In an annual survey by logistics industry group MHI and Deloitte, 51 percent of respondents said robotics and automation are a source of either disruption of competitive advantage, up from 39 percent last year. Out of the 900 supply-chain professionals surveyed, more singled out those fields than technologies in wider use today, such as inventory or network management tools, cloud computing, and sensors.
The report comes as automation technologies are transforming supply chains from assembly lines in China to distribution centers in the U.S., adding pressure for traditional industries to work faster at lower costs.
Amazon.com Inc., for example, designs new fulfillment centers with robotics incorporated in the design. That helps the company save on fulfillment cost and time as rivals such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. are struggling to retro-fit their existing distribution centers.
About 35 percent of respondents said they had already adopted robotics into their supply chains, and that is set to grow to 74 percent in the next six to 10 years, the report said.
The survey also found that a majority of respondents now plan to spend more than $1m on emerging technologies in the next two years, with 12 percent saying they will spend more than $10m and 3 percent expecting to spend more than $100m.
In a separate survey of managers at freight forwarders by shipping software company Freightos Ltd., 68 percent said warehouse robotics would profoundly impact their industry. But only 49 percent saw 3D printers as having a major impact, and only 32 percent saw drones and self-driving trucks having significant effect.
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