OW Robotics offers flexible and scalable warehouse automation using goods-to-person, A-to-B and manufacturing line robotics. Using 30 years’ industry experience in warehousing in the UK and globally, and partnered with Hikrobot’s cutting-edge robotic technology, our solutions allow businesses of all sizes to change the future of their operation using robotics.
Joe Daft, Head of Robotics at OW Robotics (OWR), speaks to Warehouse & Logistics News.
What are your best-known products/solutions/services?
Our best-known products are our flexible and scalable warehouse solutions – goods-to-person, A-to-B and manufacturing line. We are partnered with Hikrobot to provide best-in-class robotics hardware, and use our expertise to build entire solutions that optimise and future-proof warehouses up and down the UK.
Our most iconic offering is OWR’s Robotics Demonstration Centre, which is the first of its kind in the UK and Europe. It doesn’t matter what stage of adoption a business is at, as this facility allows everyone to experience robotics first-hand.
Which industry sectors are your customers in and which ones are growing fastest?
Online retail saw the biggest boom last year as a result of Covid-19. Restrictions have seriously deepened the divide between bricks-and-mortar retail and ecommerce. Stores have already been struggling in the face of online competition, but with Covid-19, they lost months of trade and even when they reopened, low footfall continued due to the lack of tourists and office workers.
With this in mind, online sales boomed during the lockdown period – rising by as much as 50% by the summer of 2020 compared to February that year. Now, as many as 44% of shoppers say their habits have changed permanently as a result of the pandemic and 47% believe they’ll make more online purchases. This just reiterates that an ecommerce offering is essential to survive in this current climate, and businesses have become aware of this more than ever – global brands such as Uniqlo are reaping the benefits of automation, and Boots introduced 135 ‘cobots’ at one of its warehouses for Black Friday in 2019.
What are the major trends and developments affecting your category and your customers, and how are you responding?
We’re starting to see more take-up of robotics in the 3PL market, particularly among the tech-led start-ups serving ecommerce. It might sound shocking, but as much as 90% of picking is still manual in this sector.
There might be a reluctance to invest because multi-tenanted 3PLs want to ensure robotics will deliver a strong return on investment beyond the lifetime of existing customer contracts. They will also look for flexibility, as they may need to reconfigure their warehouse to accommodate different product types and sizes.
We’re responding by educating all industries on the power that flexible automation can have on business. By visiting our Robotics Demonstration Centre, businesses can have all of their questions answered in a live warehouse environment, and truly appreciate the operational benefits that automation can bring. After all, automation has changed from a “nice to have” to a “must have” very quickly, and industries across the board are coming to terms with that.
How does business in 2019 compare to previous years? What’s your strategy for succeeding in the current climate?
As a robotics solutions provider, we are seeing an increase in the amount of businesses approaching us in this current climate. Undeniably, Covid-19 has accelerated the need for change – we’ve even seen B2B operations realign their focus and introduce a direct-to-consumer approach. For example, Heinz launched Heinz to Home, enabling consumers to purchase bundles of products online and have them delivered straight to the front door.
Nobody could have foreseen a global pandemic, but automation is the clear answer to meeting the increase in demand that came with it. This is all while minimising human interaction to create secure environments – especially important in sectors like pharmaceuticals. For example, Grifols produces blood plasma-based products and requires minimal human intervention to eliminate risk. Using automation, it ensures traceability, auditability, product security and safety. Plus, storage spaces can be kept at the required -35° because, unlike a manual warehouse, people are not constantly opening and closing doors.
What’s the latest news from your company?
In collaboration with our global partner, Hikrobot, we have launched a special report on UK warehousing. This report uncovers how automation is not only fending off challenges caused by Covid-19 and Brexit, but thriving in a world increasingly dominated by ecommerce.
Our market-leading dataset draws on more than 50 independent sources including proprietary data and insights. Based on qualitative research, our special report provides a ‘robotics-ready’ verdict on the market to help businesses make informed decisions in UK warehousing.
It’s available to download at: https://pages.owrobotics.co.uk/robotics-readiness-report
Are you taking part in any major trade shows? Can you tell us what you’ll be exhibiting there?
We will be bringing our state-of-the-art goods-to-person solution to IntraLogisteX on 27-28 May 2021 and Robotics and Automation on 2-3 November 2021. Our experts will be on hand for demonstrations and will be able to share information on our exciting range of made-to-measure solutions that help businesses succeed.
OW Robotics (OWR)
t: 01522 704083