Logistics labour shortage hastens robotics boom

The increase in logistics activity resulting from the surge in online retailing has undoubtedly been one of the few good news stories of the pandemic. But rapid increases in demand often result in pressure points and, in the case of logistics, a shortage of labour looms large among them.

Robotics has been identified as a solution but the instances of its use, although well publicised, are in the minority.

“The automation level within logistics warehouses is quite low – about 5% of warehouses globally currently have robots and those are the big ones like Amazon and some of the other large logistics players,” said Faisal Butt, CEO of proptech venture capital firm Pi Labs. “Most of the market is not automated and we think there’s going to be a huge growth opportunity over the next five to ten years.”

There is already a wave of new robot technology heading for market with huge potential for cost savings so a potential difficulty is making the right choices. WAKU Robotics, one of the firms that Pi Labs has invested in, exists to help companies to identify the most appropriate robotics vendors. “We do the robot solution design, if you like,” said WAKU Robotics Berlin-based joint CEO Sander Nijssen.

Nijssen explained that the price of robotics is coming down. “We’ve basically reached the automation tipping point where it becomes more interesting to automate from an economics point of view, than continuing to deploy manual workers.”

Click on the video above to watch the full interview or listen to the podcast below.