Humans have an intuitive understanding of the movement of objects, and fine motor skills that give them a firm hold on key warehouse operations like packaging and stowing goods. And on jobs that many thought robots would grab.
Dematic, a global supplier of integrated automated technology, software and services to optimize the supply chain, has acquired NDC Automation, a provider of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and software in Australia and New Zealand.
The lift truck market in North America is at an all-time record high in the material handling industry. Total retail orders in all classes, excluding exports, totaled 225,534 units in 2015. It is the first year lift truck sales are higher than the industry's pre-recession level of 215,000 units in 2006.
Robert Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, likes to play a game he calls Find the Robot. As he goes about his everyday life - shopping, traveling through airports - he looks for machines performing tasks that humans once handled. Most of what he sees doesn't impress him.
With the progress of modern logistics as well as the growth in demand for replacing workforce by machinery, forklifts have become the most widely used tools for handling materials in logistics industry. In 2014, global forklift sales volume exceeded one million sets for the first time, representing a year-on-year increase of 7.5%; wherein, China sold 360,000 ones, up 9.4% year on year, still ranking first worldwide.
With robots like BigDog and the Terminator-like Atlas, Google's robotics efforts have been a smash success - if you measure by YouTube views and buzz. Amazon's work has been more behind scenes (apart from the widely discussed plans for delivery drones). But Amazon's energies in robotics have also had a more immediate payoff than Google's "moonshots." The differing philosophies illustrate how Amazon and Google have taken starkly different paths so far in the race to automate the physical world.
In a mock warehouse stocked with granola bars, breakfast cereal, sponges, and other household goods, a worker plucks items from shelves and places them in a plastic bin. The bin is set atop a small wheeled robot that follows the employee’s every step like a puppy.
Trenton, New Jersey, isn't the industrial powerhouse it once was, even if the slogan "Trenton Makes, the World Takes," first installed in 1935, still stands in 10-foot-tall letters across a bridge that spans the Delaware River to Pennsylvania. But a few minutes east of town, inside a warehouse belonging to Amazon, there are signs of another industrial transformation.