When you think of the future, what do you imagine? Robots? Flying cars? Teleportation? When it comes to the world of logistics, you might get all three.
The future wouldn’t be the future without robots. As online retail grows, we’re going to need more of them. The US alone could experience an estimated shortfall of 25 million workers by 2030. No wonder Amazon purchased robotics company Kiva, developing robots that could move its warehouse shelves closer to its pickers.
Matthias Heutger, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Marketing and Innovation at DHL, sees that as just the first step:
“The big challenge is really can robots be able to pick themselves, which is much harder because simulating the human hand is the most complex thing to do, particularly when you have different shapes, different weights, different textures …”
The technology is really moving on. Take ‘Baxter’ by Rethink Robotics for example, an android so amenable its arms can be guided and positioned through simple, repetitive tasks.
Matthias sees the Baxters of this world, ‘collaborative robots’, as a hybrid solution to a very human challenge:
“… with collaborative robots. It’s different because in that case, it’s not either automated or manual … you can complement the human work with robotics technology.”
So, robots aren’t taking over as such, they’re simply a technology that’s being used to assist humans. And as we move further into the 21st century, that technology is getting smarter – and more useful.