16 Teams participate in Amazon’s latest robot picking challenge
Recent study results released by Oxford University and Deloitte claim that approximately 33% of jobs in the United Kingdom could be done by machines within the next 20 years. Jobs within the supply chain and warehouse management industry are no exception and recent advancements in robotics show that this takeover may happen sooner rather than later. A perfect example of the progress being made is Amazon’s picking challenge. 16 teams stepped up to the task to create a picking bot capable of selecting and stowing an assortment of items that represented some of Amazon’s bestsellers, including a DVD box, clothing and other common household objects. The pick challenge required the robots to select 12 items from a shelf, while the stow task included items that needed to be placed back in the shelf. Points were deducted if an item was damaged, dropped, or left protruding from a shelf.
Team Delft won the competition with their robotic arm which combined a suction cup with a 3D depth-sensing camera as well as a two-fingered gripper. The team was awarded $50,000 for their efforts. One deciding factor in the judging was the speed with which Team Delft’s bot was able to pick and stow the items.
Read more on the competition results and watch Team Delft’s robot at work.
Self-driving robots to make deliveries in Europe this month
This week we jump from one bot story to another. Back in April we covered an article which introduced a six-wheeled drone that is being developed to tackle the challenges posed by what is referred to as the “last mile,” logistics challenge. Starship Technologies has been developing this self-driving bot and is prepared to roll-out (literally) the first prototypes on the streets of London, Düsseldorf, Bern and Hamburg. The plan is to have these bots stationed in local kitchens, stores and delivery hubs. When an order comes in to one of these locations, a bot will drive itself to pick up the cargo and bring it to its destination. The consumer needs to put in a code, which it receives on a mobile app, in order to open the bot and collect the cargo. The current load that can be carried by these bots amounts to two shopping bags worth of goods. Starship Technologies hopes to reduce costs and time associated with these last-mile deliveries through the implementation of the autonomous bots. This video from the Starship Technologies YouTube channel shows how it works:
It will be interesting to see how the bots perform in the four cities mentioned above.
Read more on this story here.
The wild world of returns – an exploding business thanks to ecommerce
According to a recent report released by Worldwide Business Research, approximately 25 – 30% of items that are purchased online in the U.S. are returned. This amounts to approximately $260.5 billion worth of retail items being returned each year. This is a growing problem for many retailers and some have turned to third-party services in order to handle this aspect of the business. One example of such a service is a company called Liquidity Services which has increased its focus on the retail industry in recent years. The company now handles the return processes for 10 of the country’s top 20 retailers, including Home Depot, Best Buy and Amazon. The degree to which Liquidity Services is involved in the process varies per company. The fact is, these returns have overwhelmed retailers. Some are even having their returns sent directly to one of Liquidity Services’ six warehouses where they refurbish, resell or dispose of the unwanted merchandise. Private parties are able to buy barrels or pallets of the returned items from Liquidity Services with the aim of digging through the rejected products in order to resell them on eBay and other ecommerce platforms.
Read more on the wild world of ecommerce returns here.
Have a nice weekend!