Industry Trends

Robotics and Retailers

3 min read

Although a number of retailers are suffering greatly, there are some positives to this pandemic. One of which being a severe increase in online shopping opposed to physical stores.

With that being said, a huge presence in the e-commerce world being Gap and Old Navy has added more technology to support their business models. A whopping 73 new robots have been acquired by big name brand Gap. They are working in US warehouses supporting picking and sorting. Gap, which is a part of Banana Republic, Athleta, and Old Navy, will have a total of 106 sorting robots.

“…the robots picked 13 million units of Gap Inc merchandise between 1 January and 30 April alone this year, at an average sorting speed of 335 units per hour.” [i]

These specific robots have “human-like capabilities”. These capabilities are allowing the highest online retail success possible for retailer Gap. They are currently operating in Tennessee, California, NY, and Ohio Gap distribution centers.

Due to increase in COVID regulations, Gap was having a difficult time getting employees into warehouses to sort and ship online orders. Therefore, Gap’s Senior VP of Global Logistics Fulfillment made the move to triple their robotics in warehouses by the fall. [ii] Each robot performs the work of a combined 4 workers. [ii]

A Gap spokesperson told Essential Retail: “We’re pleased that our partnership with Kindred has grown from a test pilot to a full deployment of their SORT robots across our US network – especially at a time when we’re trying to keep our employees safe. We look forward to working together on cutting-edge fulfilment automation.”

As the experts predicted, the pandemic has greatly increased the automation of retail within warehouses. Although big names like Gap and Amazon have been using robotics for quite some time. The advancements in technology are key to allow for safety of customers receiving Gap’s products and the safety of workers not being able to be in the workplace. Experts say that spurts of automation often follow economic shocks (the coronavirus pandemic). [ii]

“At these moments, employers shed less-skilled workers and replace them with technology and higher-skilled workers, which increases labor productivity as a recession tapers off,” the think tank’s March report said. [ii]

Advantages of Robotics

The advantages of robotics are endless. Indeed, they never take breaks or stop working. They also reduce overhead cost, 1 machine can do the job of 4 people, and have the tactical skill and perfection of doing monotonous detailed work. Now, when it comes to customer service and dealing with customers head on, that’s a different story. This alone, is why robots cannot take over the entire workforce, but they sure can take over a good chunk. Here’s how Gap’s warehouse robotics work:

“Goods from various online checkout carts fall down a chute and into a large basin that’s part of one of the machines. A robotic arm above then picks each unit through suction and a physical grip, scans its bar code and places it in a bin in an adjacent cubby. Once all the items in a customer’s order are in, a worker puts the bin on a conveyor for packing and delivery. Kindred and Gap say they aim for the technology to complement workers, not replace them. At its warehouses, Gap is still scouting for new hires – and potentially new machines.” [ii]

Times are constantly changing due to the state of our world right now. However, Gap has managed to continue growing and advancing during all of this craziness. With that being said, Rogers Electric is right behind retailers like Gap growing their Distribution Centers. As Gap grows, facility maintenance is key to keep the company successful. Especially as devices like robotics are implemented into business plans. Head on over to the Rogers Electric website to see the different types of projects we’ve been working on.