The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by e-commerce, supply chain management and risk mitigation, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and virtual reality and augmented reality. 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: robotic warehouse management. Buy the report here.
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.
Robotic warehouse management is a key innovation area in robotics
Robotic warehouse management is the use of robotics and AI technology to optimize and automate warehouse processes such as locating, storing, and transporting goods. The technology can help retailers to increase throughput rates, improve efficiency, reduce errors, and cut down warehouse operating costs.
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 40+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of robotic warehouse management.
Key players in robotic warehouse management – 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 robotic warehouse management
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
In May 2023, FedEx ramped up its usage of robotic arms to sort packages at the company’s Memphis World Hub in Tennessee, US. The company added 12 additional parcel-sorting robotic arms, bringing the total to 16 robotic arms used at its express sorting facility. The arms are designed to pick and transfer packages from the collection bin to a conveyor belt for them to be scanned and entered into the FedEx system.
The usage of robotic inventory management systems allows companies to use their skilled labor on more productive tasks, releasing them from repetitive and redundant operations. However, human intervention is still required to ensure that the robotic machinery is functioning as intended and troubleshoot when necessary, significantly improving overall efficiencies.
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.