IDTechEx report says coronavirus is pushing logistics automation to the forefront

March 25, 2020
The emerging technology research firm finds that this market will reach $81 and $290 billion in 2030 and 2040

Emerging technology research firm IDTechEx have published its "Mobile Robots, Autonomous Vehicles, and Drones in Logistics, Warehousing, and Delivery 2020-2040" report that focuses on automation of movement in every step of the logistics and delivery chain ranging from a warehouse or a factory to the delivery of goods to the final customer destination. Its research found that that this market – in total – will reach $81 and $290 billion in 2030 and 2040, respectively.

According to IDTechEX, this is a colossal transfer of value from wage expenses to a combination of capital investments and service subscription to autonomous robots of various types as just last week Amazon announced that it planned on hiring 100,000 extra workers to meet the rise in demand for online shopping created by Coronavirus-caused shutdowns and social distancing. However unions and workers demanded that Amazon takes their lives seriously, which in turn may lead to an increase in automation in the logistics and delivery chain.

Large fleets of robots are already deployed to help automate the goods-to-person step in many fulfillment centers. These robots move racks within robot-only zones, bringing them to manned picking stations.

IDTechEx forecasts the annual unit sales of goods-to-person automated carts/robots to double within six years. Despite the large deployments already, it assesses the real global inflection point to arrive around 2024 beyond at which point the pace of deployment will dramatically accelerate. The research firm forecasts that between 2020 and 2030, more than 1 million such robots will be sold. 

Another major trend it found is the use of autonomous mobile robots and vehicles. Autonomous mobile robots are emerging, which offer infrastructure-independent navigation in defined indoor environments. These robots boost productivity and enable many hybrid human-robot interaction modes. The IDTechEx report forecasts that more than 200K robots could be sold within the 2020–2030 period.

Next the organization found that recent advances on the algorithm side suggest that progress will be rapid for mobile picking robots. In the very long term, IDTechEx forecast that 36% and 38% of AMRs in warehouses sold in 2040 will be able to pick regular – as well as irregular-shaped items.

Autonomous forklifts and tugs are emerging onto the market with the claimed ROI by many suppliers within 12-18 months. The cost includes the installation and maintenance as well as the cost of the autonomous sensor suite, traction control and drivers, and the software, which can be amortized over a growing deployed fleet. IDTechEX says unit sales here can reach 1.8K in 2020. Analysis and interviews conducted by IDTechEx suggest that inflection point is likely to be reached around 2025-2027. After this point, they project the sales to grow, already exceeding 100k units by 2030

The organization will be hosting IDTechEx Show! USA 2020 from November 18 to 19 in Santa Clara where it will present emerging technologies with six concurrent conferences and a single exhibition covering 3D Printing and 3D Electronics, Electric Vehicles, Energy Storage, Graphene & 2D Materials, Healthcare, Internet of Things, Printed Electronics, Sensors and Wearable Technology.