Rise of the machines?

#Tags:
Parcel, #Robotics
Making predictions is never easy. Twenty years ago, could you have imagined smartphones, social media and the power of e-commerce? For companies such as Vanderlande to stay successful, we have to be proactive in forecasting trends and developments, and responding positively.
One of our key markets, the Parcel sector, has seen a real revolution in technology and customer needs. We have been engaging with this market every step of the way in recent times. It has challenged us to develop solutions that go beyond our customers’ expectations.
Online buying demands for new technology
We chose to participate in the handling of express packages, because we specialise in automated systems which traditionally process items much larger than letters. This was a wise decision in a society that quickly embraced the internet. In recent years, we have seen e-commerce drive postal businesses to invest in parcel handling applications to satisfy their customers. 
Online buying is now squeezing delivery cycles and increasing the need for new technology. The sustained rise of parcel volumes is also pushing companies to invest in state-of-the-art sorting equipment. We have managed to grow by offering the market innovative solutions to the challenges it faces.
Vision of the future
Predictions for the coming 20 years are fascinating. In my opinion, I think that the next step will be to automate the movement of irregularly shaped items. I’m aware that sounds contradictory – “how can you sort a non-sortable item?” – but it’s something we need to look into. 
I’m confident smart data will play its part. By applying key information about the movement of parcels, higher levels of quality and efficiency can be achieved. In addition, public demand means that 24/7 sorting facilities are inevitable. However, the shortage of an eager workforce will increase the need for further automation.
Robot integration
As this scarcity of labour affects the market, I also see a bright future for robotics. However, I believe robots will cooperate with employees and not be a direct replacement. People will always be needed for decision-making processes. 
The need for sustainable solutions will also be a driver. Green thinking is firmly on today’s agenda. Our innovation strategy is modelled on the concept of the circular economy, known as cradle-to-cradle design. This means the materials we use are also considered against their effect on humans, the environment and their capacity to be recycled. 
My belief is that the parcel industry can benefit from our experience in other sectors, such as baggage handling and warehouse automation. We’re lucky to have access to such a range of expertise.  We already made exciting inroads into developing and delivering market-leading solutions, such as PARCELCHECK, our range of loopsorters and linesorters.
In summary, within 20 years we could well see the rise of:
  • robot integration – robotic technology will work together with people to support operations in sortation facilities
  • further automation – predictable growth of parcel volumes will enable investments in automated equipment to continue
  • globalisation – a high percentage of people are expected to live in Asia-Pacific. So-called ‘mega cities’ and increased integration of the internet will require highly automated logistic solutions and a larger installed base.

About the author

Rob Qualm
Market Director Parcel

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