions. The complexity of the robot differs significantly from other machines in a large number of degrees of freedom and in the variety and scope of its behavioral forms. Thus, the biggest difference between a simple machine and a robot is the ability to act autonomously in certain situations. The more diverse and dynamic the space, the smarter the robots must be. This includes their ability to navigate autonomously.

Warehouses in the real world aren't static. People work in them and continuously change the environment; goods move, and new obstacles come and go. In any environment where people work, the environment is dynamic and subject to change. People aren’t robots, their movements aren’t predetermined.

People don't place items down to the millimeter, perfectly aligned with the shelf. The robot must be able to work with this human chaos efficiently and without fail. In each situation, the robot must determine the best route through the warehouse and where it’s best to capture the target object. It also collides with obstacles and other moving objects.

What types of commercial robotics would you like to use in your logistics business?