The world has been challenged by one of the most severe threats in the last century. Global pandemic has caused supply chain disruptions and thus logistics including warehouse management is in harm’s way. Yet, technological advancements have got the potential to reverse this situation. Therefore, the businesses have been implementing cutting edge technologies with never-seen-before pace. The digital transformation is so fast that one day once everything is settled, we are going to take a look back at history and even thank COVID-19 for letting us accelerate the investments in technology.
The Rising Star
Robots and robotics in general have become the rising star during this period as it turned out that robotics is a viable solution to protect both consumers and employees. Amid pandemic-related supply chain issues, robots offer manufacturers more resilient production. “Rather than depending on a fragile global trade system, manufacturing with the aid of automation has the great potential to reduce general costs and build the continuity of the production,” says The CEO of Makhina, Mehmet Ali Çalışkan and adds, “It’s now an urgent to invest in automation for any business wishing to work in flexibility.” Çalışkan explains the limitations of warehouses and logistics by showing the lockdowns. “During the pandemic, it was impractical to keep the services running as the current nature of logistics require and depend upon human-to-human interactions. However, as the robotics become more commonplace, this established view is about to change. Eventually, logistics will consider robotics as an an indispensable part of the business.”
Robotics in Retail & Logistics
Now, with the rise of e-commerce, the number of online purchases is drastically increasing. As recently as January, despite growing 10% year-over-year, e-commerce represented just 13% of all consumer shopping. We have seen consumers gradually counting on online shopping as traditional stores have become unavailable. Even the pandemic is over, experts do not expect a sudden shift from this new norm as the studies suggest that people are highly satisfied or even flattered with the perks of e-commerce. This new situation is thought to make a huge pressure on logistics. Thanks to their automation capabilities, vehicles and delivery robots in warehouses contribute a great deal of value to the retain industry and logistics. Even the simple application such as transporting goods efficiently within warehouse can make a huge impact on the outcome and can lead the companies reach their goals. Therefore in 2020, logistics robots increased 52% to 114,000, up from 75,000 in 2019. By 2023, these robots could number 259,000. These numbers prove that next-day deliveries even in time of crisis is possible and achievable, which paves the way to the successful customer journey.
Enhancing the human power
“Before the robots, you could see literally thousands of people’s footsteps in a warehouse. Now in most cases, human personnel collaborates with robots thus making less move, which is one of the ideal way to fight agains viruses,” says Çalışkan. As a result, robotics implementation in warehouses allow operators to fulfill 15% more orders than without robotics solutions. It should also be stated that robotics in logistics are not meant to replace human workers but only enhance them. No need to state that robotics also help creating a much safer working environment for workers.
Robotics solution is also highly related to the success of 3PL. Every day we are witnessing more companies deciding to work with a 3PL. However, there is still a long-standing mistrust between 3PL’s and shippers. Çalışkan thinks their approach to business is different, “In a nutshell, I can say that 3PL and shippers are usually not on the same page and they speak in different languages. I believe this new common language is without a doubt, the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Robots are the main attraction of this era.” Just because robotics provide globally accepted standards and insights, the misunderstanding between 3PL’s and shipper will eventually vanish into the air. The combination of warehouse robotics, internet of things, artificial intelligence, blockchain will inspire confidence with both sides.
It is now high time the business leaders to navigate through these unclear and uncertain times. As many other businesses, the logistics industry is facing a severe change. If we take a deeper look, it is easy to say that the success of many other businesses especially the e-commerce depends on logistics. Hence, logistics executives need to use this period of uncertainty to re-plan their strategy in accordance with the dynamic shifts. They should also make future-proof plans to be least disrupted next time when the world takes damage. Investing in robotics for logistics is one of the most foreseeable action to build this strategy.