Robotics in Warehouse Logistics: 2023 Trends and Beyond
Warehouse logistics have come a long way from manual operations to highly automated processes, and in 2023 and beyond, robotics is at the forefront of this transformation. Companies often test these new technologies in smaller markets or warehouses to reduce the risk of process inefficiency. In this post, I will discuss five trends that are expected to have a significant impact in the coming years. These robotics technologies are currently revolutionizing the warehouse logistics industry and often bring substantial improvements in productivity and efficiency.
Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are changing the game in warehouses. They efficiently move goods to workers, reducing walking time and increasing order fulfillment speed. This not only results in reduced labor costs but also eliminates manual errors and improves warehouse throughput.
Robotic picking arms equipped with computer vision and machine learning algorithms make order fulfillment faster and more accurate. These systems can handle a wide range of products and adapt to changing inventory needs.
Drones and ground-based robots are being used for real-time inventory tracking. They can scan barcodes, RFID tags, and even perform shelf audits, ensuring inventory accuracy and reducing the risk of stockouts. This technology is relatively easier to implement and can save up to 90% of the man-hours spent on inventory checks.
Collaborative robots, or cobots, are designed to work alongside human employees safely. They assist with tasks like heavy lifting and repetitive actions, reducing the risk of workplace injuries.
Robotics in warehouse logistics can self-monitor their condition and performance, allowing for predictive maintenance. This minimizes downtime and ensures continuous operations.
While the hardware for these solutions is currently expensive, making their purchase challenging from an ROI perspective, there's a growing trend of companies offering these solutions on a subscription basis. This significantly decreases the threshold for implementation and makes them more accessible to businesses.
Robotics is no longer a futuristic concept in warehouse logistics; it's a reality reshaping the industry in 2023 and will continue to do so in the years to come. Embracing these advancements not only improves efficiency but also creates safer and more productive work environments. As we move forward, the integration of robotics will continue to play a pivotal role in the evolution of warehouse logistics.
Warehouse Logistics Challenges in 2023
In the ever-changing world of warehouse logistics, staying ahead of the curve is essential for success. As we enter 2024, new challenges and opportunities emerge, reshaping the way we manage and optimize our supply chains. In this blog post, we'll explore the key challenges facing warehouse logistics professionals in 2023 and discuss strategies to address them.
In a world marked by unpredictability, global events like pandemics and geopolitical tensions continue to disrupt supply chains. Resilinc identified a total of 8,197 supply chain disruptions, with the Healthcare, High-Tech, Automotive, Aerospace, and Food & Beverage industries bearing the brunt of the impact. The overall number of disruptions is now at a much slower growth pace, with a mere 3% year-over-year increase. This triggered the idea that warehouse managers are trying to develop robust contingency plans and diversify their supplier networks to mitigate these disruptions.
According to the latest reports, the surge in online shopping shows no signs of slowing down. Warehouses are under immense pressure to meet customer demands for faster shipping while efficiently managing inventory. Implementing automated picking systems and optimizing warehouse layouts can help keep up with e-commerce demands.
Sustainable practices are increasingly important for businesses and consumers alike. Warehouse logistics professionals need to find eco-friendly solutions, such as electric forklifts and energy-efficient lighting, to reduce their environmental footprint. Oftentimes, such investments can be very costly or simply not feasible in the short term. On the other hand, they are forced by their customers or their parent company to increase sustainability.
The shortage of skilled labor in logistics is a persistent challenge. A shortage means much longer hiring processes, and it also drives up prices. In Europe, it is pretty common now that warehouse workers earn around or above the average salaries of their respective countries of residence. Investing in employee training and exploring automation solutions like autonomous robots can alleviate this issue.
Embracing digitalization is no longer an option but a necessity. Warehouse managers should invest in technologies like IoT sensors and AI-driven analytics to optimize operations and improve decision-making. In 2023, warehouse logistics professionals will face a complex landscape filled with challenges and opportunities. By proactively addressing these issues and embracing innovative solutions, companies can position themselves for success in the ever-evolving world of logistics.
Drone trends 2023
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, there has been a growing attention on drones from a military perspective. State-funded hardware developments, fueled by limitless funds, have gained momentum to further advance and manufacture Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV in short). From a weapons manufacturing standpoint, drones that can be considered inexpensive are not only suitable for reconnaissance without risking human lives, but they can also be used for transporting goods.
As we all know, many innovations achieved by the military often make it to the commercial market as well eventually. Moving goods is one example that has been tested, for a few years now, but there hasn’t been a wide adoption yet. I believe this is about to change.
DJI recently released in Asia a commercially available delivery drone, the DJI FlyCart 30. It adopts a 4-axis, 8-propeller multirotor configuration. It has a maximum payload capacity of 30 kilograms, and a maximum range of 16 km with a full load.
