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GAP turns to robots for logistics industry duties

Written by

Neil Martin

Neil Martin

The disruption caused by Covid-19 has encouraged US clothing store GAP to up its use of robots.

GAP uses robots for logistics and warehousing industry duties, particularly assembling online orders.

Industry experts say this is just one example of how the pandemic is causing the logistics industry to think about how quickly it rolls-out robots. 

GAP told news agency Reuters that using warehouse robots to assembly orders means that it can limit human contact during the pandemic.

It now uses over 100 item-picking robots, up three times from when before the pandemic struck. When Covid-19 took hold, it not only had to close all its US stores (the company also owns the Banana Republic and Old Navy brands), but also had to cope with higher warehouse orders, yet less staff to fulfill them. 

The robot station sits at the end of a chute down which rolls goods from various online checkout carts. The robot’s arms are equipped with suction tools that collect each item, scans the barcode and places it in an appropriate bin. The items are then collected by a human worker for packing and delivery. 

Kevin Kuntz, Gap’s senior vice president of global logistics fulfillment, told Reuters: “We could not get as many people in our distribution centers safely.” said Kevin Kuntz, Gap’s senior vice president of global logistics fulfillment. 

In the end Kuntz contacted the vendor that sells the machines and asked if he could get the robots earlier than planned. Kindred AI obliged, even though it was a significant investment.

There’s ten of the eight-foot tall robotic stations in Gap’s warehouse near Nashville, Tennessee and 20 near Columbus, Ohio. Each machine does the work of four people. 

GAP is not alone in coping with the problem, with Amazon and Walmart all using more robots to cope with issues caused by the pandemic. 

The size of Gap’s financial commitment to the warehouse robots was not disclosed. 

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