Fashion chain Gap Inc is speeding up its rollout of picking robots across its warehouses to fulfil online orders in a bid to ramp up productivity with less human contact.
Ford is trialling a self-driving robot to deliver spare parts around one of its manufacturing plants. The robot, nicknamed “Survival”, can dodge unforeseen objects, change its route if obstructed and stop whenever necessary.
Developed entirely by Ford engineers, the company says it is the first of its kind to be used in any of the company’s European facilities.
“We programmed it to learn the whole of the plant floor so, together with sensors, it doesn’t need any external guides to navigate,” Eduardo García Magraner, engineering manager, at Ford’s state-of-the-art body and stamping plant in Valencia, Spain, where the robot is being trialled, said.
“When it first started you could see employees thinking they were in some kind of sci-fi movie, stopping and staring as it went by. Now they just get on with their jobs knowing the robot is smart enough to work around them.”
According to Ford, delivering spare parts and welding material to different stations around the plant is a crucial element in keeping Kuga, Mondeo and S-MAX production going. For Ford workers though, the task is time-consuming and relatively mundane.
In a statement, the company said the robot does not replace employees but can save up to 40-employee hours every day by taking over this role, allowing operators to use their time on more complex tasks.
The robot is equipped with an automated shelf that has 17 slots to hold materials of different weights and sizes. To avoid errors, the opening and closing of these slots is automated, meaning operators in each area only have access to the materials assigned to them.
“Survival” is one of a number of smart robots employed in Ford’s European facilities, including the “Robutt” and co-bots in Cologne, Germany. The self-driving robot uses LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology to visualise its surroundings, a technology also used in Ford’s prototype autonomous vehicles.
DB Schenker and Einride have received approval from the Swedish Transport Agency to pilot driverless electric trucks on public roads.
In November last year, Einride and DB Schenker initiated the first installation of an autonomous, all-electric truck or “T-pod” at a DB Schenker facility in Jönköping, Sweden. It was the first commercial installation of its kind in the world.
“Autonomous trucks will become increasingly important for the logistics sector. Together with Einride, we are now able to introduce autonomous, fully electric trucks to a continuous flow on a public road – a milestone in the transition to the transport system of tomorrow,” Jochen Thewes, CEO of DB Schenker said.
On March 7 the Swedish Transport Agency and Einride conducted a so-called Site Acceptance Test (SAT) – a test under real-world conditions – at the facility in Jönköping.
The government agency concluded that the T-pod is able operate in accordance with Swedish traffic regulations. March 11, Einride’s application to expand the pilot to a public road was approved.
“Heavy road transport is responsible for a substantial part of global CO2 emissions. The pilot in Jönköping is a small but important step towards a sustainable transport system. The permit from the Swedish Transport Agency is an important testimonial to the safety of the solution,” Robert Falck, CEO and founder of Einride said.
Daily transport between a warehouse and a terminal will commence during spring.
The permit applies to a short distance on a public road within an industrial area – between a warehouse and a terminal – where traffic speeds are typically low. The permit is valid until December 31, 2020.
Einride and DB Schenker initiated their partnership in April 2018. The agreement includes the pilot in Jönköping and an option for additional pilots internationally.
Ericsson and Telia provides the installation with high performance, 5G-based connectivity.
FedEx has announced a development in delivery solutions to meet the rapidly changing needs of consumers — the FedEx SameDay Bot — an autonomous delivery device designed to help retailers make same-day and last-mile deliveries to their customers.
With the bot, retailers will be able to accept orders from nearby customers and deliver them by bot directly to customers’ homes or businesses the same day.
FedEx is collaborating with companies such as AutoZone, Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens and Walmart to help assess retailers’ autonomous delivery needs.
On average, more than 60 percent of merchants’ customers live within three miles of a store location, demonstrating the opportunity for on-demand, hyper-local delivery.
“The FedEx SameDay Bot is an innovation designed to change the face of local delivery and help retailers efficiently address their customers’ rising expectations. The bot represents a milestone in our ongoing mission to solve the complexities and expense of same-day, last-mile delivery for the growing e-commerce market in a manner that is safe and environmentally friendly,” Brie Carere, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for FedEx said.