What I see currently is that drone hardware companies could deliver innovation at a quicker pace, but what keeps new products back from the market is achieving certifications and regulations. It is still a time consuming endeavour, especially taking into account all the differences between countries, and regions. That’s also why the DJI FlyCart30 is only available in Asia for now.
Another interesting aspect is that the Chinese manufacturer has been under constant pressure in the American market for years, particularly in the non-consumer market, thanks to lobbying efforts by an American manufacturer, Skydio. Skydio recently has announced that it will turn away from consumer customers and exclusively focus on industrial use.
While the drone market continues to expand, it is noticeable that new drone models are appearing more frequently in the consumer drone segment. Instead of bi-yearly product releases, we started seeing yearly, or even half-yearly releases and upgrades. This has a positive knock-on effect on the number of new and profitable use cases in industrial sectors as well.
One thing remains unchanged: the entire industry is moving towards automation. There is a need for less human intervention, longer flight times, automatic charging, active obstacle avoidance, and secure operations.
It is similar to the topic of autonomous driving in the automotive industry. However, where are we on the roads? What actually works in reality? And how much money has the market invested in this field?
There are different levels of autonomy and interdependent functions that need to be tested and developed sustainably to ensure customer-centricity and safety.
It is difficult to predict what lies ahead in the drone market, which is undergoing similar processes. However, it can be assumed that autonomous drones will not be flying around cities in the next five years.
As the next realistic step, it is possible that pilots will be assisted by assistant systems, similar to how drivers nowadays have automatic headlight switching, lane-keeping assist, lane-changing assist, parking assist, or automatic alerts that prompt them to take control.
Even in fully automated flight tasks, there will be a need for people to monitor the systems, and these individuals are likely to be experienced professionals from previous drone development projects.
Warehouse drones can now work in narrow aisles as well
In the fast-paced world of logistics, efficiency is key. There are many exciting technologies that enable remarkable optimization in modern warehouses. The rise of drone technology is one of the trends that has benefited from increasing interest, but warehouses with narrow aisles between 150-180 cm were excluded from this trend simply because there was no drone technology that could navigate between such shelves. Until now.
DJI, the popular drone manufacturer, introduced the DJI Mini 3 Pro almost a year ago, and it has generated immense interest worldwide. It became one of the best-selling models from the Chinese manufacturer. Its distinct feature is its weight, which is below 250g.
People love the versatility and quietness of the DJI Mini 3 Pro, as well as how easy it is to navigate it. Not only is it more user-friendly than other drones, it also provides longer flight times due to its low weight. This size, weight, and flight time proved to be useful for warehouses as well. In this article, we will explore the three distinguishing capabilities that make the DJI Mini 3 Pro drone an outstanding choice for inventory checks in narrow-aisle warehouses.
One of the standout features of the DJI Mini 3 Pro is its extended flight time. Its low takeoff weight allows for longer flights compared to heavier drones. Moreover, DJI offers a factory battery specifically designed for this model, enabling pilots to fly for up to 47 minutes without the need for battery changes. This extended flight time proves invaluable during inventory checks, where pilots can cover more ground efficiently.
Traditionally, inventory checks involved pilots flying for 40-45 minutes with a battery swap in the middle, and then taking a break of 15-20 minutes. However, the DJI Mini 3 Pro requires half the number of battery swaps, ensuring less interruption during the inventory check process. This newfound efficiency translates into significant time savings and streamlined operations.
Imagine a narrow-aisle automotive warehouse with 6,000 pallets. By utilizing the DJI Mini 3 Pro drone, logistics professionals can effectively streamline inventory checks within a single shift. With a team of four pilots, each equipped with a drone, an entire inventory check process can be completed efficiently. The drone's advanced features, including the ability to capture standard images in tight spaces using its inverted sensor, further enhance productivity.
The DJI Mini 3 Pro drone has emerged as a game-changer in the logistics industry, particularly in the realm of warehouse inventory checks. Its lightweight design, extended flight time, and advanced functionalities make it an indispensable tool for optimizing operations in narrow-aisle warehouses. By harnessing the power of drone technology, logistics professionals can enhance efficiency, save time, and streamline their inventory management processes. Embracing this innovative solution opens up new possibilities for businesses to thrive in the ever-evolving logistics landscape.Read more
How Drones are Reshaping Warehouse Inventory Checks
Nearly everything you own has at one point sat on a warehouse shelf. For manufacturers, retailers, and logistics companies, keeping track of all that inventory is a constant challenge.
Most warehouses are home to enormous product populations that are dispatched in small batches. There is a huge amount of churn and storage is reconfigured on the fly. Managing space in such a dynamic environment is a round-the-clock process. It’s made even harder during peak shopping seasons and with staff levels impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.Read more