When you next send your trailers to collect goods from a warehouse, will your drivers be welcomed by a human or a robot? This question will become increasingly commonplace as automation gathers momentum.
Greater warehouse automation
The adoption of warehouse automation technology is on the up, fuelled by several factors. A key factor is the continuing growth of e-commerce. For example, E-commerce Europe predicts that European e-commerce turnover will grow by 13% to €602 billion in 2018 from €534 billion in 2017. This is putting pressure on logistics and warehousing, sectors that are suffering from a shortage of warehousing space and suitably qualified labour.
Attractions of warehouse automation
According to MHLNews, logistics companies are finding that the lower cost of capital, faster return on investment and the modularity of automation through robotics enable them to make incremental investments in warehouse automation technology that can be recouped in a reasonably short timeframe. In addition, robots enable warehouses to operate with greater efficiency and continuously.
The early adopters of robotics in their warehouse operations are retailers for their store and e-commerce fulfilment across a wide range of product types including clothing, beauty and health products, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods.
Retailers and other users of warehouse automation use robots for “goods-to-person picking” where robots bring goods from across the warehouse to a human picker at a central packing station, for packing and shipping the order. Robots can also function as “collaborative picker aids” where a robot will accompany a human picker around the warehouse and physically pick out the goods for an order from a storage point. Once the order is completed, the robot will take the order to the packing station. And, finally, robots can operate in sorting applications including parcel sorting, distribution, and fulfillment. (source: MHLNews)
Amazon’s warehouse automation technology lead
Amazon is one of the leaders in using robots to improve the efficiency of its warehouses. Its small warehouse robots carry shelves of products to human pickers who then select items for sending out. Amazon has over 100,000 “bots” operating in its fulfilment centres and says that its population of human employees has grown with the number of robots it deploys. (source: ZDNet)
Chinese innovation with JD.com
However, other companies are fast catching up with Amazon. JD.com, a major Chinese logistics company, recently announced that it has built a warehouse close to Shanghai which can handle 200,000 orders a day, thanks to robotics. It employs just four people, who focus on servicing the robots that run the warehouse. (source:FreightWaves)
Ocado, a British technology disruptor
Originally an online-only British supermarket, Ocado is also revolutionising warehouse automation technology and providing its robot-driven warehousing solution to other grocery chains such as Casino in France and ICA in Sweden. Its automated fulfilment centre at Andover, close to London, uses proprietary storage and picking technology and contains hundreds of robots shifting groceries along an aluminium grid or “Hive” with human employees working in the background. (source: JLLRealViews) It used to take Ocado two hours to fill an average order in its old warehouse. At Andover, the order fulfilment time has come down to five to 15 minutes. (source: AJOT)
Where to now?
Samuel Dermont, a senior manager at consultants Argon told AJOT“ It’s [sic: the automation of warehouses] a slow process. The warehouse manager of tomorrow will be someone who knows how to manage both people and machines, while in the past, the warehouse business was people. But the warehouse itself, I don’t see it being so different.”
In the same article, Magne Hatteland, Marketing Director at AutoStore, which developed a robotics cube storage system almost 20 years ago, said: “In five years there will be a lot more robot arms instead of human arms.”
Flexibility through trailer rental
Overall, this environment including warehousing with greater automation represents a good opportunity for new business for the fleet operator with flexible trailer capacity. Customers renting trailers through TIP Trailer Services benefit from preferential terms to take on more trailers or reduce the number as demand fluctuates. Trailer rental gives you the best trailers and latest trailer technology without the high investment costs and overheads of ownership.
Outsource trailer maintenance and repair
For peace of mind, as part of a trailer rental contract, TIP Trailer Services offers maintenance and repair management services. Whilst your rental trailer is being maintained or repaired, we supply you with alternatives to ensure that your business continues to operate as usual.
Should one of the trailers require roadside assistance on the way to Bath, Berlin, Brussels or any other European destinations, you can rely on our Europe-wide breakdown recovery service 24/7 365 days per year. For further information on flexible trailer rental with TIP Trailer Services rental fleet, please contact us using this form.
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