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February 4, 2019

The Rise Of Robots In Ecommerce

Automation has always brought upon changes in all sectors of business. Cloud computer systems allow for an improved ability to access and store data. Various manufacturing equipment advances have resulted in an increase in productivity and quality output. Robots in Ecommerce have also become common place recently.

Recently, Amazon have announced that it is bringing in its own take on commercial robotics.

They are launching ‘Amazon Scout‘, a service based around delivery robots. These machines are essentially large motorised tubs on wheels that will follow a specific delivery route. At first it is planned for human supervision whilst these machines do their deliveries. However, if it is proved to be successful then the machines will become unsupervised.

one of amazon's new delivery robots
Source: Amazon

It comes as no surprise that robots are increasing in influence in Ecommerce. After all, Ecommerce is digital retail so digitally advanced breakthroughs are very likely. Robots are deployed by online retailers for various reasons. Different reasons to make different parts of their Ecommerce activities easier (such as Amazon’s deliveries).

However, like with all advancements in technology, there is widespread scepticism. Amazon’s scout project has already been accused of trying to privatise public space. The loss of human employment is also another common worry whenever new technology is introduced into the workplace. Despite this, Amazon may have helped an important breakthrough in the delivery industry.  This breakthrough is likely to make delivery more resource and time efficient, making Ecommerce more profitable and accessible.

cotton spinning machinery , high speed operation with motion blur

Zalando have also proven to be a leading innovator in combining robots with Ecommerce.

It has invested 20 million euros in the German start-up Magazino, a technological institute who focus on  developing robotic solutions for Ecommerce distribution centres. Zalando describes it’s logistics network is the “engine room” of its operations. This is not surprising considering its 200,000 listed products and over 100 million annual ordersTherefore Zalando have identified the help new machinery could give their Ecommerce activities the efficiency needed to manage such a large operation.

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Magazino’s robots contain sensors and software that will allow them to work in Zalando’s distribution centre. Their role is to undertake the more physically demanding tasks in these centres, preventing the need for employees to do it instead (such as packing and moving heavy objects).  Zalando’s David Schröder says “We believe that bringing employees together with advanced technology will lead us to the best results”, “It can also be used in a flexible manner to support our employees in distribution centres.”

one of zalandos new logistics robots
Source: Zalando

Although currently it is mostly major multimillion (or billion in Amazon’s case) that can afford to dabble in robotic solutions to their commerce problems, the more influence AI has in the marketplace, the more common place it will become in Ecommerce. This will make it more accessible to companies regardless of size. Therefore it is only logical to foresee that the digital marketplace is only going to become more and more intensely digital as time goes on.