Ecommerce and the  Speed of Fulfillment Drives New Robotic Technology into Warehouses

Ecommerce and the Speed of Fulfillment Drives New Robotic Technology into Warehouses

As e-commerce growth continues to surge past brick-and-mortar sales, how will online retailers keep up with order fulfillment? It may not be long before order-filling robots take their place alongside the rest of your material handling equipment.

Can E-commerce Response Keep Up with Consumer Demand?

According to Ken Goldberg, a roboticist from UC Berkeley, Amazon and other ecommerce companies are delivering orders at an astonishing rate of 500 packages per second. With online sales projected to reach $600 billion in the U.S. by 2020, that number will only increase.

While robots aren’t new to warehouses and fulfillment centers, they’ve been limited to literally doing the heavy lifting. Advancements in technology are allowing robots to pick orders and perform other nuanced tasks.

Robots Go to “School”

Human hands are still more suited to packing orders, the final step in order filling, but a San Francisco startup named Kindred is teaching this task to robots with a two-step method surprisingly similar to how humans learn.

– The process begins with imitation learning, in which engineers actually steer the robots to show them how to handle products from a wide range of shapes and sizes.

– During reinforcement learning, robots essentially “practice” what they’ve learned, refining their movements to increase speed and accuracy.

Will humans eventually become obsolete? Not according to David Schatsky of Deloitte, co-author of a report on robots in the workplace. Schatsky predicts that jobs will evolve, with humans shifting into creative and supervisory roles.

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There’s still a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done by your employees. Visit our website and use the convenient online chat feature to learn more about our full line of tugs, pushers and movers.