For years now, eCommerce has been forcing brick and mortars to up their game to remain competitive with the convenience that online shopping has provided for consumers. In fact, in 2019, there was an estimated 1.92 billion digital buyers with eCommerce sales accounting for 14.1% of retail purchases worldwide. However, as millions of quarantined consumers have been forced to shop for goods online, the COVID-19 crisis is driving the global growth of eCommerce sales, with transaction volumes in March 2020 seeing a 74% rise compared to the same period last year. To keep up with the demand as workers stay home, many are turning to automation solutions.
Prior to the pandemic, automation adoption within the workplace was experiencing a steady upward trajectory as companies—from call centers to warehouses to fulfillment centers and more—sought to improve efficiencies and profits. Yet, since the onset of coronavirus, social distancing directives have accelerated the use of automation in a majority of industries, helping to keep both workers and consumers safe while enabling companies to continue manufacturing, processing, and delivering.
As the Founder and CEO of IAM Robotics, Tom Galluzzo’s company is revolutionizing eCommerce fulfillment, providing automated mobile robot solutions that don’t replace the human element, but instead, enable companies to redeploy labor to more valuable segments and functions within their operations. In this interview, Galluzzo joined Daniel Litwin, MarketScale’s Voice of B2B, and discussed how autonomous technology has changed over the years, it’s numerous advantages as the world faces one of the defining events of 2020—COVID-19—that will likely have implications that will last well into the coming decade, and its continuing impact on various industries.
“What we’re trying to do is to keep the people in the warehouse more productive by reducing the amount of walking around and searching for products that they have to do,” said Galluzzo. “That isn’t really where a lot of the core value in the picking task is. It’s not in the walking—it’s in the making decisions about the quality of the product. Is this the right product for the customer? Am I getting it to the customer on time? What we’re doing is we’re providing them with robots that can go out and cut out all that unproductive walking and searching.”
But as society sees the benefits of restructuring workplaces in ways that minimize close human contact, after the COVID-19 crisis wanes, will long-standing reservations about job losses or the wide-ranging apprehension about having machines control vital aspects of daily life continue?
Tom Galluzzo seems to think not. “COVID-19 has just totally changed the game in a sense of saying not only did you not have enough labor available, but now you know that if you were to try to accomplish it with labor, you expose yourself to these greater risks with pandemics and so forth,” Galuzzo commented. “I think coming out of this, the demand profile is just totally going to change because people have realized, ‘Hey, this is a great way to shop for my groceries.’ A large percentage of them are not going to let it go or they’re going to keep using it for the rest of their lives. This has only accelerated that adoption curve which is really exciting for us in the world of automation.”
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