‘Bots’ are the new Sherpas of the warehouse

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I read recently that ParcelHero was forecasting the ‘Everest’ of all Christmas shopping peaks this year, in part due to the boom in online sales and, in part, the ongoing coronavirus lockdown measures.

Undoubtedly, logistics operations and retail distribution centres are facing real issues and being stretched to the max but I believe that robotics solutions could prove the real ‘Sherpas’ to help carry the operational load.

In September, it was reported that mobile robot revenues* were set to grow by 24% in 2020 despite Covid-19. Analysts predicted* that by 2024, the logistics sector would invest around $9bn, and manufacturing would invest $5bn, in mobile robots. Certainly the pandemic and ecommerce volumes have accelerated automation plans. Businesses are fast realising that they need to be less dependent on people and more dependent on the technological efficiency of machines.

For over 50 years, automated guided vehicles (AGV) have been a familiar and valuable fixture in areas like factories and warehouses where they’ve performed repetitive material handling tasks. But their smarter, faster, more sophisticated and efficient cousin, the Autonomous mobile robot (AMR) can, unlike AGVs, navigate without external markers or infrastructure, and sales of it are starting to boom.  

Some 36,000 AMRs were operating in warehouses in 2019. By 2024 the number in operation is expected to be more than 1.1 million†. ‘Bots’ can not only help with the picking and sorting process, but they can also be used to conduct daily inventory checks as well as moving pallets and large payloads. They do all this while complying with the hygiene regulations brought about by the pandemic.

AMRs are packed with sensors and powerful onboard computers that help them understand their operating environment by dynamically mapping it from an initial walk through. They’re also smart enough to recognise and react to humans, vans, forklifts etc. even in busy environments. 

An ever-decreasing pool of warehouse operatives combined with peaks in demand, changing distribution networks and calls for ever faster delivery are all creating the perfect storm for AMRs. By significantly reducing the amount of time that staff spend travelling between picking areas and goods out, the more time they can spend on order fulfilment. Our AMR solutions could increase warehouse picking productivity by up to 50%.

The key benefits of AMRs are that they’re:

  • Cost effective and versatile
  • Scalable
  • Easily integrated

Bots can support humans with order picking by bringing them the correct goods like dedicated retrievers, or carrying the burdens when they’re picked from the shelves. But, unlike people, they never tire and unlike a lot of automation systems they don’t take a year or more to acquire, install, test and deploy. 

Mount Everest looms and bots could well prove the Sherpas you need to lighten your logistics load. Our robotic solutions are available to buy or rent and they could just help get you scale that ‘Everest’ Christmas peak.


* Source: Interact Analysis, 23/09/20

† Source: Robotics Business review/Interact Analysis 13/10/20


Richard Gilliard

Renovotec is the UK’s largest independent rugged hardware and maintenance, software and services company. Managing Director Richard Gilliard has helped lead the organisation for over 25 years, supporting customers across many sectors including warehousing and distribution, transport and logistics, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, seaports and field mobility. Richard's drive is to enable firms through…


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