Can goods-to-man robotics be a driver of post-Covid-19 logistics?

20 May 2020

Logistics in the post-Covid-19 world will require new uses and practices in warehouses to combine efficiency and security. Make way for the democratization of mobile robotics for the safety of people and the flexibility of the supply chain.

An article signed by Olivier Rochet, CEO of Scallog.


The logistics world has just experienced an extraordinary situation in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, a real shock of demand and supply! From the closure of non-food stores to the unprecedented surge in online sales of mass consumption products, which represents a challenge for e-commerce and 3PL, via supply chains “under tension” in the ‘food and medical, logistics has been on the front line.

It had to reinvent itself, day by day, juggling with a shortage of products, resources and peak of activity as in food e-commerce, the pharmaceutical industry … or even transform itself as in cosmetics which put its means of production to deliver hydroalcoholic gels to actors committed against the pandemic.
A considerable number of companies, supply chain players and robotics, such as our company Scallog, have mobilized for the daily pursuit of the logistics chain!

Will new purchasing behaviors such as the short circuit and the use of the drive be anchored in the consumption patterns of the French, or will the price factor become fundamental again? It is still too early to answer. On the other hand, we can learn from the management of this unprecedented crisis, the imperative need for the resilience of the supply chain, whose warehouse and human resources are key. Often associated with agility and responsiveness, it translates into a logistics chain capable of absorbing shocks and reacting quickly to pursue its missions, with a view to product availability, quality and customer satisfaction.

The need today of logistics players to control, secure and adapt their logistics processes, in particular order preparation, to bounce back in a phase of turbulence and uncertainty, will accelerate, in our opinion, robotization , and more generally goods-to-man automation in warehouses.

Already an important issue for 80% of supply chain directors and French managers according to the latest Comarch and Opinion Way study carried out in March 2020, automation, especially goods-to-man, will now become a priority to protect its resources, gain in resistance and agility or even tend towards more eco-responsibility.

What are the four levers of “goods-to-man” robotization for post-Covid logistics?

Post-Covid logistics, in addition to new health constraints, requires the implementation of new practices and solutions, to combine responsiveness, flexibility and adaptability, in particular in the preparation of details. Goods-to-man robotization, or the goods that come to operators via robots, today represents a relevant response to these health protection, resilience, agility and sustainability requirements of the supply chain.

Security, protection and enhancement of human capital

At a time of post-containment logistics, warehouses and preparation stations must be redesigned to put in place new hygiene measures – masks, gloves, glasses – and sanitary rules in order to limit the movement of operators and respect physical distance. In order to transform these new health constraints into process improvement, Goods-to-Man robotization is a concrete and pragmatic response to secure workstations, apply health instructions, without compromising performance, even in small teams. For example, the Scallog robotic solution – a robot that moves storage cabinets to a preparation station where there is only one operator – guarantees flawless respect for physical distance, while eliminating movement and prolonged contact between people in the warehouse.

Resilience, the best responses to hazards and the ability to rebound

Faced with the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, an external event par excellence, logistics have been on the warpath. And in a few days, continuity plans have been implemented, processes have been reinvented to avoid degradation and stoppage of the supply chain. What really made the difference was the ability
to react quickly to maintain logistical flows, day in and day out, being resilient. Once again, goods-to-man robotization stands out, unlike traditional automation, by ensuring rapid installation and scalable sizing, without calling into question what already exists.

Agility, day-to-day adaptability

Resilience is based on a key point, agility, flexibility and efficiency of operations according to changes in demand or supply! Faced with the lack of visibility on the recovery and the curve it will take, logistics must prepare as best as possible to manage, day by day, week or even month, all of its flows, processes and standardized operations to meet the better customers. As such, the brakes and blocking points should be removed to streamline the functioning of the supply chain, from one channel to another, for example. It is a question of favoring, in detail preparations, goods-to-man robotization, which combines simplicity and robustness, to prepare for the aftermath: robots or additional preparation stations can be deployed in a few days or even in a few hours.

Durability, a pillar of robustness and resistance

Combined with reliability, efficiency and logistics responsiveness, the sustainability of the supply chain is a strength. In order to reduce stocks, handling and optimize truck loads and therefore de facto CO2 emissions or even to massify flows or to develop a short value chain, goods-to-man robotization can contribute to this. In addition to reducing arduous work and improving working conditions, energy-efficient goods-to-man robotization works to put operational efficiency at the service of more sustainable development of logistics activity : fewer trips by motorized employees to the warehouse, faster preparations for optimal truck filling, increased skills in resources, etc.

Controlling stocks in the best possible way for cash, speeding up order preparation in the event of unexpected fluctuations in demand or supply … these are the current challenges for logisticians. They must also today lay the foundations for a truly flexible and resilient future logistics capable of overcoming future crises.
A response is essential, warehouse automation and more particularly goods-to-man robotization like that of Scallog, which allows both to very quickly transform its logistics environment while maintaining the existing and meet the new objectives of agility, sustainability and resilience !