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Record robotic sales

According to the World Robotics 2020 – Service Robots report, published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the sales value of professional service robots increased by a remarkable 32% to $11.2 billion worldwide in 2018-19.

And it’s likely that sales will have risen strongly over the course of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen demand for robotic disinfection solutions, robotic logistics solutions in factories and warehouses or robots for home delivery boom.

While in terms of value the sales of medical robotics accounted for 47% of the total professional service robot turnover in 2019, the market value of logistics robots sold or leased shot up by 110% to almost $2 billion.

Autonomous mobile robots are being used in warehouses and with investments in service robots for logistics being repaid within 2‐3 years, and often much quicker, there’s no surprise that businesses are looking to invest in the latest technology.

The use of logistics systems in non-manufacturing industries has been strongly driven by retail and warehouse solutions for major e-commerce companies.

For example, Ocado continues to morph into a technology business and recently acquired two US companies to boost the firm’s ‘robotic manipulation capabilities’, paying £200 million for Kindred Systems and £20 million for Haddington Dynamics.

However, technology doesn’t always come up with the solution. Walmart has dropped its plans to use roving robots to scan shelves and keep track of inventory, ending years of effort on the part of the world’s largest retailer to automate the task – in fact Walmart now has more workers walking its aisles to package online orders and manage inventory problems.

According to research the deployment of robots isn’t the biggest worry for workers – many of whom are transferred to new roles – but rather it’s how robots change the nature of work.

The pace of work is accelerated and it’s the software that manages automation that seems to be of most concern to workers.

Many have been angered by automated management and the scheduling algorithms behind it, rather than the automation per se, and believe that the real problem lies with how this software fails to provide them with the time and space for basic human needs.

It’s about the here and now and for many people, who are having to contend with this new industrial revolution, that seems to have been forgotten by the tech evangelists promoting this brave new world.

Author
Neil Tyler

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