Technology has become a large part of the world today and companies are finding ways to utilize robotics and technology to improve the customer experience. As consumers expect quicker deliveries and retailers need constant replenishing, companies are exploring how robotics can simplify tasks, increase efficiency, and positively impact bottom lines.
Robotics in Warehousing
From warehouses to global ports, robotics is being utilized in all different parts of supply chain. According to a 2016 MHI Annual Industry Report, 51 percent of respondents believe technology has the ability to offer an advantage to companies when leveraged appropriately. Adoption of robotics is currently at 35 percent with that number expected to reach 74 percent in the next six to 10 years1.
Robotic technology is equipped with sensors to detect their location and avoid people and objects, making side-by-side work with humans a reality. Formerly, warehouses utilized robotics to palletize and de-palletize product. Now, equipped with arms and tools, robots can complete a wide range of tasks including transferring heavy items from one point to another. This can free warehouse space as forklifts may no longer be needed for heavy tasks, while allowing employees to focus on what they do best and leave the heavy lifting to robotics1.
Robots can even be seamlessly integrated with a warehouse management system, requiring no additional technology upgrades. Not only will no additional technology integrations save money but time as well. The warehouse management system connection to the robot allows for advanced communications and efficiency. Battery technology has also improved, expanding battery capacity and lowering cost. Charging robots during the lowest cost per kilowatt times can also keep the cost of powering it low. New robotic technology in the warehouse can also provide an opportunity for improved accuracy, reliability, and performance like no technology before1.
Robotics at Marine Cargo Ports
Robotics is not just a key player in the warehouse area, but at marine cargo ports now as well. Self-driving cranes and carriers following a path of transponders buried in the cement on the dock allow over crowded ports to move product on and off ships in a rapid fashion.
Autonomous robotic technology utilizing advanced algorithms is being executed at TraPac’s Los Angeles marine cargo facility, doubling the speed of loading and unloading ships thus saving money and increasing profitability. The need for quick moving operations only continues as the rate of growth continues, anticipating that by 2040, Los Angeles area container traffic could triple from currently 15.3 million 20 foot equivalent containers to 41.1 million. Technology is needed to keep up with the ever growing global imports and exports of North America2.
In addition to keeping up with trade, autonomous capabilities present environmental advantages as well. Governor Jerry Brown of California is spearheading initiatives and grant funding for the robotic technology at ports with a goal of 100,000 zero-emission freight-hauling machines in California by 2030. The state has already contributed grants for automated battery-powered tractor trailer at Long Beach Container Terminal2.
While the technology may not communicate quite yet like famous robot Johnny-Five, robotics in the supply chain provides an opportunity for improving the different steps of a supply chain and delivering products in a faster, more efficient, and environmentally-friendly manner.