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Robots have been used in assembly-line manufacturing for many years. It’s only been fairly recently that robotics have been deployed to assist in warehouses. Advances in vision, gripping and navigation have significantly improved the tasks that warehouse robots are able to take on.
Market Research Future estimates that warehouse robotics will grow to a $5 billion business by 2023.
Brad Porter, vice president of robotics at Amazon, said that “the revolution is how much high-tech we can pack into a robot under the covers. The combination of high-speed wireless networks, batteries, higher-quality sensors at lower-costs and more compute horsepower in smaller packages allows us to rethink traditional solutions, like fixed conveyor belts with more flexible solutions like robotic drives, while allowing us to more flexibly rethink how processes work. The result is we’re able to make these systems more autonomous and more collaborative with humans.”
Although not everyone agrees that warehouse robotics will lead to better efficiency and cost savings. Augusto Beato, CEO of Portland SEO, said that “automation solutions may be underutilized, leading to a higher handling cost per unit and lower throughput as compared to manual processes. Companies have achieved varying levels of success, and often failure, using automation in their warehouse operations.”