In recent years, we’ve seen the growing adoption of robotics technology in warehouses and fulfillment centers. Now, many human employees work alongside autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/AR), robotic arms, and even drones on a daily basis to get their work done.
But as with any technology, robotics isn’t without its pros and cons. So, in this post, we’ll dig into its current use cases and explain the benefits and drawbacks of implementing robotics in your own fulfillment facilities.
Robotics Use Case Overview
While robotics has been involved in fulfillment to one degree or another for decades, new advancements are emerging all the time. Here are just a few examples:
- Automated Guided Vehicles carry heavy loads across warehouses and fulfillment centers using sensors and metallic strips to guide their movement
- Drones capture data from the air to streamline cycle counts and pinpoint inventory locations
- Autonomous Mobile Robots work alongside human employees in picking, packing, and sorting products
However, detailing specific use cases only tells part of the story. To really understand how robots help fulfillment centers improve their processes, we need to consider the major pros and cons connected to technology. Below, we’ll look at just 5.
Pros to Fulfillment Robotics
Equipped to move back and forth across the facility for hours at a time, robots cut down on the repetitive, low-value work that your human employees generally handle. This makes it possible for your employees to focus on high-value work that drives profits and keeps your customers happy, like customer support and quality control.
And since robots don’t need to sleep (except while they’re charging), they can continue to work on manual tasks long after your employees have gone home to get orders fulfilled on time.
Not surprisingly, robots also eliminate human error from picking, packing, and shipping orders, as they rely on algorithms to determine real-world outputs and commands to execute precise movements. This enhanced precision allows fulfillment teams to cut down on order inaccuracies and provide customers with a better overall experience.
Because robots take on a lot of manual work in the fulfillment center, employees can avoid the unnecessary strain of continuous walking and lifting. Not only does this better protect employees from overexertion, but it also gives them the flexibility to work on more meaningful projects that improve your business and advance their careers.
Cons to Fulfillment Robotics
Although robotics technology is getting cheaper, it still requires an extensive capital investment to adopt. And the more robots you need, the greater the cost. In fact, for a single AMR, the cost of implementation can reach upward of $30,000, with annual maintenance costs equalling about 20% of your capital investment. This alone is enough to make robotics technology inaccessible for many retail and eCommerce businesses.
Even if you adopt a completely autonomous fleet of robots, you’ll still need human capital to control, repair, and supplement their activities. The reason being, robots can’t yet think on the same level as their human counterparts. They can interact with the physical world, based on static rules, and they can improve their response to certain stimuli by assimilating new pieces of information into their memory. But they still require input and support from your human employees to work optimally.
With the promise of increased productivity, enhanced precision, and an overall better workplace, robotics technology is an exciting prospect for fulfillment centers all over the world. And by partnering with a third-party fulfillment center like Radial, retail and eCommerce businesses can take full advantage of the rising technology while avoiding the associated costs that typically come with it.