Is 2016 the year of warehouse robots?

Cassie Stang

By Cassie Stang Business Development at King Solutions

Robotic technology in warehouses is nothing new, but with each passing year the industry seems to unveil new technology that makes the – perhaps inevitable – possibility of full warehouse automation closer to becoming a reality.

We’ve already seen a revolution of cloud computing take over warehouses, creating a new environment filled with updated best practices. As we are almost halfway through 2016, the advances in robotics beg the question: will this be the year that the scale tips in the direction of warehouse automation, or are human workers still the primary movers of the country’s products?

A closer look at the numbers
According to the last census, there are over 10,000 warehouses in the United States, and just looking at this year, employment numbers in the warehousing industry have increased month-over-month since January, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS recorded just over 841,700 warehouse employees (seasonally adjusted) in January. That number has increased to 853,000 in April.

Employment rates continue to climb in both the private and public sector and are expected to grow in the coming months, as well.

What about warehouse machines?
These numbers are hard to get an exact count on, but we know that they are quickly growing. Just last year, Amazon, the country’s largest retailer rolled out a new plan to add 30,000 kiva robots to its fulfillment and distribution centers. These robotic workers can do anything from fetching products for orders to cleanup and materials handling.

The company is also looking to heavily invest in drone technology in the coming years.

We aren’t quite there yet
While a few companies like Amazon are boosting their investment in autonomous robots for their warehouses, it’s not a revolutionary trend as of yet. Many smaller companies simply do not have the funds to invest heavily in these types of robotics. The technology, at least at this point, is still largely unproven on a large scale, and it doesn’t appear that warehouses are prepared to completely replace their human workforce.

If the growing number of warehouse jobs is any indication, the balance between the growth in robotic and human workers has remained stable.

Looking towards the future
When it comes to logistics, human relationships and interactions still reign supreme. It’s how our team at King Solutions help our shipping partners get ahead of their competition. We have a huge network of carriers, warehouses and other supply chain partners that help us help clients just like you.

Have you thought of partnering with a third-party logistics provider? Contact the King Solutions team today to begin a partnership that will take your shipping game to another level.