What is the future of robotics in Australian supply chain warehousing?

 

Warehousing and logistics robotics have been a long time coming. Heralded as the answer to e-commerce managers’ prayers for reduced labour shortfall and lower operational costs, the automation age of the fourth industrial revolution has been slow to arrive in Australia.

Industry 4.0, in which automation drives all aspects of commercial operations, is set to truly shake up the logistics sector.

Price Waterhouse Cooper estimates that automation technologies could contribute 14 per cent to global GDP by 2030. This stems in part from the lowered costs of robots as they become more common, but also from the precision they can bring to storage operations. McKinsey research shows future robotics innovation will lead units to have up to five times greater movement control than past configurations.

However, despite the benefits of robotic assistance in supply chain warehousing, there are some reservations about rolling out this technology on a widespread basis.

What are the reservations around automated logistics?

Fear of automation is more a hindrance than the automation process itself, as demonstrated in a PwC survey ‘Are robots really coming for our jobs?’. While 37 per cent of polled workers were worried about losing their jobs due to automation, data gleaned from labour forecasts for 29 OECD countries showed less than one in five workers would actually be impacted by the kind of robotics that would help to improve supply chain logistics.

These findings were supported by a McKinsey workforce skills survey that shows robots will improve our roles rather than take them – the supply chain of the future will need employees with greater social communication skills and higher cognitive ability.

So yes, automation will replace some jobs – but it’s likely to create even more. As workers upskill and robotics are introduced, you’ll find people moving away from menial labour and into more operational or oversight roles. This means your staff will be people-focused and add real value to your business.

Greater robotic aid in warehousing will mean less labour devoted to menial, repetitive tasks.

 

Greater robotic aid in warehousing will mean less labour devoted to menial, repetitive tasks. All pictures supplied by Geek+.

The role of robotics in improving the Australian supply chain

There has been limited investment in Australian robotics so far, particularly in warehousing and logistics. This is somewhat incongruous with some of the industry’s core issues, namely the cost of labour and limited physical spaces.

As online retail demand increases and the load on warehouses spikes, the need for both efficient labour and well-utilised space will only grow. And if warehouses can’t get bigger, they need to get smarter. Enter the robotics revolution.

Robotics can improve warehousing in Australia in a number of ways:

  • It reduces the cost of unskilled labour used in warehousing operations.
  • Businesses gain more value through upskilled human workers in management roles.
  • Greater accuracy and load-bearing abilities mean robots can pick and transport warehouse items faster and in less time than their human counterparts.

Robots have the chance to make the Australian supply chain more efficient. We face some unique geographic and trade-related challenges, and improving efficiency in warehouse delivery, storage and processing will help bring the nation on par with Europe and the US.

 

Robotic AGVs can help reduce the space needed for stock, making warehouses smaller and more efficient.

Robotic AGVs can help reduce the space needed for stock, making warehouses smaller and more efficient. All pictures supplied by Geek+.

How can Cohesio Group bring robotics to your logistics organisation?

Our recent, exclusive collaboration on a warehouse robotics project with logistics innovators Geek+ has seen co-created automated guidance vehicles (AGV) developed for item picking, moving and sorting. This has huge implications for the Australian market, with robotic assistance undoubtedly able to help streamline warehouse operations.

For example, a traditional goods-to-person deployment system would cost $15-20 million. With the automated guidance vehicle (AGV), advanced navigation and pick-and-move capabilities means this could drop to anywhere from $1-3 million. This will also help make the commercial supply chain more efficient.

The statistics around the Geek+/Cohesio Group turnkey AGVs doesn’t just cover overall operational savings – the numbers go much deeper than that:

  • The AGVs can be deployed and integrated with existing warehouse management software within three months, minimising your operational transition.
  • Precision navigation technology means goods are picked, moved and sorted with 99.9 per cent accuracy. The robots are also equipped with learning capabilities to continually reoptimise floor mapping and stock locations.
  • Every AGV device is capable of moving a 1,000 kilogram load and operate in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius.
  • Each robot is compactly designed, meaning you can operate in a smaller warehouse. Initial estimates suggest you can save 50-90 per cent of your floor space by reorganising storage for exclusive access by AGV robots.
  • Most tellingly, the AGVs offer efficiency gains of processing up to 300 more units per hour per person.

AGVs are more efficient and robust for picking and moving stock than human workers.

AGVs are more efficient and robust for picking and moving stock than human workers. All pictures supplied by Geek+.

What is the future of robotics in Australian supply chain warehousing?

Robots can help improve the efficiency of logistics operations, big and small. From improving floor operations of item picking, transportation and processing to generating warehouse layout reports to make your business more efficient, automation’s place in the future of logistics seems brighter by the day. And we want our project management team to be central to automating your warehouse operations to deliver more for your business.

 

Want to learn more about robotics? Watch our video on how robotics works in a warehouse.