Driving Robotics Adoption to Disrupt Supply Chain of Tomorrow



How robots can bring innovation to the global supply chain?

The growing exploitation of robots and robotics technology across diverse industries presents promising opportunities for business growth. With declining costs and easier implementation of robotic solutions, robots become more capable in expediting enterprises’ automation initiatives. In the supply chain, they are poised to change the game and bring a new era of supply chain management. Since the trade and geopolitical tensions and now the COVID-19 crisis has wreaked havoc the global supply chain, many companies are thinking to make a transition to robotics and automation technologies.

Robotics helps supply chain business by assisting companies to minimize long-term costs, provide labor and utilization stability, intensify worker productivity and lessen error rate. Making use of the technology also aids them in lowering the frequency of inventory checks, optimizing picking, sorting, and storing times, and increasing access to difficult or unsafe locations.

Already, autonomous robots have a strong presence in manufacturing, final assembly, and warehousing. And the future of the supply chain is likely to see a constant growth of these robots, allowing organizations and workers to shift to more strategic, less dangerous, and higher-value work.


Covid-19 Stimulates Robotics Adoption in Supply Chains

As the supply chain and manufacturing deal with the COVID-19 crisis, organizations have significantly turned to robotics. Even with pandemic and its related budget constraints in numerous sectors, firms keep on reviewing this tech as a key long-term investment. In an IDC 2020 supply chain survey, 73 percent of respondents acknowledge that robotics will be significant or imperative to their company in the following three years.

Started previously with slow uptake, businesses today have realized the value of robotics and automation, as they have the ability to support zero-defect logistics processes and enable new levels of productivity. Ready Robotics, a startup spun out of Johns Hopkins University, for instance, offers simple software to control industrial robots. The product allows workers with practically no experience in robotics to program industrial robots for assembling work.

With the relentless development of COVID-19, different variables are driving the adoption of robotics in the supply chain. The first and foremost driver of this is to the lack of workers at workspaces due to a changing geopolitical landscape, health risks, or other coronavirus-related challenges.


Driving Value in the Supply Chain

As robots become more sophisticated today, they require less time to set up, with less supervision and can work aside with their human counterparts. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV), for instance, can move faster than a human worker, transporting goods from one place to another without the need for any intervention. German courier, parcel, and express mail service provider DHL is looking to integrate robotics into its supply chain in numerous ways. While there is still a long way to go before the company realizes their full potential, it has already demonstrated that robots can work together with employees, supporting repetitive and physically demanding tasks in logistics operations.

Moreover, robotics and automation technologies are becoming a tipping point for the tradeoffs between onshore and offshore manufacturing. While robots work tirelessly across shifts and can perform certain tasks faster and more accurately than humans, reports show that their adoption can be a key factor of declining of offshoring. In developed economies, an increase of 10 percent in robotics applications results in -0.54 percent growth in offshoring. In its 2019 annual survey results, the Reshoring Institute in the U.S. reveals that more than half of executives reported that they were planning or considering reshoring activities in the next five years.

In a brief, robotics adoption primarily drives supply chain innovation and value by lowering direct and indirect operating costs and improving revenue potential.