7 Key Warehouse Automation Trends

“Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) should be aware of the latest trends in the automation industry.”

In 2023, the warehouse for rent industry is poised for continued expansion, in tandem with the global and Thai economic recoveries. These recoveries are expected to bolster international trade, with additional support from the rebounding tourism sector, thereby driving consumer product demand and benefiting the manufacturing sector’s revival. Furthermore, domestic investment is receiving a boost from industrial estate projects, particularly within the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), as well as well-established supply chains in key Thai manufacturing sectors like automobiles, textiles, and clothing. Additionally, the trend of foreign investors relocating production facilities to mitigate risks arising from global geopolitical conflicts is significant. Most notably, the ongoing growth of the online trading industry is a major driver. These factors are inspiring entrepreneurs to expand their investments and increase warehouse space for rent to meet the anticipated ongoing demand. Today, EASETRACK will guide you through seven warehouse automation trends that are crucial for manufacturers to understand.

The global warehouse automation market has witnessed consistent growth over the last decade, and it is still undergoing significant shifts. Building on our analysis from the previous year, we have identified a list of new and ongoing trends that warehouse automation technology vendors are likely to encounter in 2023:

    1. Labor Shortages Drive Warehouse Automation Growth
    2. Supply Chain Challenges Continue to Impact Growth
    3. The rise of robots as a service
    4. Growing Demand for IoT and a Diverse Range of Automation Technologies
    5. Enhanced Emphasis on Safety Measures
    6. Maximizing Efficiency in Smaller Spaces
    7. Longevity and Maintenance of Warehouse Robots

These trends reflect the evolving landscape of the warehouse automation market in 2023 and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for technology vendors and businesses.

Trend 1: Labor Shortages Drive Warehouse Automation Growth

One of the prominent trends in the warehouse automation market is the persistent labor shortages, which continue to boost the adoption of automation solutions. While making substantial investments in warehouse automation may present initial challenges, the current tight labor market makes these investments highly rewarding in terms of return on investment compared to human workers.

This advantageous position positions your market for substantial growth in the coming years. To capitalize on this growth, it’s crucial to effectively scale your output to meet the increasing demands of your customers. Achieving scalability can be challenging, but there are opportunities for support through outsourcing arrangements with specialized companies experienced in handling these intricate automation solutions.

Trend 2: Supply Chain Challenges Continue to Impact Growth

The warehouse automation industry continues to grapple with supply chain challenges, which play a significant role in regulating its growth. While there’s some optimism on the horizon regarding the volatility in component availability subsiding, these challenges persist and remain a key factor shaping the industry’s trajectory.

The semiconductor industry, in particular, is at the forefront of these challenges, with substantial demand backlogs. However, securing all necessary raw materials remains a persistent issue, expected to persist throughout 2023. To address this challenge, companies can consider forging partnerships with organizations that offer robust supply chain services as part of their portfolio. While not a magic solution, this strategic choice can provide valuable insights for risk mitigation and facilitate the establishment of strong relationships with multiple vendors, thereby enhancing resilience in the production process.

Trend 3: The rise of robots as a service

As supply chain challenges continue to influence market dynamics, one strategy to combat these hurdles is reducing the barriers to entry into warehouse automation technology. If you haven’t explored this direction yet, it’s worth considering, especially if you’re seeking accelerated growth.

The practice of renting robots to customers, rather than relying solely on traditional sales contracts, isn’t entirely new in the industry. However, rising inflation is prompting potential customers to reevaluate their capital spending. Apart from cost savings, the flexibility offered by this option is highly appealing to new customers, relieving them of the responsibility for product maintenance. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to recognize a potential downside that providers often overlook initially: the logistical challenges associated with managing a repair and remand program.

When customers rent equipment, they may not exercise the same level of care as when they own it. Consequently, maintaining product longevity becomes more challenging. When considering this option, ensure you have a reliable partner capable of managing the necessary aftermarket care to keep your service running smoothly and meet customer expectations.

Trend 4: Growing Demand for IoT and a Diverse Range of Automation Technologies

With the increase in opportunities, a variety of technologies have been developed to complete customer projects, including:

    • Autonomous mobile robots (AMR)
    • Automated guided vehicles (AGV)
    • Collaborative robots or cobots
    • Warehouse drones
    • Conveyor systems
    • Specialized accessories for AMRs and AGVs

Each option is best suited to specific needs so if you specialize in one technology over another, you’ll likely have integrate with a technology you’re not familiar with. There are two options to make sure you’re providing the best output for your customers:

    1. Creating your own complete automation solutions that includes a variety of robotics solutions
    2. Buying other solutions off-the-shelf and integrating them into your system

While both options have their benefits, they also present hurdles to overcome.

