Sunday 19th Nov 2017 - Logistics Manager

Are you ready for robots?

Just like our children can’t picture a world without computers, it is likely that their children will feel the same way about robots. The comment comes from Deutsche Post DHL’s Clemens Beckmann – and I suspect that many people will find the thought a little disconcerting.

Malory Davies FCILT, Editor.

Malory Davies FCILT, Editor.

DHL has just produced a study that suggests robotics technology is on the verge of large scale relevance for logistics. Beckmann, who is executive vice president innovation, Post – eCommerce – Parcel, believes that: “Developing the next generation of robots that can work around and among people will take a substantial investment to advance the technology but at DPDHL Group we believe that soon supply chains will see humans and robots working side by side to handle goods faster and more economically.”

Of course, we already have robots – the motor industry couldn’t function without them in the factories. Automation is well established in logistics operations, and we are seeing a modest growth in the use of autonomous vehicles.

However, the DHL study points out that about 80 per cent of logistics facilities today are still manual.

There are two factors driving the move towards greater use of robots.man-320276

Rapid developments in the technology itself so that the next generation of robots will be able to see, move, react to their environment and work at precision tasks alongside people.

And there is predicted to be a labour shortage in many developed countries over the course of the next two decades – particularly problematic in the e-commerce sector which is highly labour intensive.

In logistics particularly, it’s not just an issue of getting a robot that can do the job, cost is also critical. But in a rapidly developing market, it would be dangerous to take your eye off the ball.