Gap dramatically accelerates robot rollout as COVID-19 encourages automation

Gap is accelerating the rollout of automated robots to fulfil online orders in its warehouses in a bid to reduce human contact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fashion retailer is understood to have penned a deal with robotics firm Kindred, which builds eight-foot-tall picking robots, to triple the number of units in its warehouses to 106 by the Autumn.

However, according to Reuters, Gap has now brought forward this rollout to increase the amount of online orders it can fulfil while keeping the number of staff in its warehouses to a minimum to enable social distancing.

After reaching out to Kindred to request more automated picking machines well ahead of schedule, 10 new robots were deployed at its warehouse in Nashville, Tennessee and further 20 were deployed near Columbus, Ohio.

READ MORE: Automated delivery vehicles see major boost during lockdown

According to Kindred’s chief operating officer Marin Tchakarov, the full rollout originally planned for autumn covering four facilities will now be completed by July.

Each robot is understood the be able to handle the work of around four employees.

It comes as many retailers are turning towards automation to fulfil roles previously carried out by employees during the crisis.

While this technology has been available for some time, the pandemic has acted as jet fuel to the embers of adoption, accelerating the uptake of these systems to levels which may have otherwise taken years to reach.

Kindred has reported a spike in inquiries from retailers now seriously considering implementing their technology.

According to the Brooking Institution think tank: “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”.

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