When building your own complete solutions with a variety of robotics technologies, you ensure that your system is designed to work seamlessly from start to finish. This offering is particularly attractive to your customers because it lessens the concern of incompatibility issues. But it can be difficult to provide if your company specializes in one type of automation technology over another. If you’d like to build a solution completely owned by your company, partnering with an outside firm that provides design and development services is a great option. With this industry being relatively new, it’s important to make sure you look for a well-established company that has experience and expertise in this area.

Off-the-shelf options give you the ability to leverage the specialization of other companies so you don’t have to split focus and design additional elements for your system. When going this route, integration into an already established system can be more difficult and with supply chains as they are, product availability can be an issue.

Whichever option you choose, the wider variety of technologies is increasing the need to make sure everything is working together at peak efficiency for your customers. The solution for this is an increase in the number of sensors on bots to provide predictive analytics and monitor for preventative maintenance. To make sure you’re providing your customers with the information they need, partners are available to help you make sure their IoT needs are met.

Trend 5: Enhanced Emphasis on Safety Measures

As the number of robots operating in warehouse facilities grows, there is a heightened need for improved safety measures. The industry is shifting its focus towards using automation to handle labor-intensive and repetitive tasks, allowing human workers to engage in more meaningful and productive work. This shift is contributing to the mitigation of labor shortages in the industry. Consequently, the practice of keeping robots isolated and separated from human workers is gradually fading away.

While regulatory bodies like OSHA and others worldwide have been relatively slow in developing specific safety standards for human-robot interaction, having robots that are safe to work around is becoming a significant competitive advantage for automation providers. The need for close proximity to human workers has driven the demand for more sensors integrated into robots, AI-driven learning capabilities, and enhanced computer vision systems. These technological advancements are essential for preventing collisions and accidents in environments characterized by the unpredictable nature of human behavior.

Moreover, it’s crucial to recognize that any major injuries resulting from robot-related incidents can lead to substantial fines for the equipment user. Therefore, designing robots with safety as a fundamental consideration from the outset can be a critical factor differentiating your product from competitors’ offerings in the long run.

Trend 6: Maximizing Efficiency in Smaller Spaces

Even with signs of economic uncertainty, warehouse space is expected to remain at a premium in the coming year, which means you still need to make every square foot count for your customers. Tighter quarters mean the technologies deployed need to have an incredibly thoughtful initial design. And when things get smaller, it often means they get more complex, which isn’t something that every provider is equipped to handle.

Making the choice early on to dig into design options that prepare your solutions for working in a smaller square footage is a great way to get ahead of the competition. If in-house expertise isn’t available to devote time to this trend, then outside resources are available. The best resources are ones that not only help you with initial design plans, but can help you all the way through manufacturing so that you are set up for efficiency right from the beginning.

Trend 7: Longevity and Maintenance of Warehouse Robots

Speed-to-fulfillment requirements are now a standard in warehouse automation systems, which means downtime needs to stay at a minimum. A few factors impacting this trend are better power storage, rigorous design and field testing, easily repeatable manufacturing processes and manageable aftermarket services.

It seems that all of these are obvious ways to ensure reliability, but testing inadequacies can account for a variety of failures in the field. And these don’t happen due to a lack of trying, but for a lack of knowledge of all the factors that can contribute to the failures once the robots are in the field. To ensure you’re in the right position to get ahead of the competition, the best way to overcome these issues is to make strategic relationships with companies where you can outsource some of this work. Those partnerships should be with companies that supplement your individual product expertise with experience in the industry as a whole to ensure that your testing finds issues before they happen in the field.

Even with extraneous amounts of testing, at some point, robots will fail in the field. Another way to ensure your robots last longer is to have a seamless aftermarket service offering so that you can keep your customers going. This too, is a great area for outsourcing, especially if you have companies that are already partnering with for the rest of your product development needs. That way, you can ensure that they have the knowledge to manage your repairs without slowing down your customers.

Getting Ahead of Warehouse Automation Trends

In the rapidly evolving landscape of warehouse automation, prioritizing trends can be challenging. To maximize your business’s success, consider focusing on the trends that offer the greatest advantages in meeting your customers’ demands. Whether you choose to prioritize labor shortages, supply chain resilience, robotics as a service, IoT integration, safety enhancements, space optimization, or robot longevity, having a strategic partner can play a pivotal role in your journey.

At EASETRACK we have more than 10 years of experience working in the warehouse industry. So when you need someone with experience We’re ready to help guide you to the best possible success now and in the future. Please contact us, let us be your assistant in your work.

Credit: www.plexus.com

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