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Flexible Robotics Come of Age for Intralogistics

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With less need for fixed infrastructure and the ability to work collaboratively with humans to scale up output, robotic solutions are less costly and more flexible to dynamic e-commerce fulfillment needs than the automation of the past. By Roberto Michel

There is a procession of new technologies poised to change the efficiency with which we do business, from Cloud computing and Big Data, to artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

All these technologies are breakthroughs for productivity, but what if one of the gamechangers at hand has been around for decades?

That game changer is robotics, and its breakthrough comes from new and more varied capabilities, smaller and mobile form factors, and lowered deployment costs, rather than being an entirely new technology.

Yes, the stationary robotic arms that have been used successfully for decades in sectors such as automotive remain useful, but the new gains in markets like distribution will come from smaller robots that can work collaboratively alongside humans, and mobile robotics that can wind through warehouse aisles to execute tasks more efficiently than human labor alone can.

“Robotics today are different than the robotics of the past,” says Tony Buckley, head of technology at Swisslog Warehouse & Distribution Solutions (WDS), which provides robotics solutions.

“For one thing, on the hardware side, costs have come down, so that makes them more cost effective to implement in more situations. Second, the type of robots we have now are different, with smaller collaborative robots and mobile robotics.

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