2020 was quite a year. The pandemic and the uncertainty that came with it put a big spotlight on the use of automation in warehouses across the world. Adapting to social distancing rules, the pressure to distribute higher volumes of essential goods, and struggling to speed up their deliveries have all made everyone look to automation. Let us take a closer look at the processes that may lead to the logistics industry’s total comeback.
We did see a temporary reduction in e-commerce caused by the lockdown and economic distress and panic. However, that phase has seemed to pass, and now there is a substantial uptick in order intakes of warehouse automation. The order backlog has also increased, showing that warehouse automation is highly sought after.
The Automation Journey
The push to automate warehouses was already progressing rapidly before Covid-19 hit, but it did change the strategy. If anything, the pandemic took the prospect of automation from “good to have eventually” to “must have now”. Besides the recent events, trends like an aging population, globalization, health, mobility, and green logistics have been steering the automation wave. The warehouse automation market is expected to reach the $30 Billion mark by 2026. This massive market growth can be attributed to the e-commerce surge, expansion of distribution channels, and the globalization of supply chain networks.
Challenges to Come
The e-commerce boom is causing major labor challenges across the entire logistics industry. Shipment volumes are increasing rapidly and online retail is requiring much more support than initially thought. Online purchases often require individual picking, packing, and shipping and cannot also be worked into bulk transportation models. This will be among some of the challenges broad automation will face as we move forward.
What will fully automated logistics warehouses look like? And what kind of changes will they bring to the entire industry? We do not know! But we are excited to see.