Robots in Logistics: What Will Humans Do?

According to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), a record number of robots were shipped to companies last year, with more non-automotive companies installing robots than ever before. Almost 36,000 units were shipped in 2018, a 7 percent increase over 2017, with shipments to non-automotive companies up 41 percent. The fastest-growing industries included food and consumer goods (48 percent), plastics and rubber (37 percent), life sciences (31 percent), and electronics (22 percent).

“While the automotive industry has always led the way in implementing robotics here in North America, we are quite pleased to see other industries continuing to realize the benefits of automation,” Jeff Burnstein, President of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) said. “And as we’ve heard from our members and at shows such as Automate, these sales and shipments aren’t just to large, multinational companies anymore. Small and medium-sized companies are using robots to solve real-world challenges, which is helping them be more competitive on a global scale.”

As companies use more and more robots in their manufacturing and logistics operations, what will the role of humans be?

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For related commentary, see Amazon Tests Robots for Warehouse Item Picking