For years, we’ve all been hearing about how autonomous mobile robots (AMR) are changing the landscape of the supply chain. But beyond the box-box operations like Amazon and Walmart, new of the widespread adoption has been fairly quiet.

One of many future trends in supply chain management is the emergence of a class of autonomous mobile robots built to optimize the picking process. In effect, this layer of logic is similar to what a warehouse management system (WMS) does. As AMR becomes more cost-effective and accessible to businesses in the mid-market, this competition is slated to increase. However, while both AMR and WMS can help warehouse managers optimize their processes, they do ultimately very different jobs. For example, while the AMR optimizes the picking, they don’t handle processes like scheduling trucks during loading and put-away. And many eCommerce warehouses also have portions of the warehouse devoted to traditional pallet and case picking, which these systems don’t handle, but WMS does.

A growing number of warehousing and logistics companies are incorporating robots to reap the benefits of speed, efficiency, and increased profits to remain competitive in a market driven in large part by consumers that demand rapid fulfillment. At the same time, robotic warehousing and logistics technologies are advancing in capability and becoming more affordable each year. The demand for robots and the supply of advanced robotic solutions for the optimization of logistics processes, combined with lab or shortages, have created a tipping point that could lead to widespread adoption of robots in warehouses and logistics operations to assist and displace human workers.

The market is experiencing strong growth, and supply chains are being transformed as companies replace fixed infrastructure and outdated processes with flexible, scalable robotic solutions to meet the changing demands of modern commerce. Current forecasts indicate that worldwide shipments of warehousing and logistics robots will grow rapidly over the next few years from 194,000 units in to 938,000 units annually by 2022, with the rate of growth slowing after 2021 as many major players will have adopted robotic systems by then.

Worldwide revenue for this category will increase from $8.3 billion in 2018 to $30.8 billion in 2022, providing significant opportunities for established participants and emerging players.

Companies have tremendous growth opportunities with AMRs and those who have deployed robots have benefitted through significant improvements. In fact, more than 70% of integrated companies have noted double-digit KPI improvements from increased capacity, productivity, efficiency, operational speed, customer service, inventory turnover and reduced operating costs.