Companies in the space include Noovelia, Amazon Robotics, GreyOrange, and MuL Technologies

The idea of workers being replaced by automation is nothing new (there were literally movies being made about this all the way back in the 1950s!) but more recently they’ve started to go from fear to actual reality. We’ve all gone into fast food restaurants and had a kiosk take our order; I’ve taken factory tours where there’s almost nobody working on the floor, except the person supervising the robot doing all the manual labor. The world is changing quickly. 

While likely very few people actually would say they want anyone to lose their job to a robot, sometimes it’s actually necessary, and possibly even beneficial. For example, when a job is particularly risky, such as transporting hazardous materials, one could argue that it’s better to send a piece of machinery to perform those tasks than to risk a person’s health, or even their life.

In 2019, there were 5.3 injuries per 100 full-time workers in the warehousing and storage industry, and there are over 38,000 incidents occur in warehouses annually, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not only that but up to 80% of accidents involving forklifts result in injury to a pedestrian, so it’s not just workers who are being put at risk.

This all adds up, not just for the person who is hurt, but to the employers who has to pay out as a result: it costs employers in the U.S. $171 billion a year to pay out costs associated with disabling or non-fatal workplace injuries. It’s in everyone’s best interest that the workplace be as safe as possible. It also becomes necessary when people simply don’t want to do the jobs in question, for whatever reason, including not being paid enough to take those aforementioned risks. 

And certain sectors are already being hit hard by these type of shortages: for example, there’s a labor shortage in Canadian manufacturing, with 200,000 unfilled positions due to a lack of qualified candidates, a shortfall that’s predicted to reach 600,000 positions by 2030.


For the companies that need their production lines to run at full capacity, automation becomes the answer, and among the technologies they can choose to make up for the lack of workers include automated guided vehicles (AGV) and autonomous mobile robots (AMR). 

What’s the difference between those two? Think of AMRs as being like a car and AGVs being a train: while AMRs can drive and maneuver around obstacles on their own, AGVs are on a set path and can’t keep going if something is blocking them. While both AMRs and AGVs are have safety features, such as emergency stop buttons, sensors, and cameras which stop any type of collision from happening, AMRs are generally considered safer because of their ability to navigate around people and obstacles. AGVs, on the other hand, typically operate in areas that are separate from people.

As for which one is better, that depends on the type of environment. Given that AMRs are more versatile, they can be used in a wider range of applications; for example, an AMR can be programmed to follow around a human and assist them, or it can be equipped with a robotic arm so that it can pick up heavy or hard to reach items, and then set them down.

AGVs, meanwhile, are typically used in industrial applications where they don’t need to interact with people, including manufacturing and warehousing.

These technologies are still early but they’re already on the rise, with mobile robot shipments growing by 53% in 2022. It’s predicted that there will be four million mobile robots installed by the end of 2027, 1.5 million of which will be installed that year alone, while revenue growth for the section will average 30% to 40% annually. Even by then, though, there will still be significant opportunities, as only 2% of all forklifts shipped in 2027 will be automated and only 14% of warehouses will have deployed at least one AMR. 

Companies in the AGV/AMR space

There are a number of companies manufacturing these robots, with big players, such as Amazon Robotics, as well as Fetch Robotics, a cloud-driven AMR solution for warehousing intralogistics environments that was bought by Zebra Technologies.

Others include GreyOrange, a company that creates AU-driven software and mobile robots for the warehousing industry, which has raised over $420 million; Locus Robotics, a warehouse robotics company that manufactures autonomous mobile robots to support e-commerce, which has raised over $400 million; and Dematic, a provide of intelligent intralogistics and materials handling solutions, which was bought by KION GROUP.

There are also a number of startups in this space, some of them doing very interesting things with the AMR and AGV technology. For example, MuL Technologies is a company that offers mobile autonomous robotic carts that use 3D cameras, lasers, and proximity sensors to scans the environment in real-time to build a map so its vehicle can navigate, while 

Doozy Robotics has developed an autonomous forklift, conveyor, and pallet lifter, as well as a humanoid robot that can perceiving its environment and enter into a conversation when it sees a person. 

Another company, LexxPluss has developed a hybrid-AMR that allows its robot to work in conjunction with assorting systems and conveyor belts to transport goods, along with Konnectt, a centralized management system capable of controlling up to 50 Hybrid-AMRs.

Noovelia, meanwhile, is a company that creates AGV/AMR robots which reduce operating costs, processing time, errors and waste; inventory management software designed specifically for the agri-food industry, which allows for the tracking of raw materials, materials in process, finished products or packaging materials. It also has a real-time location system that provides accurate real-time production line data.

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