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Boots deploys hundreds of 'cobots' to cope with festive demand

Published
today Nov 29, 2019
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Health and beauty retailer Boots has revealed workers at its Burton warehouse are getting a helping hand from 135 collaborative robots, or ‘cobots’ as they are commonly called, to meet an expected surge in orders over the next few weeks.


Boots


The British company is anticipating thousands of online orders over the festive season, and said this year will be its biggest online Black Friday yet.

The robots will help deliver 3 million items to customers during the two week-period surrounding Black Friday, with the average number of orders per week projected to increase sixfold. 

Cobots work alongside humans, and are there to help and assist warehouse staff by carrying orders between picking stations, helping improve productivity and overall efficiency. 

Whilst robots have been given a bad reputation by Hollywood, there is no denying that some people have a real concern that robots will take their jobs. But Boots was quick to dissipate any concerns, saying warehouse workers have happily welcomed the ‘cobots’, and have even given them names such as Hal and Botty McBot Face.

Alan Penhale, interim director of supply chain, Boots UK, said: “Our new cobot colleagues are ready to help with Black Friday, where we expect to pick around 3 million items over the 2 week period. 

“Our warehouse team absolutely love the cobots – who have all been given names. They make the warehouse a calmer, more productive place and are also 2-3 times faster than manually pushing trolleys long distances, saving our teams from having to walk quite as far.”

According to 2019 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO survey, UK retail will lose 580,000 jobs to robots within five years, and one in five jobs will be replaced by AI/automated technology.

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