How was Cyber Monday? Ask a robot!

Automation industry stats are becoming an important metric of online marketplaces.

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How'd we do on Cyber Monday? There are lots of ways to measure the orgy of online consumption. 

According to the site SaleCycle, Cyber Monday 2019 saw sales totalling $9.2bn, up 16.9% from $7.9bn in 2018. Black Monday alone saw $7.4bn in sales

We could also measure the human participation in that historic week. A record 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year, an increase of 14% over 2018's 165.8 million, according to National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

I, however, prefer to look at the monumental task of fulfilling all of those orders. Many companies are mum about exact fulfillment statistics. Fortunately, the automation sector provides tantalizing keyholes into the logistics and fulfillment sector. 

For example, Locus Robotics, a leader in autonomous mobile robots (AMR) for fulfillment warehouses, recently announced record-breaking productivity numbers in November 2019, delivering more than 13 million units picked on behalf of global retail and third party logistics customers during the critical holiday season. That's a 400% increase in units picked over last year, a sign both of online shopping trends and of the spread of automation in fulfillment as companies scramble to offer rush delivery.

"2019 has been a year of significant transformation and growth for Locus and our customers," says Rick Faulk, CEO of Locus Robotics. "We saw an incredible uptick in demand for our scalable, flexible, multi-robot solution. Locus helped businesses break productivity records they couldn't have imagined possible even a year ago."

Locus customers include DHL, GEODIS, Port Logistics, Verst Logistics, SANDOW, Marley Lilly, and Radial. To get a sense of why robots are becoming the new norm in fulfillment, consider that many of these companies are achieving 200-300% improvements in productivity using mobile robots, according to data provided to ZDNet by Locus.

Cyber Monday is a particular challenge for robotics firms. Other companies in the space include Fetch, inVia, Seegrid, ClearPath, and 6 River Systems, among others.

"On Black Friday and Cyber Monday [our customers] see spikes of three to four times the regular volume," Lior Elazary, co-founder and CEO of inVia Robotics, told Robotics Business Review recently. "What they need from our automation system is simple – the ability to increase resources to fulfill those additional orders on time and accurately. They just can't find enough people to hire as additional temporary workers during this busy period, and the people they do have are stretched to their limits."