CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 14, 2019
Forward Thinking

Demand for fulfillment robots to soar

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Global study predicts deployment of nearly 600,000 autonomous mobile robots for order fulfillment by 2023—excluding Amazon.

The global market for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) is expected to soar over the next five years, especially those used for order fulfillment, according to the 2019 Mobile Robot Market Report from Interact Analysis, released Wednesday.

The United Kingdom-based researcher says the market is reaching a tipping point, driven in large part by Amazon's heavy adoption of robotics and automation and the resulting need for retailers and logistics companies to keep pace. The report predicts that, excluding Amazon, companies will have deployed more than 100,000 AMRs for order fulfillment by the end of 2020, and that 580,000 are expected to be installed by 2023. 

As a result, makers of goods-to-person mobile robots—which includes companies such as GreyOrange, Swisslog, and Geek+—will see the highest growth in revenues, according to Ash Sharma, research director at Interact Analysis.

"With Amazon deploying Kiva's goods-to-person approach for order fulfillment, it's easy to see why others like GreyOrange, Geek+ and Quicktron have followed in its footsteps, and arguably have seen [the] greatest success so far," Sharma said in a statement announcing the release of the report. "Despite this, AMR vendors have emerged with a variety of different approaches and sub-approaches. The question over which technology or approach will 'win' is not an easy one to answer. All approaches are forecast for strong growth (albeit at different paces and timeframes), and the approach preferred will depend on a number of variables."

Sharma said makers of "person-to-goods" robots will see the second highest revenue growth over the next five years; these include companies such as 6 River Systems and Locus Robotics, which make robots that lead human workers through fulfillment centers to pick items off of shelves. Makers of piece-picking and sortation robots will experience lower, but still strong, revenue growth as well, Sharma said.

"While in every industry there are always winners and losers, right now it appears that the size of the untapped opportunity and the underlying drivers of demand are more than strong enough to support all the vendor types we see today, and as a result we expect very promising growth for the majority," he said.

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