The e-commerce industry has been booming in recent years, but now that strain is being felt by warehousing facilities. Sales growth has slowed to its pre-pandemic high and we may see more companies cutting back on spending as a result.
In the face of a pandemic, we leaned on our online shopping habits like never before. With vulnerable individuals unable to leave home and lockdowns around town due to illness outbreaks from COVID-infected patients at hospitals or other medical facilities where they work as staff members. As a result, the pressure was always high for warehouses worldwide, especially those housing grocery items that had been ordered by consumers anxious about shortages in stores near them. Automation systems were implemented to meet enhanced requirements without breaching any rules. The use of automation in e-commerce is a great resource for businesses that have seen their orders increase due to the recent pandemic and want more flexibility with fulfillment times while staying within regulatory standards.
Automation and Supermarkets
The lockdowns and tiered systems of 2020 saw many people turn to online grocery shopping for food delivery, though this form was not without its challenges. The company Ocado had always been an integral part in delivering products efficiently as it did not have a physical store, but with the rise of online shopping came some new opportunities too.
Their automated warehouse in Andover, UK was home to thousands of robots that worked around the clock. These fast-paced machines had a top speed of four meters per second and were managed via an air traffic control system with grid-based structures made up of charged batteries for power supply; unfortunately, one such faulty unit led to a fire and tragic accident in 2019 but lessons have been learned from these causes so they can be applied elsewhere.
In 2020, UK-based supermarket chain Tesco teamed up with its warehouse tech partner Swisslog to use robots on a conveyor belt that picked up and dropped off pallets of goods in order for them to be stored more efficiently. With 60% greater storage capacity than before this was imperative when panic buying became commonplace and help was needed throughout the nation's grocery stores to meet consumer demand.
More and more companies are exploring automation in order to reduce the need for human labor. One example is part of last-mile delivery, where several brands led by Starship Technologies have produced self-driving robots that bring groceries or takeaway food from restaurants to consumers' homes! The grocery industry has been looking for ways to automate since labor shortages became an issue during the pandemic. One way they did so was by exploring new technologies that don't rely solely on humans, such as delivery vehicles equipped with self-driving robots or human-assisted guidance systems.
Large Retailers and Robotics
The next-day delivery system of ASOS is a well-known fashion brand that differentiates it from its competitors. The company's warehouses are automated and forward-thinking, making items arrive quickly with same-day or next business days options for customers who want fast access to their purchases. The clothing company Gap has started to automate manual tasks during the pandemic in order for them not to have any human contact processes. They use robotic technology and AI-enabled machines at their warehouse which can complete jobs that would usually require four people.
Evolution of E-commerce
Amazon has grown substantially since it was founded in 1994, and its forward-thinking ethos has earned the company a reputation for innovation. The eCommerce giant recently announced that they would be moving their operations into the air with drones, demonstrating just how much faith Amazon puts behind this idea of automation and robotics. Also, the company's operations are so massive that they could save $887 billion by moving them into the air.
Today, e-commerce is a trillion-dollar industry and it continues to grow at an alarming rate. In just a few short years, it has transformed the way we shop, communicate and do business.
One of the key drivers of this growth has been the development of robotics and artificial intelligence. By automating key processes, these technologies have made it possible for businesses to scale up their operations quickly and efficiently. Today, robots are used in everything from manufacturing to logistics, and they are playing an increasingly important role in e-commerce. As the industry continues to evolve, it is likely that robotics and AI will become even more integral to its success.
E-commerce has come a long way in a short amount of time. What started as an online marketplace for selling and buying goods has evolved into a complex system that includes robotic retailers, automated groceries, and smart warehouses. This evolution has been driven by the needs of consumers and businesses alike. Consumers want more convenience and faster delivery times, while businesses want to reduce overhead costs and increase efficiency. The result is a highly sophisticated e-commerce ecosystem that is constantly evolving to meet the needs of its users.