A sense of “hurry up and wait” has followed the field of supply chain robotics ever since Jeff Bezos famously announced on 60 Minutes that Amazon was developing drone-based delivery technology. As of 2019, that technology has yet to see even a limited rollout, and predictions for a total transformation of logistics have proven somewhat premature. However, that doesn’t mean that the supply chain and logistics industry isn’t seeing big shake-ups from drones, robots and other automation technologies.
The most important advances in supply chain robotics have largely arrived inside the warehouse and fulfillment center rather than in the last mile. Rather than dropping off packages at customers’ houses, today’s supply chain drones and robots are picking items, counting inventory and scanning barcodes. So even if the automated delivery revolution hasn’t yet arrived, businesses large and small are finding many ways to put automated technologies to work.
The question remains, however: How trustworthy are these technologies? Can they be counted upon to deliver the day-in, day-out performance and safety required to be a worthwhile investment? Many businesses have already made big moves into automation — are they seeing good results? And how can ERP systems provide a useful complement to drone technologies?