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Perspective: Applications of Robotics in Distribution and Logistics

Perspective: Applications of Robotics in Distribution and Logistics

This IDC Manufacturing Insights Perspective takes a look at robotics and the applicability of robotics in the distribution and logistics functions of the supply chain. Robotics has long held a role in the manufacturing supply chain; however, the role has remained limited in part due to cost constraints and capability limitations of robotics solutions. We are now seeing a greater level of interest and acceptance in robotics for new and expanded roles in the supply chain driven by advancements in the technology, enabling greater efficiencies and more flexible applications.

The use of robotics in the manufacturing supply chain is not a new concept, in fact, the first installation of industrial robotics took place way back in 1961 when GM installed the world's first industrial robot on a production line at its Ternstedt plant in Trenton, New Jersey. Since then, technology has continued to improve leading to far more sophisticated robotics which in turn leads to more applicability of robotics across supply chain functions. Considering functional applicability of robotics, in the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Manufacturing Supply Chain 2015 Predictions (IDC #253421, December 2014), IDC Manufacturing Insights predicts that By 2017, 80% of Manufacturers Will Be Re-Evaluating the Applicability of Robotics and Logistics Automation Technology Within Their Warehousing Networks.

By and large, the majority of industrial robotics installations are in place in the automotive manufacturing industry, largely driven by the fact that robotics have been in use in this space and specially designed for automotive manufacturing functions for as long as industrial robots have been in use. However, there is certainly an increase in industrial robotics installations across many other industries and, as Figure 1 points out, there is an overall increase in the number of industrial robots being shipped with compound growth of about 12% annually forecast through 2017.

Please Note: Extended description available upon request.

In This Perspective
Robotics in Distribution and Logistics
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Related Research
Table: Robotics by Segment Data, 2013
Figure: Estimated Annual Shipments of Multipurpose Industrial Robots, 2008–2014 and 2017
Figure: Professional Service Robotics Share by Application

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