Cooperation key to growth, innovation in robotics industry

Posted by Geekplus on May 9, 2024 7:41:00 AM

Cooperation is the key to pushing the robotics industry forward. Companies need to compete, but they also should share innovations for the benefit of all.

At least that’s true according to Ujjwal Kumar, group president of Teradyne Robotics, who said companies in the robotics industry need to remain open minded and cultivate a sprit of working together for the greater good of the industry. Rejecting a black-box approach some companies bring to innovation in the space, he told Steve Crowe, editor of The Robot Report, that companies should keep “an open-platform concept” to development.

“This is a space where you open things up. You allow companies of all sizes …. to come and tinker around, play around,” he said. “Here, competition is maybe 5 years, 10 years in the future. Right now, this is a market-building activity.”

Kumar spoke during a keynote session on the final day of the Robotics Summit & Expo in Boston. During a gala ceremony on the night before, Geekplus received an RBR 50 Award for its Shelf-to-Person PopPick solution.

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Robotics industry standardization 

While the robotics industry will eventually need some sort of standardization to make sure solutions can interact across the industry, Kumar said that implementing standards or any strict guidelines at this stage would stifle robotics innovation. Industries, he said, typically sets their standards at the lowest common denominator. That would only hurt the robotics industry.

“Yes, we do need some standardization around APIs,” he said. “But standardization for this industry, which is evolving at such a fast pace -- and we have no idea what more technologies will come in 12 months, 18 months -- absolutely not.”

He continued, “I personally believe that this industry is still at its early stage of development. We should not be comfortable with standardization; it’s just such a mature market concept.”

What should industry players be doing right now? Ecosystem building. Bring in new customers to the fold. Educating about the merits of automation. To accomplish some of this, Teradyne has created the Teradyne Robotics Venture Fund. Noting that the logistics, life sciences and medtech industries have significant gaps between the technologies that exist and the practical applications being used in those spaces, he said the fund will help bring the promise of automation to all. On that note, he announced the fund had already invested in an AI company in the logistics space.

“We are identifying the areas where our unique positioning and our portfolio and our ability to scale up coalmines very quickly can help,” he said, adding that Teradyne is focusing on both investments and acquisitions. Through investments, he hopes to nourish companies by giving them funding, connections to customers and access to Teradyne ecosystem.

“That is a huge list of companies we are working on.”

Warehouse automation challenges 

In an earlier session moderated by Eugene Demaitre, WTWH Media’s editorial director of robotics, the talk turned to the state of warehouse automation. John Santagate, vice president of robotics at Korber Supply Chain, linked up with DHL Supply Chain’s Tim Tetzlaff and GXO’s Adrian Stoch to explore the latest advancements in mobile order fulfillment robots and the automated warehouse space.

“We’re in the Golden Age of warehouse automation. The problem is that we kind of skipped over the Coal Age pretty quickly,” Stoch said. “There’s a lot of opportunity, and there’s a lot of maturity and innovation in the space, but we don’t have a lot of track record on best practice and what really works.”

He sees the biggest current challenge as how 3PLs and other companies meet operational challenges with the correct automation. A small wrong decision when choosing technology, he warned, can turn into a big issue after implementation. This challenge is made even more complex with the broad array of technologies currently in the marketplace. Stoch suggested that any technology decision needs to start with a business and operational need, and that’s the only way to ensure the correct automation is in place. This is not about implementing technology for technology’s sake.

Santagate concurred, adding that there is “a lot of noise in the market.” At the largest trade shows, hundreds of robotics vendors exhibit their capabilities. Santagate said there used to be less than a handful. This shows everyone that automation is evolving, but it also makes it harder for customers to select the right vendor. Warehouse operators turn to automation to solve labor, growth and scalability challenges; technology vendor selection is becoming another hurdle.

“It’s less about what sort of technology can help us get over the challenge and more about which is the right version of the technology for my operation,” he said. “There’s a fit, and then there’s a best fit.”

Geekplus personalizes its robots and software to meet the specific business needs of its customers. The company’s Goods-to-Person mobile order fulfillment robots enable retailers, manufacturers, 3PLs and other warehouse operators to transition from highly manual processes to fulfillment center automation. The Geekplus suite of order fulfillment robots helps customers achieve higher throughput, unrivaled picking accuracy, optimized warehouse storage and much more.

Learn why Geekplus is your reliable partner for innovative order fulfillment solutions, allowing business to grow at their own pace and scale up quickly to meet new consumer demands.

Topics: warehouse automation, 2024