From warehouse automation to artificial intelligence at the POS: robotic solutions are of increasing importance for retail
Automation and robotic solutions are on the advance in retail. In some stores, robots are already employed at the POS — not only as eye-catchers but also as shopping assistants accompanying shoppers to the desired product. To retailers, robotics are currently of great interest especially for efficiency and cost-saving reasons, as well as to reduce the intra-logistics workload of employees.
Over the past decade, retailers have invested in their intra-company logistics and especially in the automation of recurring routine processes such as warehousing and in-house transport and order picking. At present, we see more robotic applications with artificial intelligence that help to handle more complex, changing workflows. The use of adaptable robots now resolves the previous conflict that automation is at the expense of flexibility.
Approximately 10% of the retailers surveyed in the current study “Use of Automation and Robotics in Retail” by the EHI Retail Institute (Cologne, Germany) stated that they use order-picking robots in intra-logistics such as robots that take the merchandise to the picker. In addition, some retailers use sorting and palletizing robots but do not rate these as robotics since they do not consider these systems as not intelligent enough.
Michael Feindt, a physicist and professor at the Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie (KIT) in Germany, explained at this year’s Robotics4Retail conference of EHI: “In retail artificial intelligence is hard to beat when it comes to decision making about frequently recurring processes as well as repeat orders or price mark-downs. Forty thousand articles in 1,000 outlets handled per day add up to 40 million decisions. These can be done by artificial intelligence in a much faster and targeted way and — in contrast with humans — without any emotions.”
Technological progress has allowed robots to make inroads in retail. However, their use only translates as success once employees accept the new technology. Employees must be able to realize the reduced workload that their machine colleagues bring. The aim is by no means to replace humans 100%. Quite on the contrary, thanks to their robot colleagues’ support, shop assistants will have more time for their shoppers.
Robotic solutions, as well as the complete array of innovative IT solutions specifically for retail, will be on show at EuroCIS 2018. The event will be held from February 27 – March 1 at the fairgrounds in Düsseldorf, Germany. For more information go here.