Automation in the logistics, warehouse, and supply chain market was already growing before the COVID-19 pandemic, but accelerating e-commerce demand, social distancing requirements, and the need for greater flexibility and throughput have expanded the global market for mobile robots. Robotics developers, suppliers, and integrators need to navigate between economic hardship and commercial opportunity.
The market for automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) is set to grow by $35.4 billion (U.S.) between 2018 and 2023, with the market value reaching $54.1 billion after that five-year period.
Pandemic a global stress test
As of publication date, more than 25 million people worldwide have been infected, and more than 846,000 have died from COVID-19, with more than 6 million cases and 183,000 deaths in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. Since March, the economic effects of shutdowns have devastated sectors of the global economy, especially hospitality and tourism.
In Europe, total economic activity has dropped by approximately 27%, estimates the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Dansk Industri, Dansk Erhverv, Danske Bank, and Copenhagen Economics. The arts, entertainment, and recreation industry have fallen by more than 80%. As a result, Europe’s gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated this spring to be down by 9.1% from last year, and subsequent waves of infection could lead to more than 12.6% by the end of the year.
Markets for mobile robots march on
Without underestimating the challenges posed by novel coronavirus crisis, mobile robots have been gaining momentum around the world because of the following three factors:
- A huge spike in e-commerce has led to increased expectations of rapid order fulfillment.
- Many people want to reduce human contact, whether within facilities or between customers and vendors.
- Recovery from lockdowns has been uneven, often even within nations.
Mobile robots have helped treat patients, deliver essential goods to communities, and disinfect facilities. In China, mobile robots are used to deliver groceries and patrol malls. They can also remind people to wear masks, give out hand sanitizer, and broadcast anti-virus information.
Investors have also recognized the potential for mobile robots, with Brain Corp. raising $36 million in April,. Geek+ closing $200 million in funding in June, and Pudu raising $14.5 million in August.
Furthermore, acceptance of robots in daily life is increasing. Consumers have become more tolerant of artificial intelligence and last-mile delivery robots, according to a study by Meili, a Danish company developing universal fleet management systems for robot operators.
“Nearly three quarters [73%] of the respondents would choose to order online if the package was delivered by a robot rather than by a human, and 33% said they are now more comfortable with robots in grocery stores,“ said the report.
As adoption of AMRs continues to grow, demand for fleet management softwares is also rising. That market could grow from more than $14 billion in 2018 to almost $47 billion by 2026, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.52% over the forecast period, Meili predicted.
However, there is a need for unified management systems. “Currently, in the market, there are several available options for mobile robots, but mainly are exclusive to the manufacturers, and missing many standard features and functionalities,” according to Meili.
About the author
Linh Dinh is an experienced digital marketing specialist at Meili, which develops fleet management and robot operator systems, including Meili FMS, which can handle different AMRs and AGVs. The company’s software is used for mapping, data logging, and data analytics, as well as planning, assigning, and executing tasks. Dinh has also written for Economic Journal, Startup Digest Blog, and Market Inspector.