The FedEx bot is being developed in collaboration with DEKA Development & Research Corp. and its founder Dean Kamen.
Balancing automation with human workers, the impact of chatbots on an employment brand and a widening talent mismatch are among the trends that will shape the recruitment market in 2019.
Organisations in Australia want to position for growth in 2019. With demand and supply issues intensifying, they’ll need to up the talent ante to achieve growth while striking the right balance between technological integration and human skills.
Our ten top talent trends for 2019 are:
- The integration of the ‘human’ factor within successful automation deployment
‘Could a robot do my job?’ This was a common question asked in 2018, but with employers now focused on the optimal balance between human workers and robotic automation the question for 2019 becomes: ‘How will automation be integrated into my role?’ As Elon Musk admitted in 2018 on Twitter in response to delays in manufacturing Tesla’s Model 3 sedan, “Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake… Humans are underrated.” Organisations are learning from such mistakes and, in 2019, will look for the most effective, ethical and value-adding amalgamation of automation and staff beyond simply the most productive.
- Taking employees on the AI change management journey
Once the decision is made to introduce robotic automation or artificial intelligence to drive operational efficiency, organisations will need to engage their employees within a robust and considered change management plan to mitigate risk of implication on morale. It’s important that this is done in a way that alleviates the perceived threat that many workers see such technology posing to their livelihood. Part of this involves talking about the rationale behind it, and explaining how it can help individuals perform their job and potentially develop their career through learning new skills.
- The retention benefit of digital upskilling to be realised
With major brands such as Walmart already investing in the digital upskilling of their staff, expect constant learning to become mainstream in 2019. Whilst upskilling existing staff provides an organisation with a pipeline of employees who can fill current skill gaps, an arguably greater benefit comes in the form of an employee benefit that staff actually want to receive and will stay for. According to our 2018-19 Hays Salary Guide, 59% of Australian workers want a job offering ongoing learning and development opportunities. This is behind only flexible work practices and career progression.
- Big data gets bigger
Big data is no longer the exclusive domain of big business, with technological barriers falling away as more and more off-the-shelf data management tools close the gap with enterprise level organisations. Organisations of all sizes will be able to rely on big data for business insights. In 2019 the focus will be on recruiting talent who can capture more information from an increasing number of data points, such as the Internet of Things (a market that will double by 2021) and previously unused dark data, but, crucially, also derive actionable insights from that data. We also expect to see greater regulation surrounding data protection and privacy, which will impact the skills employers require.
“Once the decision is made to introduce robotic automation or artificial intelligence to drive operational efficiency, organisations will need to engage their employees within a robust and considered change management plan.”
- The lure of chatbots, the potential impact on an employer brand
The use of conversational artificial intelligence within the recruitment process will rise in 2019, but organisations will need to assess and address the potential impact on an employer brand. The technology now exists for an organisation to use advanced chatbots to offer personalised responses to initial candidate telephone enquiries and common queries based on set rules and algorithms. While the automation of such conversations can free hiring managers to focus on non-routine job tasks, organisations will need to consider its impact on their employer brand – and if the caller should be informed that they’re not talking to a person.
- Diversifying diversity
The business benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce and workplace are becoming more widely understood, but various surveys show that in 2019 organisations will want to accelerate the pace of change to achieve genuine results in this area. The focus will also shift to diversifying diversity, or in other words, to widening terms of reference to cover more demographics, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, people living with disclosed disabilities, people who identify as LGBTIQ+, and mature-age.
- Failure to offer flexibility creates an attraction and retention drawback
Few professionals work 9-5 anymore, but the concept of set hours every day was heavily under the spotlight in 2018. An Irish study of 1,000 workers found 32 per cent would accept a longer workday for a shorter working week. Meanwhile, a New Zealand financial firm, Perpetual Guardian, allowed workers to work a four-day week following a trial that found it improved productivity and reduced stress. With more employees considering flexibility – of hours or place – the norm, any organisation that doesn’t review its flexible working policies will face an attraction and retention shortcoming in 2019.
