This past holiday season, more robots than ever were involved in the handling and shipping of your ecommerce orders and the movement of packages from fulfillment centers to your doorstep. The past several years have seen a significant uptick in interest in robots, but 2018 saw an evolution from interest and pilot programs to full on deployment and value generation. In fact, two vendors of autonomous mobile robots (AMR’s) made some news with the volume of units that their robots supported in the fulfillment process.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the second biggest retail and ecommerce sales events globally each year (second only to Singles Day). During this time, companies would historically hire an abundance of temporary labor to ramp up their ability to move product onto their racks and move this material off of those same shelves to the customer. But, the well documented shortage of labor in many major markets, including the US, Japan, Germany, and more, has made it more difficult and more expensive to increase capacity in this manner. Companies today, however, have a new set of tools at their disposal to help ramp up capacity. Robots are helping companies more quickly adapt to short term capacity increase requirements.
This IDC FutureScape presents the IDC Worldwide Robotics team’s analysis of key drivers relating to robotics and drone technologies, and how these drivers are likely to shape the development of robotics and drones in the planning horizon of 2019 through 2024. The development and deployment of robotics (including drones) in various industries continued to accelerate in 2017, with double-digit growth based on IDC research.
Industrial inspections, regardless of the reason for inspection, can be a very dirty and dangerous job. While not necessarily dull, industrial inspections definitely cover 2 of the 3 D’s of robotics deployment (dull, dirty, and dangerous). Industrial inspections can range from inspecting operational assets and operational facilities to inspecting defunct facilities during the de-commissioning process or evaluating the health and risk of non-operational holding tanks. There is no shortage of reasons to conduct industrial inspections, and there is a big business emerging for robotics to be leveraged in the inspection process.
Commercial service robots are robots that perform some useful task, with the exception of those robots operating within the realm of industrial automation or those considered consumer robots. This basically means that any robot that is not involved in industrial automation or for strictly consumer purposes are commercial service robots. This category includes robots that operate within logistics operations, hospitals, in the retail store, providing security services, and even delivering your takeout orders. There is a massive opportunity for commercial service robots to take on tasks that enable people to spend time doing other things that humans excel at, while stepping away from the dull, dirty, or dangerous tasks.
Automation is a clearly a top reason for companies looking into the use of robotic technology within their business processes. However, it is important to realize that, while many robots are designed for automating tasks, there are others that are designed to augment human capabilities rather than automate tasks. We tend to think of robots as either robotic arms or autonomous mobile robots operating autonomously in business settings. Such devices often focus on improving productivity and efficiency in business operations. On the other hand, there are several elements of robotic technology that are focused on improving human safety or giving humans increased strength, stamina, or precision. This post will take a look at a few examples of how robotic technology is enhancing human operators rather than automating tasks.
The evolution of robotic technology is, in part, a function of the related technology ecosystem and the rapidly improving capabilities of the technology areas that are being built into robots. One of the most influential technology areas that is helping to deliver modern intelligent robotics is Artificial Intelligence (AI).