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Robotics Help Distribution Companies Improve Efficiency

Robots are becoming increasingly commonplace in distribution companies’ operations to increase automation and improve efficiency. Robotics can help distribute products more quickly and accurately, which can lead to increased profits and more. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the latest trend of using robotics, an advanced form of warehouse automation, to improve a distribution company’s bottom line.

Growth is at the core of why distribution companies look to warehouse automation to become more efficient in handling inventory, processes, etc. To recap, “Warehouse Automation” is the process of automating the movement of inventory into, within, and out of warehouses to customers with minimal human assistance, ensuring business-critical operations meet customer demand. When implemented, a Warehouse Management System (WMS) automates manual processes, data capture, inventory control, and supports data analysis. The WMS integrates with other solutions to effectively manage and automate tasks across different business and supply chain functions.

Although an investment, there are several benefits to incorporating robotics into your WMS and business operations.

Benefits Include:

  • Products are distributed more quickly and accurately
  • Automating monotonous processes to allow employees more time for important tasks
  • Increased profits
  • Higher customer satisfaction

However, it is important to consider the costs and benefits before deciding to invest in robotics heavily. Many distributors start with a small number of robots to test as a “proof of concept” before leaping to a full-blown robotics operation. Studies show distributors have spent the last few years in the testing phase, with 2022 seeing a spike in robotic sales.

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) reports that “North American companies started the year by purchasing the most robots ever in a single quarter, with 11,595 robots sold at a value of $646 million. That’s up by 28% by units and 43% in dollars over the first quarter of 2021, and 7% and 25% respectively over the previous best quarter, Q4 of 2021.”  In February of this year, A3 reported that industrial robot sales in North America had a record year in 2021.

Why the spike in sales? In today’s economy, distributors are feeling the pressure to get products to end-user customers quickly, but are met with labor challenges, tighter cycle time expectations, and so on. Therefore, distribution businesses of all kinds are now looking to robotic arm solutions integrated with autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), other automating robotics, software, devices, and more to accelerate overall operational efficiency.

A3’s statistics above are for industrial robots, which are primarily those with articulated arms that automate tasks such as selecting and placing goods, as opposed to AMRs, which have gained popularity with warehouse operations and materials handling in recent years.

The traditional idea that robots focus on narrow automation tasks is changing rapidly with this integration model of operations, and it looks like robots in the distribution industry are here to stay. What do you think?

If your distribution company is considering investing in robotics to help improve efficiency, be sure to do your research and speak with experts to determine if it is the right decision for you. Your NSA team is always here to lend an ear and offer advice on integrating robotics technology into host systems such as your Warehouse Management System (WMS) or Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP). Get in touch with us here or call us directly at 516-240-6020 to discuss this topic further.