- Beware the talent mismatch
Australia’s talent mismatch, between the skills jobseekers possess and those employers want, will expand even further after growing for the past five years. Despite an existing pool of labour, in 2019 employers will find it harder to hire people with the expertise they need, particularly in high-skill industries and for roles that require highly skilled professionals, such as IT, engineering, financial services and professional services. This will lead to employers exploring a wider range of talent attraction and retention strategies in 2019.
“Given increased technological change and the fast-paced nature of today’s world of work, employers look for candidates who can think strategically to leverage new technologies, trends and opportunities.”
- Focus on specialisation and strategic thinking
Employers will focus on expanding their teams with deep expertise and wide perspectives. Given increased technological change and the fast-paced nature of today’s world of work, employers look for candidates who can think strategically to leverage new technologies, trends and opportunities to add greater value and benefit the organisation.
- A need for stakeholder engagement skills
Technological disruption will increase the requirement for all departments to possess staff with strong stakeholder engagement and management skills. Organisations will look for staff who, in addition to possessing the necessary technical skills a role requires, can also understand and improve engagement with internal and external stakeholders.
Nick Deligiannis is the managing director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand. For more information visit www.hays.com.au.
Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh
Mobile robotics in material handling and logistics will become a $75bn market by 2027. It will then more than double by 2038. These staggering headline figures mask turbulent transformative change underneath: some technologies will rise and transform the fortunes of industries, fuelling growth rates far outpacing recent trends, whilst others will face with decay and obsolescence. We are at the beginning of the beginning of a transformative change, and the time to plan is now.
The IDTechEx Research report Mobile Robots & Drones in Material Handling & Logistics 2017-2037 focuses on all aspects of mobile robotics in material handling and logistics. In particular, we consider the following: automated guided vehicles and carts (AGV and AGC); autonomous mobile vehicles and carts/units; mobile picking robots; last-mile delivery ground robots (droids) and drones; and autonomous trucks and light delivery vans (level 4 and level 5 automation).
Incumbents face obsolescence?
AGV are a mature technology that can safely transport payloads ranging from several kg to multiple tonnes, essentially acting as semi-rigid distributor conveyer belts covering large areas. Their navigation technology is evolving. Today, multiple options are available ranging from the low-cost wire or magnetic tape guidance to the increasingly popular laser guidance. All, however, follow rigid guide points, thus requiring some degree of infrastructure modification and extended onsite installation. This industry is showing healthy, albeit small, grow rates.
This gives an illusion of security to this mature, highly fragmented business where price competition is rise. The next generation navigation technology – infrastructure-independent flexible autonomy – has the potential to shatter this illusion. This new technology, whilst appearing just as the next natural step in navigation technology evolution, requires a whole-scale change in the software side of the robots, giving an opportunity to new challengers to enter and to fully redraw the competitive landscape.
Forklifts will never be the same?
Navigational autonomy will induce a colossal transfer of value from wage bills paid for human-provided driving services towards spent on autonomous industrial vehicles. This, in turn, will fuel the growth in this material handling vehicle industry (e.g. forklift), creating significant revenues over a business-as-usual scenario. This is despite our technology roadmap showing that hardware commoditisation will slowly devalue such driving services particularly in high-wage regions.
AGV barely made a dent in this industry. This is because their navigational rigidity put a low ceiling on their total market scope, keeping them as a small subset of the warehouse/factory automation business. Autonomous mobile robots are radically different, however, because they will ultimately enable automation to largely keep the flexibility and versatility of human-operated vehicles.
Our model suggests that autonomous forklifts, for example, will remain a tiny share of the global addressable market until around 2023 but will soon after enter the rapid growth phase, causing a transformation of the industry and dramatically raising adoption levels to as high as 70% by 2038.
Mobile picking robots will learn, fast
Navigational autonomy will induce a colossal transfer of value from wage bills paid for human-provided driving services towards spent on autonomous industrial vehicles. This, in turn, will fuel the growth in this material handling vehicle industry (e.g., forklift), creating significant revenues over a business-as-usual scenario. This is despite our technology roadmap showing that hardware commoditisation will slowly devalue such driving services particularly in high-wage regions.
