The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by operational efficiency and rising fulfillment labor cost, and growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud, and robotic order fulfillment. In the last three years alone, there have been over 156,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Robotics in retail: automated order fulfillment. Buy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 115,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the retail industry, there are 50+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Automated order fulfillment is a key innovation area in robotics

Automated order fulfillment refers to the utilization of advanced systems and technology to meet customer order requirements precisely and efficiently with minimal human intervention. The comprehensive process encompasses the seamless and automated execution of tasks such as item selection, packaging, and shipping. The optimization of order fulfillment operations relies on a spectrum of cutting-edge technologies, including robotics, computer vision, and machine learning, all aimed at enhancing the overall efficiency of the process.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 170+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of automated order fulfillment.

Key players in automated order fulfillment – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to automated order fulfillment

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
United Parcel Service 227 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 169 Unlock Company Profile
Nuro 131 Unlock Company Profile
Cox Enterprises 126 Unlock Company Profile
Coupang 77 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 72 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 71 Unlock Company Profile
Ocado Group 56 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 55 Unlock Company Profile
FedEx 53 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Heavy Industry Group 48 Unlock Company Profile
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance 42 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 42 Unlock Company Profile
Nio 40 Unlock Company Profile 36 Unlock Company Profile
Locus Robotics 30 Unlock Company Profile
Expedia Group 29 Unlock Company Profile
Live Nation Entertainment 28 Unlock Company Profile
Uber Technologies 26 Unlock Company Profile
Canadian National Railway 25 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 22 Unlock Company Profile
Alibaba Group 22 Unlock Company Profile
Trax Technology Solutions 21 Unlock Company Profile
Amadeus IT Group 20 Unlock Company Profile
Sycamore Partners 20 Unlock Company Profile
Booking 18 Unlock Company Profile
Ferguson 17 Unlock Company Profile
Oshkosh 16 Unlock Company Profile
eBay 16 Unlock Company Profile
Walgreens Boots Alliance 15 Unlock Company Profile
Indigo Agriculture 15 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Geekplus Technology 14 Unlock Company Profile
EXOTEC Solutions 14 Unlock Company Profile
Operr Technologies 14 Unlock Company Profile
Konecranes 13 Unlock Company Profile
Fedex Supply Chain Logistics & Electronics 13 Unlock Company Profile
Emerging Automotive 13 Unlock Company Profile 13 Unlock Company Profile
Cleveron AS 12 Unlock Company Profile
The Crawford Group 12 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 12 Unlock Company Profile
Invia Robotics 12 Unlock Company Profile
LG 12 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 11 Unlock Company Profile 11 Unlock Company Profile
Didi Global 11 Unlock Company Profile
Coca-Cola 11 Unlock Company Profile
United States Postal Service 10 Unlock Company Profile
Nomura Research Institute 10 Unlock Company Profile
Comcast 9 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leading patent filers in the automated order fulfillment space include United Parcel Service, Walmart, Nuro, Cox Enterprises, and Coupang. Walmart has been proactively embracing warehouse automation to bolster its profitability. Through the incorporation of advanced automation technologies such as autonomous robots and artificial intelligence, Walmart is strategically enhancing its supply chain operations, thereby boosting efficiency across the board. The automation initiatives have empowered Walmart to enhance inventory management precision, elevate the efficiency of automated order fulfillment processes, and reduce costs associated with labor and logistics.

In terms of application diversity, Cox Enterprises is the leading company in automated order fulfillment, while Nio and Emerging Automotive are in the second and third positions, respectively.

In terms of geographic reach, Nuro leads the pack, followed by FedEx and Cox Enterprises.

The major advantages of automated order fulfillment utilizing robotics are strengthening operational efficiency, precision in order processing, and optimal space utilization. As automation continues its transformative journey in the fulfillment landscape, integrating robotics paves the way for innovation, integrating AI and machine learning to realize predictive inventory management and elevate the entirety of the supply chain process.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Robotics in Retail and Apparel.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.