Rise of the robots
With such rapid changes, the benefits of automating the storage and movement of goods throughout the supply chain are clear—lower cost to serve, increased efficiency, improved service levels and 24/7 service. Today, however, few are using robotics extensively or at scale.
The slow uptake of robotics adoption in warehouses, sorting centers and last-mile delivery is about to change. Spurred on by retail demand, demographic pressures and Industry 4.0, the global logistics robotics market is expected to grow from $3.9 billion in 2018 to $18.6 billion by 2026, a 21.4 percent compound annual growth rate.2
To adopt robotics at a faster rate, freight and logistics companies will need to figure out how to scale. Doing so is not without challenges: creating new operating and service models, reskilling employees, hiring roboticists to set up and install a robotics infrastructure, and monitoring and servicing the assets all require specialist knowledge and skills. In an already capital-intensive industry, buying and servicing robots—depreciable assets—also means acquiring additional expenses.
A new model: Robotics as a Service
How can freight and logistics companies rotate to robotics—and the new operating model it entails—quickly and efficiently? Robotics as a Service (RaaS) presents a path forward in acquiring robotics expertise while keeping the company focused on the core business and day-to-day operations.
RaaS allows companies to easily, cost-effectively and quickly access a range of robotics features and functionalities across the organization to gain full automation and cutting-edge capabilities. In a RaaS model, the robotics partner installs, maintains and services the robots, providing end-to-end life cycle services.
This service model shifts what would normally be a costly up-front capital expense to a periodic operational expense, paid only for the services required; there are even emerging granular RaaS pricing models, such as charging by the hour or by the robotic action performed. Similar to leasing fleets, robotics services can be flexed according to seasonal needs. With robotics experts on tap, companies can also benefit from the latest capabilities and upgrades as they become available to retain a competitive edge.
The potential benefits are significant. For instance, Rakuten Super Logistics is automating its U.S. warehouses by deploying robots using an opex model and leveraging a cloud-based RaaS management system. Rakuten Super Logistics expects to increase its e-commerce fulfillment and warehouse productivity by more than 300 percent as the solution scales.3
The road to rewards
As you embark on your robotics journey, there are four important areas to consider: