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Technology Newsmaker Q&A Khasha Ghaffarzadeh

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 07:00
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IDTechEx recently issued a report predicting that mobile robotics in material handling and logistics (including autonomous vehicles) will be a $75-billion market by 2027, and double that by 2038.

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Aftermarket Business World spoke to Dr. Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, research director at IDTechEx, about the report.

What is driving this tremendous growth in adoption of robotic systems?

Navigation technology is evolving. Robots will be able to navigate much more freely than past systems. They won’t have to stay on a pre-determined route. That provides more flexibility to the owners.

When people talk about autonomous mobility, they are often talking about driving on roads, but there are many steps before we get there. There are many indoor and outdoor structured environments that are less challenging to autonomize.

Are you seeing more investment in these types of autonomous vehicles and carts for warehouses?

Automated guided carts (AGCs) are being adopted. This is similar to what Amazon bought from Kiva Systems for a hefty sum. The moment they took those robots off the market, it left a big gap and competitors are trying to offer this type of automation.

What about robotic picking?

Picking is a lot more challenging, because you have to be able to see and recognize an object. If items are very carefully arranged, you might be able to use a picking robot. It’s not as ready as mobile transport, but interesting work is taking place.

Where will see a good return on investment model for this technology emerge first?

In places where automation can reduce labor wages sufficiently, then automation will take place. Warehousing is an ideal environment thanks to the demands of e-commerce. There’s a lot of pressure to ship out and move items very quickly.

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