Disrupting the last mile delivery using mobile ground robots
Last mile delivery remains an expensive affair in the parcel delivery business, often representing more than half of the total cost. Its importance is also growing thanks to a change in the composition of total deliveries with B2C deliveries rapidly taking on a bigger share. E-commerce companies are also pushing next-day and now same-day services hoping to take away that last stronghold of bricks-and-mortar shops: instant customer fulfilment.
Autonomous mobile delivery robots are currently small slow-moving units that will need to return to base to charge. They often need close supervision and can only operate in sparsely-populated and highly-structured environments such as university campuses or special neighbourhood. They therefore are unproductive and easy to dismiss as gimmicks.
This is, however, only the beginning of the beginning. Our cost projections in the report suggest that these mobile robots can indeed become low-cost. The robots are now in the trial and learning phase, gathering more data and optimising the navigational algorithms. They will become increasingly more adept at path planning, even when GPS signals fail, and at object avoidance. The increased autonomous mobility capability will in turn enable a lower operator-to-fleet-size ratio, furthering boosting overall fleet productivity.
Delivery drones: publicity stunt or a game changer in instant fulfilment?
The idea of drone delivery sharply divides commentator opinion: some dismiss it as a mere publicity stunt whilst others consider it a game-changer that will bring near instant product fulfilment to e-commerce, stripping traditional shops of their last major differentiator.
Drone delivery faces critical challenges. Individual drones offer limited productivity compared to traditional means of delivery. They can only carry small payloads and battery technology limits their flight duration, constraining them to around 30min radius of their base whilst further lowering their productivity due to the downtime needed for re-charging/re-loading. Safety is a potential showstopper with many accidents waiting to happen.
Drone delivery however is still in its infancy. Its short-term potential, we find, has been exaggerated. However, the technology has long-term future, particularly within the context of the bigger trend to automate as much as of the logistic chain as possible.
Indeed, we find that delivery drone sales will remain limited until 2027/28. Demand will then start to taking off in remote or sparsely-populated (e.g. suburbs), ultimately enabling companies to establish large accumulated fleets. Despite their ultimate rise, however, drone delivery will remain only a small part of the much bigger commercial drone story.
Trucking: a large attractive business to autonomise?
Trucking is a big business. In the US, the trucking industry revenues are in excess of $726bn. This is the equivalent of combined revenues of Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Baidu and then some (a lot) more. It is also a big employer: the US Bureau of Labour Statistics suggests that 1.79m people work in this sector driving 7.2m trucks for inter-city freight transport earning an average salary of USD 41,300/year. No wonder this is a hot topic now then.
Trucking is also potentially an easier target than general passenger cars. This is because it spends much of its time in intercity roads that are less congested and less sinuous than city ones. The driver may remain in the vehicle, but the commercial inventive, even in this hybrid approach, exists because it may justify a relaxation of the rulebook which limits driving hours. This can therefore boost driver productivity and asset utilization.
Our forecasts and technology roadmaps show how different levels of automation (level 4 and 5) will rise and fall in trucking over the next twenty years. Our forecast model has detailed projections for the future cost of automation hardware systems (Lidar, radar, IMU, GPS, PC, etc.) based on historical learning curves of similar technologies.
Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh is research director at IDTechEx.
Worldwide industrial logistics robotics markets are increasingly diversified, poised to achieve significant growth in every industry segment. As production of goods and services embrace automated process, logistics robots are being used to adapt conveyor belts, end of the line tasks, and loading to a flexible systems approach.
Industrial logistics robotics projects are ongoing worldwide with an emphasis on end to end process automation. The key to industrial robots implementation is keeping costs down.
The robots can improve productivity, efficiency and quality, and their main advantage is that they are not human: they require no sleep or food, and do not make mistakes, especially in repetitive tasks.
A study has found robots add competitive value and can be specialised in terms of navigation, application, geography, landscape and analysis.
Beyond industrial logistics robots that repeat actions, more intelligent robots are loaded with sensors, able to automate process using processors and cameras to control action. Use of microprocessors provides a measure of intelligent control over the activity of the robot based on input from the sensors and the cameras.
