- Nigel Lahiri, Robotics Solutions Specialist
The Dilemma of Choice in the Logistics AMR Market
I recently came across an interesting book “The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less” written by American psychologist Barry Schwartz. In the book, Schwartz states “We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, …..in the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress”. The basic idea of too much choice leading to “decision making paralysis” made me reflect on what I see happening in the AMR (warehouse robotics) market. Why do I say that? Well, over the past 2 years, in my many interactions with retailers across Europe, I can categorically say that all of them are thinking about introducing some kind of robotic automation in their distribution operations. This is for good and perhaps obvious reasons; the two key ones being the availability and rising cost of labour, all at a time when fulfilment operations are becoming more process heavy with the growth of e- comm/omni-channel. The question is, why is it that retailers seem to be hesitant to push the button on AMR projects, especially in the UK? Is it perhaps “decision-making paralysis” caused by the ever- increasing choice in the AMR market? The AMR market has exploded in recent years; it seems that every week that goes by another vendor appears on the scene. Why is this? For a few years now analysts have been predicting that the market for this technology is going to be massive; some estimate as much as $10b rev with 347,000 AMRs being shipped by 2023. This has attracted significant investment, with eye watering amounts of cash being raised. This has naturally fuelled the rise in companies entering the market. The other part of the story is that not only has the number of vendors increased significantly, but also the variety of robots they manufacture which now support a wide range of fulfilment centre processes. Traditionally AMR technology has been focused on order fulfilment, but now AMRs can support all processes from in-bound to out-bound sortation, vehicle loading, returns processing and more. Within just order fulfilment itself,there’s a wide number of robotic options to consider based upon factors such as order profile, SKU range and storagedensity. The final area of choice relates to how you architect the software environment to support AMRs. Where should the functionality lines be drawn between the Transport Control System for the robots, the Warehouse Control System, the Warehouse Execution System, and the Warehouse Management System? Are these actually all separate systems or is there significant cross over?
So, if these bewildering choices are preventing retailers from rolling out what is likely to be essential technology in order for them to meet the ever-increasing demands of their customers and for their distribution operations to remain profitable and viable, help is needed in order to unblock the “decision-making paralysis”.
Logistex, a leading Systems Integrator, works with a number of AMR providers
and has 85 years of experience in helping its clients to optimise warehouse processes through the implementation of a variety of automation technologies. The team will use data analysis, as well as simulation and emulation, to advise which processes should be automated with what results, and can suggest the most appropriate form of warehouse robotics for your operation. Logistex provide complete life-cycle support from initial design concepts, to installation and project management, integrating the warehouse control software, and ongoing Engineering Support Services including maintenance and a 24/7 hotline.