It’s often joked that robots will soon replace humans, down to the most menial, everyday tasks. But many robotics companies are in an actual arms race to replace human labor, particularly in the supply chain. Yet it’s often still too costly to implement, leaving humans as the most efficient, effective method for warehouse picking.
In calculating ecommerce fulfillment cost per order, labor generally makes up more than 50% of the total. As labor costs continue to increase, overall fulfillment center productivity in many companies has remained flat. What are you doing to manage your labor and reduce costs? Here are five tactics companies should consider.
There has been a steady proliferation of autonomous mobile robot makers. This while demand has grown for AMRs in order fulfillment, as ecommerce booms and labor is tight. But can different warehouse robots play nice together? Two members of a standards group explain how it’s happening in this MCM CommerceChat podcast.
Zebra Technologies, a provider of hardware and software for warehouse fulfillment and inventory management, has acquired Fetch Robotics for $290 million, after an initial investment and partnership. Zebra saw a good fit between its workflow software and inventory/pick management devices and Fetch’s AMR capabilities.
Pickle, a startup that grew out of a lab at MIT and created a robotic arm that can unload up to 1,800 boxes an hour from a trailer, has raised $5.75 million to date and picked up 3PL and parcel shipping clients who have a need for speed. Dill can handle the 1,800 items per hour to a sorter, or 1,000 an hour directly to a putwall.
Boston Dynamics, creators of the viral dancing robots video just before New Year’s Eve, is making further inroads into the warehouse automation space with the unveiling this week of Stretch, a mobile robot purpose-built for unloading and palletizing and de-palletizing boxes. The company was acquired by Hyundai in December 2020.
Locus Robotics, a provider of autonomous mobile robots (AMR) for fulfillment warehouses, has raised $150 million in a Series E round, led by Tiger Global Management and Bond, bringing its valuation to the unicorn level north of $1 billion as its business multiplies. The company is looking to expand in Europe and enter APAC in 2022.
We’re at a tipping point where automation is about to be a mainstream focus of ecommerce fulfillment centers. But while automation may be a sensible investment for bigger players like Amazon, that doesn’t mean it will scale effectively to smaller operations. So, are fully automated facilities really the future, and if so, what will it look like?