The logistics robotics industry had a fast start in 2014. Growth is fuelled by strong demand from manufacturing companies in all sectors for complete end to end automation of process.
Industrial automation works with companies of all sizes. It works in all industries and for any application. The aim is to ensure innovative end to end solutions, to meet needs and provide flexibility to accommodate expanding needs.
Quality is a cornerstone of industrial robotic systems. Vendors have assembled teams of experienced engineers and technicians.
The aim is to design, build, program, and maintain the highest-quality robotic systems. The teams consistently work to find the right automation solution for every application.
ABB Australia announces the official opening of a new Regional Robotics
Packaging Application Hub in Singapore.
Reinforcing ABB’s position in robotics in Southeast Asia, the new hub
provides value-added engineering solutions in industrial manufacturing
processes tailored for the Asia market. The centre will function as a platform
to develop novel robotics manufacturing solutions in hardware and software to
benefit growing industries such as food and beverage, pharmaceutical, consumer
electronics, and solar photovoltaics.
The new hub will serve as a live learning and collaborative environment
through research and problem-solving from real industrial cases. ABB will also
collaborate with training industry partners and educational institutions to
help develop highly competent engineering talents to serve the region,
accelerating the growth of technical competencies locally and regionally.
ABB’s head in Singapore and the South Asia region, Haider Rashid
explains that robotics automation is revolutionising the face of manufacturing.
ABB looks forward to sharing its know-how and helping companies become even
more cost competitive while meeting the highest standards of productivity and
According to Lim Kok Kiang, Assistant Managing Director at the Singapore
Economic Development Board, Singapore’s Future of Manufacturing initiative aims
to position the country as the leading advanced manufacturing hub in the
region. The Board is therefore encouraging the manufacturing sector to
co-create and implement future manufacturing solutions in Singapore, leveraging
technologies such as advanced robotics and automation, additive manufacturing
and ICT solutions. By setting up its Regional Robotics Packaging Application
Hub, ABB has given a major boost to the country’s advanced manufacturing
An extension of ABB’s Robotics Application Center that was set up in
2010, the new 600m² workshop features demo units for picking, packing and
palletising processes. The facility will allow end customers, channel partners
and ABB to run trials with actual products, assemble robotics systems and
conduct factory acceptance tests before delivery.
ABB’s contactless robotics technology allows a high degree of hygiene,
accuracy and consistency in manufacturing. The robots’ speed and flexibility
allow fast changeover in products to meet customisation demands, while installation
in hazardous environments without lighting, heating or air-conditioning enables
businesses to be more efficient in their energy usage, also reducing employee
exposure to potential hazards and risks.
A world-leading manufacturer of industrial robots and robot systems, ABB
has the market’s widest range of robot-based packaging automation, including
specialised robots for picking, packing and palletising to meet the demands of
most packaging industry applications.
The new Industry 4.0 robot was launched by German robotics manufacturer KUKA
at the Automatica in Munich this year.
Designed to revolutionise the automation of materials handling, KUKA’s
Industry 4.0 robot, called the LBR iiwa, is a 7kg or 14kg payload robot that supports
the Human and Machine Cooperation (HMC) concept with features that allow the
new range to work without traditional safety fencing.
Greg Sale, CEO of KUKA Robotics Australia, who was in Germany for the launch, explains that the
user’s ability to start and stop the robot with a gentle touch of the hand
takes the whole operator/machine relationship to a new level.
Impressive features in the new generation Industry 4.0 robots include using
the sensitivity of the robot to check the correct weight of the product being
picked up; waiting for a product to bump it before picking it up, making redundant
the use of external sensors; or closing a machine door just like how a human
would, with variable force, all without the need for external or add on
Speaking about the safety factor, Sale recalled he was a little nervous the
first time he put his hand into the path of the LBR assembling two halves of a
gearbox; however the force was a gentle touch and the robot pulled back without
even leaving a mark.
LBR iiwa is the first
industrial robot to have force torque sensors on all of its seven axes.