The global piece-picking robots market size was worth USD 400 million in 2022. It is anticipated to reach an expected value of USD 32,132 million by 2031, registering a CAGR of 62.8% during the forecast period (2023-2031). The number of time employees spends moving around the warehouse accounts for roughly 50% of the total pick time and more than 50% of all operational costs, according to inVia Robotics Inc. In addition, finding and keeping employees in today's competitive labor market is challenging, frequently leading to a costly cycle of hiring and training temporary workers. These factors together are what's driving the market's expansion.
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A Shift from Full-case or Pallet Picking to Piece Flow and Enhanced Technology Investments
The most significant variation in piece-picking is the variety of items that must be handled. Cases are boxes, their size may vary, but they remain boxes. Pallets have standard types, so picking them up is consistent. Enabling robots to manipulate the broadest range of everyday items in the wake of consumer expectations for on-demand retail options fuels the change in mix toward pieces or items. Investment in e-commerce infrastructure, omnichannel fulfillment, and smaller format stores closer to consumers is how current retailers respond to needs. And this refers to more pieces getting handled upstream than a traditional store flow. This is further complemented by warehouses' need to minimize travel distance, maximize the use of space, minimize pick errors, and minimize injuries, thus leading to developments in piece-picking robots.
Further drivers leading to the development of sophisticated piece pickers in the last few years have been attributed to the low cost of computing, robust yet lower-priced sensors, Microsoft's open Windows API, etc. Then, investments across widespread availability of good quality, low-cost sensors (toward depth cameras, GPUs, etc.) have led to Growth in robotic arms commercialization with collaborative versions. The value of new software tools, including those for machine learning and cloud data management systems, has shortened development cycles and reduced costs to offer real-time visibility to drive continuous improvements for systems deployed in the field.
Slower Speeds, Reliability Issues, and Inability of the Grippers to Deal with Unusual Items
The main limitations of robotic piece picking across its limited deployments have been observed as the slow speed relative to human pickers, the inability of the vision system and gripper to deal with unusual items, and the overall reliability of being fully autonomous. For instance, a robotic picking arm may need three items in a bin to fill an order. If the bin presented only has two items, the robotic arm and its vision system need supporting software to resolve such exception cases by initiating a logical action.
The companies currently working on piece-picking systems have demonstrated partial success in picking individual items out of totes. The other half caters to numerous issues in deploying such systems at scale. Additionally, because the existing articulated piece pickers are stationary, totes must be transported to them via a shuttle, conveyor, etc., to be picked up for orders. Such a consideration would result in additional costs due to redesigning the warehouse or building an entirely new facility. Another problem is that the current generation of factory-based robotic arms performs specialized tasks using grippers made to hold particular objects. A human hand's sensitivity and adaptability demand tremendous computational power.
Increasing Investments in Automation
The market under study is driven by the expansion of e-commerce globally and the rising demand for adequate inventory and warehousing management. Automation in warehousing provides the utmost convenience by lowering overall business expenses and minimizing errors in product delivery. DHL, a well-known 3PL company and a significant end-user of warehouse automation solutions, claims that 80% of warehouses are still manually operated despite the benefits. Furthermore, 15% of all warehouses employ conveyors, sorters, and pick-and-place systems.
Additionally, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the development of a network of interconnected systems assist businesses in carrying out a wide range of tasks, including material batching, picking, ordering, packaging, warehouse security, and inspection, as well as significantly increasing operational efficiency. For instance, IFR estimates that the operational stock of industrial robots will increase from 2,408 (in thousand units) in 2018 to 3,788 (in thousand units) in 2021. For instance, the largest retailer in the world, Alibaba, upgraded to robotic labor in one of its warehouses, resulting in a 70% reduction in the labor force and opening up opportunities for a highly skilled workforce. Such developments fuel the market's expansion.
The global piece picking robots market is segmented by robot type, end-user vertical, and region.
The global piece picking robots market is segmented by robot type into collaborative, mobile, and others. The collaborative robots segment dominated the market and is expected to register a CAGR of 62.4% during the forecast period. Collaborative robots help humans do their jobs more accurately by directing warehouse staff to suitable pick locations and using UPC scanning, reducing human error. According to HMC Investment Securities, the size of the global cobot market is anticipated to be around USD 12.8 billion by 2025. Although the collaborative robot market is still young, it is expected to grow over the next ten years. Robots that can safely work alongside humans are referred to as collaborative robots, and these machines are becoming more advanced and practical inside and outside factories. Collaborative robots are becoming more capable while also getting more affordable and accessible. These two factors will play a significant role in the market's anticipated explosive Growth. Cobots can pick up a variety of objects, even in unstructured environments like bins or totes, thanks to their advanced grippers, computer vision, and machine-learning systems. E-commerce, fulfillment, warehousing, logistics, and supply chain processes are made simpler, quicker, and more efficient by easily integrating SKU scanning and the capacity to pick up pouches or products of almost any size or form. All such factors drive segment growth.
