Robotics as a Service: the future of warehouse operations 

As we see more automated solutions appearing in warehouses across the globe, it is difficult not to see robotics playing a major part in the future of warehouse operations.  

Global Robotics Services (GRS) has been providing a wide array of robotic solutions to companies across Asia and America, and recently began expanding their activities into Europe. With the current growth in automated solutions in the market, they hope that their use of RaaS (Robotics as a Service) will help companies accelerate their automation capabilities. 

Over the last twelve months, GRS has made considerable progress with their European expansion, with the appointment of Jens Mueller in November 2022, who covers operations in Germany, and the hire of Francois Peridier to oversee France.  

GRS also made a splash at LogiMAT and Transport for Logistics trade fairs in Germany earlier this year, highlighting turnkey solutions available through their RaaS offerings. 


Robotics as a Service 

Robotics as a Service – much like Software as a Service – is a licensing and delivery model where, in this case, the robotic software and hardware are accessed by a subscription instead of being bought outright by the user. Not having the upfront capital or the technical expertise have both historically been large barriers to entry into taking on robotic solutions in warehousing operations.  

This removal of upfront costs and expert deployment is what has made GRS’s proposition so attractive; solution design, installation of the robots, purchasing expensive equipment, all these factors and more produce an enormous burden of capital expenditure on a business that RaaS helps navigate.  

“The subscription business model is one that we really like,” comments Hongming Chen, CEO of GRS, “and a lot of clients seem to like it as well. We take care of everything, and it is no longer the case that you need to be a big player to reap the benefits of automation.” 

This subscription service can be scaled up or down during the contract to match demands. Customers simply submit their requirements to GRS, who will design a solution to match them; if the RaaS cost is lesser than what it would be to employ staff to fulfil the same tasks, then the decision is made quite easy for the customer. With the costs of labour increasing, and GRS offering fixed RaaS costs for a 5-year contract, it may frequently be a more appealing option. 

As it turns out, the installation of these robotics solutions is a shorter window than one would expect for such technical operations. In a recent Proof of Concept (PoC) trial, the GRS installation was completed within six days.  

Small yellow sorting robots being used in warehouse operations sitting in a row

Technology Partners  

The work that GRS has been doing has led to collaboration with leaders in robotic technology. Their main partner, Libiao Robotics is a Chinese manufacturer that specialises in smaller robots perfect for sorting smaller items such as fashion clothing and cosmetics.

GRS are also moving up the scale of what is possible through their solution. Having started with smaller, non-fragile items in picking and sorting areas, they have introduced larger robots capable of handling items such as furniture and items such as crates of mineral water or soft drinks. These include fully autonomous forklifts, which can move heavy items as well as robotic arms that can perform more intricate tasks.  

These new robots are tested in the GRS lab in Shanghai, a state-of-the-art facility built to help test run and troubleshoot any new hardware or software. The lab also holds tests of new customer concepts, to ensure that solutions are ready to roll out with the installation, and to practically assess if products require special allowances in the sorting process. 

RFID chips are another consideration to be made – around 15-20% of GRS customers use these for scanning and storage and, once this technology becomes cheaper, will become vastly more prevalent due to their effectiveness compared to similar solutions, such as ERN codes.  


The future of warehouse robotics? 

So how is the future looking for GRS in Europe? “Promising” says Sales Director Jens Muller, “We have had some very productive discussions with some of the larger 3PL players across Europe and have already trialed several concepts. We are looking forward to bringing more innovation and ways that business can save money through the efficiency of robotics and automation systems.”  

There has been tremendous progress made by the GRS team, not just in Europe but around the globe, helping to introduce a new generation of robotics and automation solutions for business. The future of warehouse operations is looking bright. 

Sam Borthwick – Digital Marketing Executive, Europe