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Exploring the AI-Driven Warehouse Frenzy

The once-quiet hum of the warehouse is being overtaken by a new rhythm – the whirring wheels and gentle beeps of mobile robots. As eCommerce booms and customer expectations soar, the pressure is on for faster, more efficient online purchase fulfillment.

Warehouse automation has mostly been taken on by big organizations with deep pockets, but growing accessibility and maturing vendors are allowing solutions to trickle down and grow through the market. 

According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, the global installed base of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) in warehouses will surpass 500,000 by 2030.

Mobile Robotics Market Development

"There are now many options to automate a warehouse. Both stationary and mobile automation solutions have continued to expand to new form factors and are becoming more effective as Artificial Intelligence (AI) processing grows," said Ryan Wiggin, industry analyst at ABI Research.

After their year in the spotlight with high-profile deployments at large organizations, AMRs from companies like Locus Robotics and inVia Robotics will seep further into the industry and be adopted by more Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The retail and wholesale warehouse sector has seen a lot of automation at the item and case level but not much at the pallet level. 

Autonomous forklifts from companies like Balyo, OTTO Motors, and Seegrid are now expected to see growing investment with more vendors entering the market in 2024 and beyond.

Meanwhile, new warehouse construction dropped by as much as 35 percent in 2023 compared to 2022 because of economic headwinds and demand shifts, with the reduction expected to continue into the first half of 2024.

According to the ABI assessment, as new warehouse construction potentially picks up later this year, incorporating automation into new builds will be top of mind for many organizations.

However, Europe could see much weaker growth in new warehouse construction as political pressure hinders the development of new buildings or facility expansions.

As a result, European investment in automation and space-maximizing infrastructure will be crucial to handle increasing product demand through productivity gains.

"While automation is of key interest, companies should continue to invest heavily in augmenting their manual workers with digital devices and wearables to boost worker experience while introducing automation for basic movement tasks," concludes Wiggin.

Outlook for Mobile Robotics Applications Growth

ABI analysts believe that the most efficient warehouses are those that focus on both areas.

That said, I anticipate this is where mobile robotics applications gain momentum, offering a transformative solution that's empowered by enhanced artificial intelligence technologies.

From zipping through aisles with picked items to autonomously loading delivery trucks, these intelligent machines are revolutionizing warehouse operations and delivering big improvements.

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