The global warehouse robotics market was valued at USD 3.97 billion in 2020 and expected to reach USD 7.63 billion by 2026 and grow at a CAGR of 11.54% over the forecast period (2021 - 2026). The emergence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the advent of a network of connected systems are helping industries perform a multitude of tasks, such as material batching, picking, ordering, packaging, warehouse security, and inspection, as well as improve the operational efficiency by huge margins.
- The growth in the e-commerce industry worldwide and the growing need for efficient warehousing and inventory management is driving the market growth. Automation in warehousing offers extreme convenience when it comes to cutting down overall business costs and reducing errors in product deliveries. According to DHL, a prominent 3PL company and a significant end-user of warehouse automation solutions, despite the advantages, 80% of warehouses are â€œstill manually operated with no supporting automation.â€ Further, warehouses, i.e., those that use conveyors, sorters, pick and place solutions, among other equipment(not necessarily automated), account for 15% of total warehouses. In contrast, only 5% of current warehouses are automatic.
- Significant technological advancements, such as sensors technologies which enable an enhanced object perception and an accurate positioning system, have made way for the robotics industry to explore the untapped potential in various warehousing applications, while attaining an optimal operational flow and logistics efficiency, among other accomplishments, across the different industry verticals.
- According to the Bank of America, it is estimated that by 2025, 45% of all manufacturing tasks will be executed by robotic technology. With this emerging trend, large firms, such as Raymond Limited, which is a major Indian textile company and Foxconn Technology which is a China-based supplier for large technology manufacturers like Samsung and others have replaced 10,000 and 60,000 workers, respectively, by incorporating automated technology into their factories.
- These factors have had a direct impact on the increasing adoption of warehouse robotics as well. The rising number of warehouses, increasing investments in warehouse automation, coupled with the global rise in labor costs and availability of scalable technological solutions, have been driving the market for warehouse robots across the globe. For instance, prominent logistics brands in the United States, like DHL, XPO Logistics, and NFI Logistics, are investing in expansion activities, despite the adverse commercial renting climate.
- With the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, robots and automation are already playing a critical role in managing the situation. Further, the situation is likely to bring new opportunities to the market. A British online grocer, Ocado, is aiming to make its warehouse robotics and grocery home-delivery technology available to other supermarkets for a licensing fee. The company has witnessed its stock rise by 7.6% since the end of 2019 and believes that the company will benefit from the increasing demand for home deliveries during the pandemic.
- While significant advances have been accomplished in robotics, the human workforce still holds the upper-hand in running a well-organized warehouse. Forecast of long-term labor shortages across the United States and Europe, as well as sustained pressure on supply chains to deliver orders quicker and more precisely, has caused operations executives to seriously assess that question as they look for answers to staffing challenges.
Key Market Trends
Increasing Number of SKUs
- An increasing number of SKUs (stock-keeping units) is quite common in the industry, as there is a constant introduction of new products on a regular basis. The luxury of customization and the growing number of consumer choices through the e-commerce platform has pushed the demand for an expanded inventory, with a host of options and styles available at the disposable of the e-commerce retailers for dispatch on request.
- According to the Materials Management & Distribution Report, Just-in-time ordering, direct-to-consumer distribution, and shifting retailer-wholesaler relationships are decreasing the number of large-pallet orders received by distributors. In turn, the growth of small, multiple SKU orders is forcing warehouses to automate.
- Automated, efficient mini-load storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) address this market challenge by employing lightweight cranes that can sort individual totes, cases, trays, and crates while optimizing storage and releasing key delivery and labor resources. These systems maximize supply chain efficiency through the automation of key processes, including goods arrival, maximized inventory storage, and the fulfillment of outbound shipping orders.
- To meet the demand for home delivery (or curbside delivery), warehouses are increasing in size. The average size of warehouses in 2000 was around 65,000 square feet, compared to >200,000 square feet in 2020. The increase in size helps warehouses to cope with higher volumes and a growing number of SKUs.
Asia Pacific is expected to hold significant market share
- According to the World Robotics report presented by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) in September 2019, Asia is the world's largest industrial robot market. China remains as the largest industrial robot market with a market share of 36% of total installations. In 2018, about 154,000 units were installed, which is 1% less compared to the previous year, but more than the number of robots installed in Europe and the Americas together and Japan's robot sales increased by 21% to about 55,000 units, representing the highest value ever for the country.
- According to IFR, the operational stock of industrial robots is expected to reach 3788 (in thousand units) by 2021 from 2408 (in thousand units) in 2018. For instance, Alibaba, the world's largest retailer based out of China, has upgraded to robotic labor in one of its warehouses, which has resulted in drastically reducing the labor workforce by 70%, creating an opportunity for a highly-skilled workforce.
- South Koreaâ€™s population is aging rapidly, and by the middle of this century, it will have one of the oldest populations out of all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, just behind Japan, Italy, and Greece. Due to this, most of the manufacturing units are implementing industrial robots to maintain competitiveness.
- Owing to strong technological and mobile adoption, the country is one of the biggest e-commerce markets worldwide, with over 25 million e-shoppers in the country; South Korea stands third in GDP rankings.
- In December 2019, OOCL Logistics launched AI-equipped â€œEVEâ€ robots in Ibaraki, Japan. The newly developed smart warehouse is northeast of Tokyo and will be a major logistics hub for OOCL Logistics (Japan) Ltd. The company has added 39 Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) warehouse management robots called â€œElectric Vehicleâ€ (EVE) on the first floor of the new Ibaraki warehouse to overcome labor shortages and increase the efficiency. The company is leveraging AI and the adoption of robotic process automation and customized technologies to improve operational performance, eliminate manual errors, and reduce costs.
The warehouse robotics market is moderately fragmented and consists of highly competitive players. In terms of market share, few of the major players such as ABB Ltd, Honeywell, and Kiva Systems currently dominate the market. These major players with a significant share in the market are expanding their customer base across various regions and many companies are forming strategic and collaborative initiatives with various start-up companies to increase their market share and their profitability.
- February 2020 - ABB Limited and Covariant announced a partnership to bring AI-enabled robotics solutions to market, starting with a fully autonomous warehouse order fulfillment solution and the partnership brings together the two companies with a common vision for robotics enabled by AI, where intelligent robots work alongside humans in dynamic environments, collectively learning and improving with every task completed.
- September 2019 - Honeywell had signed an agreement with retail supply chain services provider â€œThe Apparel Logistics Groupâ€ to help the company in the expansion of the e-commerce order output at its distribution center in Dallas. Under this agreement, The Apparel Logistics Group, which engages in third-party logistics and order fulfillment services for apparel, footwear, and accessories will incorporate Honeywell 's automated material handling solutions.
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