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Supply Chain Industry Updates

Nothing Personal: Robotics to Take More Prominent Role in Warehouses

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As it has in areas such as in e-commerce, COVID-19 is likely to act as an accelerant to technology adoption in warehouses, too. Gartner Inc. predicts demand for robotic goods-to-person (G2P) systems will quadruple in the next two years to help enforce social distancing in warehouses. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics (AA) are expected to rise, too.

“Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing demand for robotics in warehouses and distribution centers,” said Dwight Klappich, vice president/analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice. “G2P systems are an easy and economical way to not only enforce social distancing, but also improve productivity.”

With G2P systems, robots deliver the goods to a person who remains in one place, greatly reducing personal contact among germ-vulnerable human workers. “Keeping people in place and using a virus-resistant robot to move goods around respects people’s privacy and keeps them safe at the same time,” Klappich said.

Pre-COVID, G2P already was on companies’ radar because of additional benefits such as improved efficiency, productivity and storage density.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for supply chain organizations to seek tools that help them make better and more-informed decisions faster.”

Organizations also are likely to be looking at AI and AA to improve warehouse efficiency. In fact, through 2024, 50% of supply chain organizations will invest in applications that support those capabilities, according to Gartner.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for supply chain organizations to seek tools that help them make better and more-informed decisions faster,” said Andrew Stevens, senior director/analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice. “Leading organizations use AI and AA to dig through the vast amounts of data they generate to understand what is happening in their business now and — more importantly — what is likely to happen in the future.”

Gartner’s predictions are included in its “Predicts 2021: Supply Chain Technology” paper, which is available for download.

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