The mobile and others segment is the second largest. Mobile robots or autonomous mobile robots (srs) differ from AGVs by their degree of autonomy. There are two types of srs, based on fleet management and the ones that rely on picking optimization. The fleet management solutions operate with bigger payloads, while the pick optimization robots are designed to increase picking throughput and, consequently, have a smaller payload. This domain is driven by the Growth of e-commerce and is, hence, witnessing rapid demand.
By End-User Vertical, the global piece-picking robots’ market is segmented into pharmaceutical, retail//distribution centers/warehousing/logistics centers, and other end-user verticals. The retail/warehousing/distribution centers/logistics centers occupied the largest market share and is anticipated to witness a CAGR of 62.6% during the forecast period. Robotics in retail is becoming essential for companies to transform and respond to rapidly changing market demands. Companies such as Amazon, Bossa Nova, and Brain Corp are some of the companies increasing the demand. Various organizations worldwide are adopting robotics automation in their warehouses to reduce the capital spent on labor. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers, were under pressure to keep up with rapidly evolving supply chains and customer habits. Retailers like Amazon.com and Walmart already use mobile robots in their warehouses and retail stores. Consumer expectations for on-demand retail options are driving the change in the mix toward items or pieces. Due to such trends, retailers respond by investing in e-commerce infrastructure, omnichannel fulfillment, and smaller format stores closer to consumers. Today, many retailers and fulfillment centers test and integrate robotic piece-picking technology into their warehouses to stay ahead of the competition. Reportedly, Dutch grocery giant Ahold Delhaize, which has various US grocery brands, is working on robotic picking for online grocery orders fulfilled by its stores. All such applications drive segment growth.
By Region, the global piece picking robots market is bifurcated into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Rest of the World
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North America dominated the global piece-picking robots’ market and is expected to register a CAGR of 61.7% during the forecast period. The North American region has benefited from the piece-picking robots that integrate mobile robots and cobots in warehouses and e-commerce fulfillment centers. The majority of robots in the USA are imported from Europe and Japan (source: IFR, Sept 2020). Even though there are several significant robot system integrators. To understand the best applications from their viewpoints, the 3PL firms in the area are increasingly examining various customer profiles. Additionally, several trends are being noticed, like supporting hackathons, trend communities, and startup labs. For instance, DHL Supply Chain announced in 2018 a multi-year plan to invest $300 million in cutting-edge technologies for its operations in North America. At the same time, global logistics company DB Schenker in the US established a partnership with IAM Robotics intending to create a productive, effective, and completely flexible automated warehousing environment. Further, labor shortages and the need for quick turnaround, high expectations from DCs are expected. As warehouses have a high injury rate, as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the rate of recordable illness and injury cases in the warehousing and storage sector was 5.1 out of every 100 workers in 2017. Vendors in the area are trying to improve piece-picking robots to automate the current order-pick environment without changing the setup or disrupting it. Robots can assist human workers by cutting down on travel and acting as a pick-assist tool.
Europe is the second largest region. It is anticipated to reach an expected value of USD 9290 million by 2031, registering a CAGR of 63.7%, Growth in automation solution adoption in Europe, specifically the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, has led retailers, warehouse owners, fulfillment centers, etc., of all types a clear advantage in implementing modern order fulfillment strategies to address consumer behavior shifts. Rapid mobile commerce growth and expectations around same-day delivery for the broadest assortment of products have been identified as critical drivers. On the vendor front, with key European players and active Industry 4.0 implementations, the players have been focusing on increasing their deployments to multiple end-users. As of March 2020, RightHand Robotics (RHR), a North American provider of autonomous robotic picking solutions, announced an expansion in Europe by establishing a sales and business development office in Frankfurt, Germany. Therefore, the company's spokesperson identified such an action with multiple European customers and partners. Likewise, the RHR's German operation is expected to strengthen its business and expand its presence further as the market grows and its customer base deepens.
Asia-Pacific is the third largest region. Asia remains the most important market for industrial robots as per IFR 2020 World Robotics report, the region's operational stock hints that China's stock rose by 21% (y-o-y) in 2019. Similarly, Japan recorded 355,000 units, and India with 26,300 units in a similar period. It also added that robotic installations amongst top Asian markets are expected to be slowed down by 9% in China and 10% in Japan in the wake of the COVID-19 environment. Furthermore, the Yangtze River Delta region of east China is home to a strong foundation for the advancement of robotics, according to the Chinese Institute of Electronics (CIE). Numerous international robotics giants have established headquarters or offices in the Yangtze River Delta in Shanghai because of the formation of an agglomeration effect, Kunshan, Changzhou, Xuzhou, and Nanjing. Also, regarding the number of operating units and the value of shipments, Japan has consistently held the top spot in the world for robot exports. Development in the region is scattered across nations such as Japan and China (majorly), with a minimal yet growing Australian outlook. As the demand for e-commerce and product assortment rapidly increases, the need for piece-picking solutions is expected to grow significantly.
Major market players in the global piece picking robots market are