ABB Robotics
Abb Robotics Showcases The Future Of Retail At Selfridges In London Hero Image

You Could Be Shopping With Robots in the Future

May 26, 2022
ABB Robotics showcases the future of retail using recovered marine plastic at London's Selfridges.

At Selfridges, one of London’s premier department stores on Oxford Street, ABB Robotics highlighted the future of retail in an exciting demonstration.

Featured throughout April, the demonstration consisted of a window display with an ABB robot 3D printing a variety of personalized designer objects made from Parley Ocean Plastic. Parley Ocean Plastic is intercepted marine plastic debris collected by Parley’s Global Cleanup network.

The demonstration is part of Selfridges’ SUPERMARKET concept, challenging consumers to think about how purchased goods are produced and the impact they have on the environment.

“While expanded choice is great for consumers, it also comes at a cost to the environment, with products and packaging often being discarded with little thought about where they end up or whether they get recycled,” says Marc Segura, ABB’s Robotics Division President.

“Parley Ocean Plastic was invented to catalyze change in response to marine plastic pollution and the destruction of our oceans,” says Parley founder and CEO Cyrill Gutsch.

In partnership with the environmental organization and global network, Parley for the Oceans and Nagami, a design brand, the demonstration used ABB’s simulation software, RobotStudio, and an IRB 6700 robot to create a variety of printed furniture, homeware, and other objects made from Parley Ocean Plastic.

The robot will work with Nagami’s plastic extruder to print the objects, which can be selected by customers on a screen and made to order on the premises.

“By re-using plastic from the world’s oceans to print designer objects, we help to highlight the important contribution of robots in creating the sustainable manufacturing processes central to a circular economy." — Marc Segura

Robotic Transformation of the Retail Experience

As well as underlining the importance of eco-innovation, the demonstration helped to highlight the potential of robotic automation in helping retailers attract customers into their stores. Robots are already being used in increasing numbers in inventory and delivery management and in-store services, with research organization Coherent Market Insights estimating a 30% growth in the uptake of robots in retail by 2028.

“We believe that future adoption will be influenced by three main trends including micro-fulfillment, where robots are used in-store to enable order fulfillment and delivery; personalization, where a robot makes a product to a customer’s specific requirements, with the added option of automatic personalization where data on previous purchasing habits is used to offer new choices; and ‘retailtainment’, where the robot is used as part of an interactive display or show to inform or entertain customers.” — Cyrill Gutsch.

“Robots are increasingly used to help draw customers back to the high street,” says Segura.

One example is ABB’s robotic demo at German fashion retailer Solebox’s store in Berlin, which picks shoes selected by customers using a screen. If the shoe doesn’t fit or the customer would like to try something else, the robot picks it up from the drawer and returns it to the shelf.

In China, a retail kiosk developed by Chinese mobile communications company, Huawei in conjunction with ABB, allows customers to collect a range of devices including smartphones and tablets. Designed to be situated in high street locations, the kiosk uses ABB’s FlexBuffer system to select devices either ordered online or purchased onsite. Once selected, the products are placed into a collection drawer for the customer to take away.

“The ability to introduce robots into their stores both behind and in front of the counter offers exciting opportunities for retailers,” concludes Marc Segura.

“By using robots to handle in-store micro-fulfillment operations, staff can be released to people-facing roles, allowing them to focus more on providing customers with a better all-round experience.

“As demonstrated by the installation at Selfridges, robots can also be used on the shop floor to enable personalized production of goods at the point of consumption, adding a whole new dimension to the retail experience.”

This new customer segment broadens ABB’s portfolio as part of a wider strategy to accelerate expansion into new and high-growth segments including logistics, healthcare, and construction.