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Warehouses Look to Robots to Fill Labor Gaps, Speed Deliveries


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A Phantom Auto robotic forklift in a Geodis warehouse.

The push toward automation comes as businesses say they cant hire warehouse workers fast enough to meet surging online demand for everything from furniture to frozen food in pandemic-disrupted supply chains.

Credit: Geodis

Warehouses are deploying robots to offset staff shortages and deliver orders rapidly as online demand for products surges due to the pandemic.

For example, third-party logistics provider Kenco Logistics Service is launching a fleet of self-driving robots from Locus Robotics to help employees fill online orders at the company's biggest e-commerce outlet in Indiana; Kenco also is testing autonomous tractors that tow pallet-loaded carts.

Meanwhile, Kenco and French logistics provider Geodis are testing remote-operated forklifts featuring technology from startup Phantom Auto that drivers can operate remotely via real-time video and audio.

Technology research firm Gartner predicts a quadrupling of demand for robotic delivery systems through 2023.

Users say logistics technology, including mobile robots, can improve output and efficiency so businesses can accommodate spikes in demand without expensive investments in fixed infrastructure.

From The Wall Street Journal
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