During the pandemic, the supply chain sector suffered from labor shortages, greater demand, and over-ordering. Managers naturally looked for technological solutions to generate greater productivity and automate the distribution process.
31.52% of supply chain executives adopted robotics that allowed efficient distribution, rapid sorting, and labor assistance. Post-pandemic, as the logistics sector gradually rebounds, automation is surging in small-scale industries, with 5,000-6,000 robots built annually and deployed at various stages of the distribution process. As a result, the Indian logistics automation market expects to grow at a CAGR of 16.2% from 2023 to 2028.
AI and IoT-powered robotics in SCM
Warehouses and logistics hubs are overwhelmed with mundane, routine, and hazardous tasks that are time-consuming and labour-intensive. Though they need human employees, AI-powered robots automate repetitive tasks and free up workers to focus on high-value responsibilities.
These robots navigate on defined grids to avoid collision and move between two locations — a pickup point and an unloading point. They are small, compact, save space, and enhance sorting efficiency by 10X, while reducing the error margin.
These small movers may contain pneumatic arms with IoT sensors and next-generation software that provide load-handling capacities. The integrated software denotes industry-defined sortation capabilities like the destination, volume, weight, and the types of packages the robot has to carry. Their modular architecture helps scale up or scale down operations based on business requirements.
The directed picking, sorting, and unloading help process orders accurately, accelerate the cycle and minimise errors. Moreover, their high-speed packet-profiling technology helps in volumetric weight capturing, automates dimensioning, and achieves a turnover of up to 3000 packages per hour.
The AI and ML-enabled robots streamline the storage management and order consolidation processes. When products come to warehouses for storage, these intelligent robots bring the racks to the operators, learn good movement frequency based on day, time, traffic, and promotional offers, and sort orders according to the delivery priorities.
These robots automate the entire process! Starting from order picking, sorting, and storing, to distributing for shipment, thereby reducing human efforts.
How can robotics help increase RoI?
According to a McKinsey report, reducing costs is the key driver for adopting automation in the supply chain sector. Robots have a duty cycle of 80,000-100,000 hours without failure and retain efficiency without any upgradation or other expensive installation. They provide 15% lesser cycle time than manual processes and complete up to 500 standard cycles per minute, thus saving time and human effort.
The benefits of robotic technology in SCM include accuracy, improved employee morale, productivity, reliability, consistency, compliance, and a low technical barrier. They are programmed accurately and functionally verified to ensure consistent assurance and very high processing speed.
Robots comply with business regulations and interact with the software interface, minimising procedural errors and boosting coherence, cost-effectiveness, and compatibility.
55% of supply chain executives say that robots improve the quality of their daily work. They increase productivity through R&A, enable higher flexibility, ensure safety for hazardous tasks, and unburden employees. This way, they address the labour shortage, enhance capabilities, and improve brand perception.
Since robots don’t demand holidays or wages, they are cost-effective in the long term regardless of their upfront installation costs. Thus, they offer higher returns on investment and boost business growth.
AI, ML, and robotics encompass the cutting-edge technologies the supply chain industry must leverage to cope with the post-pandemic evolving consumer behavior. A Deloitte study says that autonomous robots will become ubiquitous in the next five years, especially in the supply chain sector, due to added efficiency, reduced danger-to-injury, increased worker productivity, and lower error rate.
They will decrease long-term costs by providing labour and utilisation stability, optimising picking, sorting, and storing processes, and reducing the frequency of manual inventory checks. They will also improve data collection and leverage new opportunities to meet customer expectations with order consolidation, storage, priority-based shipment, and on-time delivery.
— Santhosh Reddy, CTO and Co-Founder, ShakeDeal