Industry View: Retailers Propel Use of Robotics to Survive Post-Corona

27th May 2020

Logistics BusinessIndustry View: Retailers Propel Use of Robotics to Survive Post-Corona

Automated warehouse experts Element Logic reports increased demand for robotic warehouse solutions after the outbreak of the pandemic. While many are in crisis, time is being used to strategically plan for the future. And the future is robotic.

“Covid-19 is an eye-opener for so many businesses who simply weren’t prepared for large scale disruptions like a pandemic,” says UK Managing Director Jeremy Clouston-Jones.

While many retailers are in crisis as physical shops close or face massively reduced visits, managers take the time to see what they could have done differently – and what their next moves should be.

Element Logic is experiencing an influx of requests from companies who are now considering robotic solutions or scaling their current automatic warehouses.

“The situation has caused many more to realize that planning for uncertainty is necessary. With robotic warehouses, it is much easier to scale up or down and it makes your operations a lot more flexible,” Clouston-Jones said.

Physical sales have dropped after the outbreak of the pandemic, but online sales are growing, in the UK reported between 10-25%.

One Element Logic customer, sports equipment retailer XXL, is expanding its robotic system to handle 150,000 bins and consolidate shipping through one central hub.

“Robot picking is 3-5 times more efficient than manual solutions. Sales have dropped, but online sales are growing and in part makes up for the physical decline. For us, having a flexible and modern warehouse has been vital. We were less dependent on people when quarantines and social distancing rules were applied,” Geir Nielsen, Nordic Warehouse Manager at XXL said.

The robots make it easier for retailers like XXL to quickly ship the correct orders to empty shop isles and impatient online shoppers.

“It also helps us scale as we grow, without any downtime. We have expanded 7 or 8 times since we first installed the robots, but not one time did we have to shut down operations. Our warehouse is always running, close to 100% of the time,” said Nielsen.

Element Logic´s customers report differences from vastly increased sales due to their products being even more in demand during the pandemic, to a complete shift where different product areas are less coveted than under normal circumstances, or dramatically reduced sales and operations.

“What we can see is that the Covid-19 situation has expedited processes that otherwise would have taken much longer. Whatever the situation is, a lot of managers are now planning for the future in a way that they never had before. And there is no doubt that robotics is on the charts for all of them,” Element Logic MD Clouston-Jones said.