Robots are still a rare sight in public. But, in ultramodern parcel centres they have been sharing the packing for a long time now. In the foreseeable future, they could be rolling through the cities as parcel carriers and even improve the transport of goods in long-distance transport. Hanjo Schneider ventures a look at the future of logistics.
Where are robots already in use in logistics and order picking in the Otto Group?
Of course, at present everyone is talking about our Starship robots, which have delivered parcels for Hermes for the first time in August 2016. Robot delivery of real parcels to active customers – this was a true premiere in Germany! Behind the scenes, though, we have been using automatic systems in logistics for much longer. In our state-of-the-art parcel centres, for example, sorting has been largely automated for many years, thanks to digital high tech. At the Haldensleben location in Saxony-Anhalt, since mid-2016 Hermes Fulfilment has also been testing driverless “Weasel” vehicles, which significantly accelerate the picking of parcels.
Where will robots shape the future?
In my opinion, the topic of robotics is still in its infancy. At the same time, it is clear that robots will increasingly find their way into our daily lives – including in the Otto Group, in the field of parcel delivery or customer service. Chatbots are a good example of this.
What tasks will there still be for humans?
There’ll be enough! Let’s take the parcel delivery: a Starship robot, for example, can neither drive a transporter with more than a hundred parcels on board nor climb stairs. The machine doesn’t replace the classic carrier, it is simply not designed to do so. The fact is, however, that development is extremely rapid. We cannot imagine what robots might be able to do in 10 years. But robots will definitely not replace people in parcel delivery in the foreseeable future.
What other tasks can robots take over in logistics in the future?
If we define robots in a broader sense and add self-propelled transporters and trucks, the potential of such systems in logistics is definitely great. After all, millions of goods have to be moved day after day. Autonomous or at least semi-autonomous operating transporters could be a logical further development – not only in inner-city delivery, but also in long-distance transport at night. For the time being, however, autonomous transport systems are visions of the future, especially since there are still many open legal questions on legislator’s side.
What are the advantages of robots?
Robots work autonomously at best and can be used around the clock. This opens up entirely new possibilities for logistics in particular. A delivery request even at two o’clock in the morning would not be a problem with an appropriately equipped delivery robot. On-demand delivery is also easier and more targeted with automated systems, benefiting the customer.