Growing Robotics in E-Commerce Are Still Out of Reach for Smaller Operations

Greg Sterling reported a recent survey of 12,000 randomly selected U.S. smartphone users about their mobile shopping behaviors. The company found that 85% of respondents said their mobile commerce buying was steady or had increased since last year.  While roughly 15 percent shared that mobile buying had increased “significantly,” Personal data security and/or poor user experiences, such as product images too small, were cited as barriers to the further growth of mobile e-commerce.

A recent Forbes report predicts that the e-commerce industry will surpass a $2 trillion annual haul in 2017. A related eMarketer report makes a bolder forecast of $4 trillion in retail e-commerce sales by 2020, accounting for 14.6% of all consumer retail spending. A measured 50% five-year growth, when comparing both of these forecasts, gives us a real idea of the juggernaut that this industry has become.

About 71% of consumers are shopping online to find the best price, a process that is commonly now referred to as “showrooming” (checking your smartphone for the best price when in a brick and mortar store), and “webrooming” (comparing multiple                               e-commerce stores to find the lowest price).

According to Business Insider, 50% of shoppers have made more than one purchase in the past year. Tally these numbers up, and technology has helped 198 million shoppers in the U.S. buy something online over the past 12 months. That means more than 200 million people are shopping online, or about two-thirds of the entire U.S. population.

A report by the U.S. Census Bureau concurs, finding that 7.5% of retail sales were derived from e-commerce, and growth will increase ten-fold between now and 2020.

The Global Warehouse Robotics Market is projected to reach USD 10.34 billion by 2020, at a CAGR of 11.5% during the forecast period from 2015 to 2020 according to EIN News. The manufacturing industry has openly welcomed mechanization and automation in the late 20th century. Today, robotics is not just restricted to manufacturing, and has had many application achievements as well.  

The global warehouse robotics market is segmented by type into four categories: articulated robots, gantry robots, robotic arms, and mobile robots.

On the basis of function, the market has been segmented into storage, trans-shipments, assembling & disassembling, packaging, and others. On the basis of vertical, the market has been segmented into food & beverage, automotive, textile, electronic & electrical, and others.

Lastly, on the basis of geography, the market has been segmented into North America (United States, Canada, Others), Europe (United Kingdom, Germany, France, others), Asia-Pacific (China, Japan, India, others), Middle East & Africa (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, others), and Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, others).

The basic functions of a warehouse are receiving, identifying & sorting, dispatching to storage, placing in storage, retrieving from storage, order picking, packing, shipping, and record keeping. Based on these functions, warehouse robotics or material handling (MH) robotic equipment can be classified into articulated robots, gantry robots, robotic arms and mobile robots. The major drivers for the warehouse robotics market are the ability to simplify and to reduce time consumed in the basic functions, while boosting reliability, accuracy, and reducing the work force, which is the major cost center. The main obstacle to the adoption of this technology is the cost involved, and the vendor companies are trying to bring this down.

The balance between driving labor efficiency and robotics is an on-going discussion. For many smaller e-commerce customers, robotics are an unaffordable option, which means that seeking efficiency through other picking and packing technology is the first and best choice for now.

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