E-commerce has become more and more popular, but some warehouses cannot keep up with the consumer expectation of instant gratification. Online shopping gives consumers the idea that if something is purchased over the internet, it should be delivered quickly and efficiently. Many facilities are still using the man-to-goods model, where the employee goes throughout the warehouse looking for the item(s) purchased by the consumer. Companies like inVia Robotics are changing that.
Companies today are automating that selection process by implementing robots capable of retrieving the items efficiently, with some even packing the items into boxes for shipping. The reason for advancements like this can be contributed to the spike in investments in robotics research and development. InVia Robotics CEO and founder, Lior Elazary, commented that "companies with no automation can spend as high as a dollar per pick. Adding automation such as conveyor belts drastically reduces costs to 25 cents per pick, and inVia's goods-to-box solution rings in at just 10 cents per pick." InVia reduces costs by using cheaper hardware, as well as requiring a minimal investment because of the "robotics as a service" business model. This model allows customers to pay a monthly service fee based on their expected number of picks, and during busy seasons they can simply add more robots instead of hiring and firing workers. This way, warehouse employees do not have to be knowledgeable in robotics, because inVia handles the setup, maintenance, and any additional repairs.
InVia's robotics are implemented smoothly into the customer's warehouses, with no required changes to infrastructure. The robots are able to read orders, so all that is necessary is that products are in labeled boxes or bags. Robots are also able to count inventory and match items with the company's database. This requires additional software, so they are able to be integrated with the warehouse management systems (WMS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). Although it is not necessary, warehouses that are willing to make robot-friendly changes such as the removal of hangers from clothing or the addition of QR codes to products will see a greater return in the long run.
Even though automation reduces labor costs, Elazary insists that robots don't steal jobs from humans, and that they actually increase the total amount of jobs. Small operations are able to utilize these robots to increase efficiency and therefore hire more workers to finish the shipping process. The automation of this process gives smaller operations the edge they need to compete with larger businesses like Amazon.