DHL: A disruptive wave is changing the supply chain

January 8, 2020

Will the year 2020 lived up to its expectations of a changed – and perhaps improved – world? Many long term strategies and visionary goals have been aiming at 2020, at least in Europe, creating a sense of profound transformation. However, while significant changes may not be visible everywhere, logistics and intralogistics are indeed witnessing a fundamental shift thanks to breakthrough technologies from autonomous mobile robot manufacturers – such as Gideon Brothers.

This shift is something that not only analysts are reporting, but companies as well, including global logistics, retail, and manufacturing leaders. For example, Markus Voss, DHL Supply Chain CIO and COO, has said that, when it comes to supply chain, “we are on the brink of major disruption,” reported Logistics Manager.

“We are seeing the disruption of the logistics industry and it is so exciting to shape what the future of the sector will be”, DHL's Markus Voss said.

While DHL has identified a total of 12 areas where new technology may bring tangible benefits over the short term, from wearable devices to process automation, Voss notes that indoor robotic transport is the segment that “will have the biggest impact for us.”

In a nutshell, DHL, just like many other global leaders, is looking for ways to get rid of the forklift wherever possible, as moving goods with a forklift is one of the most prevalent tasks in a warehouse – and one that is among the top causes for injuries.

“There is huge potential for us to replace forklifts and any type of movement with something that drives on its own. This makes for a much safer environment as well”, Voss said.

ABI Research, a global tech market advisory firm, said recently that the robotics market is “set to be transformed over the next ten years” with the booming mobile robotics segment overtaking the traditional industrial robotics market by 2022.

Rian Whitton, a Senior Analyst at ABI Research, notes that while self-driving passenger vehicles are what “everyone talks about,” mobile automation in intralogistics is “far more developed.” He added that the automation of material handling would mean robotics vendors and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) offering indoor autonomy will take over large segments of the forklift, tow truck, and indoor vehicle markets.

Whitton notes that automated guided vehicles (AGVs) – machines that need guidance systems of some sort, and are thus somewhat complicated to roll-out and update – are currently dominating this segment. However, autonomous mobile robot (AMR) manufacturers are beginning to scale up and are overtaking AGVs thanks to the declining costs of advanced navigation and increased flexibility that AMRs offer, said Whitton in a press release from ABI Research.

"While AGVs will thrive in intralogistics for fulfillment, especially in greenfield warehouses, AMRs solve the challenges faced by many end-users by offering incremental automation that does not require a complete change of environmental infrastructure.”
Rian Whitton, Senior Analyst at ABI Research, a global tech market advisory firm

The company forecasts that in 2030, a total of 2.9 million AMRs will be shipped, compared to 2.5 million of guided vehicles, which are likely to remain a primary choice for greenfield facilities. AMRs, on the other hand, offer “incremental automation,” allowing the end-user to avoid a complete change of environmental infrastructure, Rian Whitton explains.

As a sign of how profoundly material handling is going to change, ABI Research notes the forecasted surge of shipments of new vehicle-types such as automated forklifts. The company expects a CAGR of nearly 60% for these machines, from 4,000 in 2020 to 455,000 in 2030. For the entire mobile robotics market, ABI Research expects total revenues exceeding $224 billion by 2030, while industrial and collaborative systems are forecasted to reach $39 billion.