The business demand for mobile robots used to automate warehouse and factory operations saw a higher-than-expected uptick last year, according to market research firm Interact Analysis.
Revenues from sales of automated forklifts hit $1.5 billion in 2022, nearly $200 million higher than projected, according to the research firm’s mid-year forecast updates for warehouse construction and automation. The findings were highlighted in a summary report published on Thursday.
A rise in the cost of labor has made mobile robots an attractive cost-cutting option for businesses, the report said.
More than a quarter (26%) of warehouses are expected to be automated by 2027, up from 14% a decade earlier, according to a previous report from Interact Analysis, whose research is focused on global supply chain automation.
The demand for warehouse automation rose after the pandemic as e-commerce accelerated and increased the need for warehousing space, particularly in industries such as retail, manufacturing, logistics and parcel delivery.
However, demand dipped in 2022 for end-to-end warehouse automation technologies other than robots in response to excess capacity built during the pandemic, the decline in e-commerce rates and the overall slowdown in the global economy, according to the latest report from Interact Analysis.
The cost of fully automating a warehouse with end-to-end technologies could add up to hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases, according to Interact Analysis Managing Director Ash Sharma.
Because of the pullback in e-commerce and concerns over the wider economy, “companies have become more wary,” he said in an interview. For now, some businesses are looking to save money by automating single parts of warehouses rather than investing in big systems.
Warehouse construction activity will likely rebound in coming years, the report said. In the meantime, the demand for mobile robots, which has remained resilient so far, will likely increase further this year, it said.