Automation is increasingly driving supply chain efficiencies, with 51% of 900 companies surveyed by logistics industry group MHI and Deloitte saying that robotics and other automation tech is the key to disrupting or competing in their industry—up from 39% last year.
Those technologies have surpassed inventory or network management tools, cloud computing, and sensors as those most important to operations. Most survey respondents said they plan spending of more than $1 million on emerging technologies in the next two years, with 12% saying they’ll invest more than $10 million and 3% planning to invest more than $100 million.
More than a third (35%) of survey respondents said they’ve already incorporated robotics into their logistics, and their ranks could increase to 74% in the next six to 10 years, according to the report.
As e-commerce and omnichannel sales continue to put pressure on retail operations, supply chains are stretching the limits of human workers in warehouse and fulfillment logistics. This pressure has seen Amazon, for example, demand super efficiency while dealing with warehouse theft and other issues.
Enter robotics and other automation technologies, which can speed up operations, thwart theft and minimize safety concerns. And while wage pressures are rising, the costs of automation are falling, according to the report.
Robots in particular appear especially helpful in decreasing costs and speeding up operations. “While the vast majority of forwarders agree technology is the future of freight, they see many types of technology as over-hyped,” the report said. “Warehouse robotics are the only innovation that a majority consider will have a profound impact on the industry.”
Those failing to invest could be left behind.
“The speed at which supply chain innovation is being adopted coupled with rising consumer expectations for anytime, anywhere service is stressing traditional supply chains to near-breaking points,” MHI CEO George Prest said. “Companies that continue to rely on traditional supply chain models will struggle to remain competitive and deliver orders that are complete, accurate and on-time.”