Logistics industry accelerating robotic automation following pandemic

  • ABB white paper highlights role of robotics and automation in meeting challenges and opportunities accelerated by COVID-19, including labor shortages and the growth of omnichannel distribution and e-commerce
  • Nine out of 10 logistics and transportation companies indicate their operations have been negatively impacted by the pandemic
  • ABB offers four key automation solutions to increase logistics operational resilience with flexible automation: item picking, palletizing, robotic storage and retrieval systems, and sorting

ABB today released its white paper on the future of the logistics industry, ‘The new norm: How COVID-19 has accelerated the switch to robotic automation,’ detailing how the pandemic is driving investment in robotics and automation in the logistics industry, with the pandemic accelerating long-term industry trends, such as labor shortages, the growth of omnichannel distribution and the rise of e-commerce. The paper looks at the logistics sector in the post COVID-19 era and the trends impacting the industry and provides guidance on how companies can increase the flexibility of their operations with robotics and automation to become more resilient.

The report was commissioned following a global survey of logistics and transportation companies carried out by ABB, with 91.5 percent of respondents stating that their operations had been impacted by COVID-19. When the pandemic began in early 2020, companies suddenly had to deal with an increased demand for a diverse range of goods caused by the dramatic explosion in online ordering and home deliveries. At the same time, businesses had to compensate for staff absences caused by factors such as self-isolation and social distancing measures. Consequently, companies had to adjust their processes, increasingly turning towards robotics and automation.

“The report highlights the profound shifts in the logistics industry, making the case for the acceleration of robotic automation. Logistics customers are realizing that adopting robotic and automation solutions can add real value to their businesses, enabling them to meet changing consumer and market demands quickly while playing a role in employee safety, in terms of protecting their workforces from the risk of infection and in automating riskier jobs,” says Marc Segura, Group Senior Vice President Managing Director Consumer Segments & Service Robotics at ABB. “Our modular solutions seamlessly integrate our technologies to deliver improved performance and are easily replicable across sites and geographies.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, both the retail and logistics sectors were moving away from conventional store-based shopping as a growing number of consumers flocked to the internet to purchase goods. Internet sales in the EU grew by 30 percent between April 2019 and April 2020, with similar growth rates in the US, UK and China, resulting in an increased demand for warehouse automation, including robotics. Investments in warehouse automation are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.6 percent by 2023, with an exceptionally strong demand for piece-picking robots, noting a CAGR of 98.7 percent. In addition, shifts in global trade policies, the changing nature of consumer demand for personalized products, and the expectation of next- or even same-day delivery were already leading forward-thinking operators to rethink their approaches.

The new ABB white paper highlights how robotic and automation can help businesses to support their workforces, increase productivity and manage the move to omni-channel distribution and capitalize on the growth of e-commerce. ABB’s modular solutions seamlessly integrate relevant technologies and already deliver improved performance in key areas: item picking, palletizing, depalletizing, repalletizing, robotic storage and retrieval systems, and singulation and sortation. This helps companies in the logistics sector improve efficiency, flexibility, and productivity of their operations. The white paper also outlines five steps for businesses to successfully adopt robotics and automation and features case studies of businesses that have effectively incorporated automation into their operations.

The trends and challenges facing the industry, as well as solutions offered by robotics and automation will be discussed at ABB’s virtual PackLog.Now summit on Thursday, 7th of October, including customers in the packaging and logistics industry. Industry leaders will talk about the key challenges for the industry, while participants will have the chance to discuss with ABB experts how robotic automation technologies can counter these issues in the packaging and logistics industry.

Register for the ABB PackLog.Now summit here.

Click here to download the white paper.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a leading global technology company that energizes the transformation of society and industry to achieve a more productive, sustainable future. By connecting software to its electrification, robotics, automation and motion portfolio, ABB pushes the boundaries of technology to drive performance to new levels. With a history of excellence stretching back more than 130 years, ABB’s success is driven by about 105,000 talented employees in over 100 countries. www.abb.com

ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation is a pioneer in robotics, machine automation and digital services, providing innovative solutions for a diverse range of industries, from automotive to electronics to logistics. As one of the world’s leading robotics and machine automation suppliers, we have shipped more than 500,000 robot solutions. We help our customers of all sizes to increase productivity, flexibility and simplicity and to improve output quality. We support their transition towards the connected and collaborative factory of the future. ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation employs more than 11,000 people at over 100 locations in more than 53 countries. www.abb.com/robotics

For more information please contact:

ABB Robotics Global Media Relations
Nick O’Donnell
Phone: +44 7704 294085
Email: nicholas.odonnell@gb.abb.com


  1. OECD, October 2020 - E-commerce in the time of COVID-19 -
  2. Interact Analysis - Figures quoted in article in SHD Logistics, March 11th 2020 - ‘Figures support growth in warehouse automation market’ - https://www.shdlogistics.com/amhsa/figures-support-growth-warehouse-automation-market


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