The Growing Influence of Mobile Robotics in the Logistics Industry

Mobile robots have seen remarkable growth in recent years, thanks to advancements in robotics technology, autonomous navigation, and artificial intelligence. According to a market research report by IDTechEx titled “Mobile Robotics in Logistics, Warehousing, and Delivery 2024-2044,” the logistics mobile robot industry is being shaped by technical, regulatory, and market factors.

One key trend highlighted in the report is the significant increase in funding for different types of mobile robots, ranging from mobile picking to intralogistics and material handling, from 2015 to 2022. This trend underscores the potential of mobile robots to automate various logistics operations such as material handling, material picking, long-haul distribution, and last-mile delivery. While some applications, like automated guided vehicles (AGVs) for material transport, have already reached a mature stage and are generating billions of dollars in annual revenue, other applications such as drone delivery are still emerging and facing regulatory constraints and technological challenges.

Despite varying levels of market readiness, all segments of the logistics mobile robot industry are experiencing rapid growth, with technology giants acquiring start-up companies to enhance their capabilities. For instance, United Robotics Group acquired Robotnik, Amazon acquired iRobot, and Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) merged with AutoGuide Mobile Robots.

The IDTechEx report provides an in-depth analysis of the key products used in logistics operations, including AGVs, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), case-picking robots, mobile manipulators, heavy load autonomous mobile vehicles (AMVs), and last-mile delivery robots. It examines recent technology advancements and commercial transitions, such as Amazon’s fully autonomous mobile robot, Proteus, which is expected to drive the adoption of AMRs in warehouses.

The report also analyzes the technology components of mobile robots, including sensors like LiDAR, ultrasonic sensors, and cameras, as well as software such as computer vision, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), and navigation and sensing technologies. IDTechEx interviewed industry players to understand their technologies’ unique value propositions and how they address pain points, and to gather information on regulatory approvals, funding status, and flagship products.

One significant transition identified in the report is the shift from AGVs to AMRs. While AGVs rely on fixed infrastructures like magnetic tapes and QR codes for navigation, AMRs utilize SLAM technology, offering flexibility and reducing infrastructure costs. AMRs like Amazon’s Proteus are already being used in factories and warehouses. The report provides an independent analysis of how AGVs and AMRs can be effectively used in different scenarios.

Furthermore, IDTechEx offers a 20-year market forecast for mobile robotics in the logistics industry, providing insights into application areas and product categories. The report predicts that the annual market size of mobile robots, excluding L4 trucks, will reach approximately US$150 billion, presenting substantial opportunities for component suppliers, robot OEMs, and end-users.

Sources: IDTechEx – “Mobile Robotics in Logistics, Warehousing, and Delivery 2024-2044”