Thursday, May 13, 2021

Robotics Roundup: Where The Action Is

A TechCrunch Feature article, May 13:

The fulfilling world of warehouse robotics
Robotics Roundup: A year and a half into the pandemic, warehouses and factories have made the biggest automation gains

With the pandemic finish line in sight — at least for some — now is a good time to start assessing which segments have been most impacted by the events of the past year and a half. In terms of robotics, investments have been all over the place — and for good reasons. COVID-19 seems destined to have a profound and lasting impact on work, and more than ever, robots and automation are going to play a part in that.

Food has been a big target. Manufacturing and health, as well — all for pretty clear reasons. When we come out of this, however, we may end up seeing that the most immediate and profound impact was on warehouse and fulfillment. Not that it needed much help, but online retail had a huge moment — led, naturally, by Amazon.

As the company butted heads with workers and union organizers at one fulfillment center in Alabama, the company has been readying additional fulfillment centers. Shreveport, Louisiana is the latest, with Governor John Bel Edwards referring to the new warehouse as a “robotics fulfillment center.”

As with all of these, that means a combination of humans and robots. There are, of course, questions with regard to what the balance will be, going forward. And, of course, it’s no surprise that pro-union Amazon workers frequently cited being treated like a robot among their biggest workplace concerns.

Attempting to stay afloat in the world of Amazon is a big part of why so many warehouses are particularly interested in robotics at the moment. After all, the tech has not only given the retailer a competitive advantage, it’s helped keep them running amid a global pandemic.

Berkshire Grey has been one of the bigger players in the category, thanks in no small part to some massive raises. To date, the Boston-area company has raised $263 million, before announcing a SPAC last year. Today, it announced that it’s using some of that money to further expand into markets including Canada and Japan....


Very related:

May 9
Big Expansion In Productivity Means Fewer Jobs For Workers To Come Back To