It is well known that Japan has an ageing population. This is leading to shortages of workers, particularly in manual labour jobs such as warehouse staff. To tackle this short-staffing problem, Japanese warehouses and logistics operators are looking at warehouse robotics and automation to solve the problem.
Enter, China and India. Two economies who have well-developed tech industries. Quicktron, based out of Shanghai, counts Alibaba as one of their clients started selling their robots in Japan in the summer of 2019, with a target of 200 robot sales by the end of the year.
The Indian company, GreyOrange have also entered the Japanese market with their Butler robot.
No stranger to developing high each industries, Japan has its own homegrown talent. Both Quicktron and GreyOrange are facing competition from Daifuku. Daifuku, however, focuses primarily on automated conveyor belts and fixed devices, which actually operate faster than robots.
One advantage Quicktron has, is their robots can be readily deployed without any renovation works necessary. Unlike conveyor belt systems that require extensive re modeling to fit them in, and take up valuable real estate, the robots cost 2/3 and deployed 50% faster than conveyor belt systems.
Quicktron is also backed by experience, with online shopping giant Alibaba utilizing their robotics, they have around 5,000 robots deployed since 2014. 700 of these to Alibaba alone.
GreyOrange is selling its Butler robots through Japanese distributor Daiwa House Industry. They are a developer of logistics facilities. A warehouse located near Tokyo is took delivery of 70 Butler Robots in 2019.
Another player in the warehouse robotics industry from China, Beijing based Geek+ started operations in Japan in 2017. Geek+ raised $150 Million USD in startup capital in 2018. They have deployed 5,000 robots across China, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, Europe and the United States.
Geek+ have focused on cargo to man robotics. This is the same technology adapted by Amazon, saving time by bringing shelving units to the human operators. They also provide sorting movement systems and autonomous forklift trucks.