Remote-Controlled Robots Restock Stores In Tokyo To Overcome Shortage Of Labor

17 Sep, 2020

Robotics company Telexistence had a recent trial of a human-sized remote-controlled robot, ‘Model-T’, to be used to restock shelves at convenience stores in Tokyo – this week one such robot was deployed to automate restocking in a store, reducing both direct human labor as well as risks of infection from the coronavirus. Shortage of skilled workers is contributing to the growth of the industrial robots market. There is an increase in production requirements and due to high demand, manufacturers are not able to fulfil the supply due to a shortage of skilled labor. Shortage of skilled labor exists due to two main reasons, presence of unskilled worker and skilled workers but not available for work. In Japan, with a large percentage of the population being elderly, there is a shortage of labor even for menial tasks and thus finding workers is not easy, which gives rise to other opportunities for the addition of robots in the workforce.

Model-T works on sensors, cameras, and microphones, and has three-fingered hands with which it can pick up products as directed by its human ‘pilots’. These human employees are able to control the robots from anywhere in the world through a virtual reality headset, allowing for hiring overseas and need for fewer workers in a labor shortage. Transport costs for employees are saved as well, and they are able to remain safely quarantined during COVID-19. For customers in the stores, these robots are humanized with the ability of employees to communicate through them with microphones. Thus, the pandemic is pushing even traditional companies towards technological advances and implementation through the innovative solutions they can provide.

According to Global Market Model estimates, Asia Pacific accounts for the largest share in the global industrial robots market. The global industrial robots market is expected to decline from $49.3 billion in 2019 and to $48.6 billion in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -1.39%. While the outbreak is pushing for technological changes, the economic slowdown across countries owing to the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures to contain it have still resulted in the decline. The market is later expected to recover and reach $63.9 billion in 2023 at CAGR of 9.5%?.

As VR-remote-controlled robots are coming up, automated mobile robots (AMRs) is another recent trend in the industrial robot industry. An AMR is a robot which is designed to move materials across a plant floor or through a warehouse without the aid or direction of a human worker. Floor cleaners, forklifts, and pallet movers are examples of types of AMRs. For instance, Fetch Robotics, a California-based firm handles heavy loads in its warehouse by using AMR. Fetch Robotics’ cloud computing program enables an operator to scale and control all operation with the click of a button. It eliminates employees’ risk for injury and increases the efficiency of overall operations.

The global industrial robots market includes articulated robots, linear robots, cylindrical robots, parallel robots, scara robots, and others for automative, electrical and electronics, healthcare & pharmaceuticals, food & beverages, rubber & plastics, metals & machinery, and other industries. They are able to perform tasks such as pick and plane, wielding and soldering, material handling, assembling, cutting and processing. In this way, robots are being used for specific tasks in factories and now – stores with human interaction as well.