Robots and automated solutions are gradually doing more of the work. Automation already enables more efficient logistics, but can it streamline the process all the way to the customer?
Automated delivery – is it already a reality?
69,000 new logistics robots were deployed in 2017 alone, with drones scanning items for stocktaking, automated pallet trucks moving loads around sites and pallet robots loading goods onto euro pallets. In other areas, full automation is still a long way off, for a variety of reasons: grasping items of different dimensions and/or with different textures, for example, still poses a problem for robots.
Generally speaking, the use of robots is problematic whenever the scope of applications goes beyond standardised parcels and a clearly demarcated site: on public land, the machines would have to coexist with pedestrians and other road users. There is simply no legal framework for many of the potential usage scenarios.
Combating the skills shortage with robots
Robots are flexible, faster than any human and offer a constant level of performance. Automated systems are therefore not only more efficient, but usually much cheaper too: experts estimate that the use of robots may reduce handling costs in the logistics sector by up to 40 per cent. Ultimately, automation could play a key role in solving the skills shortage.
Which model has a viable future?
In particular, more automation will be witnessed in repetitive tasks, with smart technology playing an increasingly important role. In the public arena, autonomous robots cannot operate smoothly without significant investment in infrastructure, artificial intelligence and public awareness. With parcel delivery, the human aspect is very important to many people and has an impact on customer satisfaction levels. Therefore, fully automated delivery is not within reach – and is not the aim. Using technology to support the work done by people is the key to success.
 WR 2018 Service Robots press release, International Federation of Robotics
 “Of Robots and Men”, Roland Berger, 2016
Socially aware vehicles
Driverless transport systems, such as the range of concept vehicles from BLG Logistics, can navigate warehouses on their own thanks to pre-programmed maps. The system reliably recognises human colleagues and uses Wi-Fi to communicate with other robots in the warehouse.
More and more companies are testing self-propelling delivery assistants. The robots, which look like cabinets on wheels, can carry dozens of parcels and help delivery personnel every step of the way.