It can be said without a doubt that the emergence of warehouse robotics has irrevocably altered the functioning of warehouses and ushered in a great change in the warehousing industry. To begin with it enormously helps in the movement of heavy items within the warehouses. Thus, it helps to reduce the dependency on the human workforce. In the fast-moving e-commerce scene of the present day, warehouse managers often face numerous logistical challenges. Meeting the all-inclusive demands of the customers necessitates absolutely dedication on part of the operator.
The pandemic has given a boost to the e-commerce sector. In fact, it has resulted in a tremendous logistical challenge for warehouse and distribution center operators. In order to cope with the situation and meet the rising client demands, warehouses are adopting robotics like never before. As per research by Market and Markets, the robotics market will reach $4.4 by next year. The robotics companies in the US will be the trailblazers. In today’s post, we will take you through all you need to know about robotics technology in the warehousing industry. Keeping reading to know more.
Defining warehouse robotics
Warehouse robotics implies the use of automated systems like robots and special online tools for moving goods within the warehouse. Above all, they are used for the automation and streamlining of several warehousing operations. In the last few years, robotics has become the buzzword in the supply chain, distribution, and warehousing industry. Technological developments like AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (internet of things) are now a part and parcel of robotics. The leading logistics companies are implementing the latest warehouse robotic technologies to better service their customers.
Before proceeding into the details, we should tell you about the technologies that allow robots to autonomously operate in warehouses. There are primarily three main technologies:
- AI and machine learning
- Warehouse management software
- Enhanced sensors and response capability
The use of automation and robotics in warehouses
The warehousing industry consists of several repetitive operations that are process-oriented and prone to mistakes. Automation in this sector can make tasks like picking, packing, putting away, receiving, etc. much more simple, accurate, and productive by eliminating the human element. The robots relieve the warehouse workers from the most boring and repetitive tasks and thereby boost employee retention rate and operational productivity.
They allow warehouse managers to focus on essential aspects of businesses like client servicing and maintenance. Furthermore, the use of robotics allows for a safe working space. They keep the workers safe from accidents involving machines, heavy equipment, and unsafe work environments. Last but not the least, the use of warehouse robots allows the warehousing industry to be functional 24×7. This is extremely crucial in the present e-commerce era. The future lies with totally automated warehouses that will not require any human workforce.
Types of warehouse robots
Automated Guided Vehicles
The AGVs and the AGCs (Automated Guided Carts) facilitate easy transportation and inventory within a warehouse. They reduce dependence on the human workforce and manually driven forklifts. Basically, their function is to move along the magnetic tracks laid within the warehouse or fulfillment center.
Automated storage and retrieval systems
AS/RS are computer-controlled technology used for inventory management. The most common form of AS/RS is a shuttle attached to a crane or a fixed track. This shuttle is used to move items between aisles. Presently, there are even robots capable of climbing up the aisle to retrieve customer’s orders. Mostly this kind of robots is used in fulfillment centres.
The collaborative robots aka semi-autonomous robots work alongside the human workforce to perform several warehouse tasks. That is to say, they are used for moving the human pickers around the warehouse. They also double up as mobile storage bins for picked orders. Collaborative robots usually come with sensors. These sensors can identify the boxes and obstacles on its path thus ensuring accurate navigation across the warehouse.
Goods to person robots
The G2P robots utilize automated storage systems for delivering the items to the pick stations where the orders are fulfilled by the human workers. Even though the G2P robots greatly boost efficiency in operations, they demand significant infrastructural alterations and considerable investment.
Autonomous mobile robots
Autonomous Mobile Robots are also used to deliver inventory throughout the warehouse facility. It is more useful than Autonomous Guided Vehicles as they don’t require a preset magnetic path for shuttling between locations. They establish their routes by using computers, maps, and sensors.
Articulated robotic arms
These pick and place robots used for manipulating items in the warehouse and distribution centers. In other words, they are specifically used for palletizing, storage and receiving, and picking and packing.
Aerial drones are used to improve warehouse inventory processes. They do not require markers or lasers for direction. The aerial drones navigate the warehouse by using deep learning technologies, optical systems, and computer vision. Most importantly, these robots don’t use up much space. Therefore they never come in the way of other digital devices in your warehouse. They are capable of scanning inventory much more quickly and accurately than the human workforce. In other words, they allow you to have the most accurate count upload on your inventory management system. Although they are presently controlled by human operators, the goal of this technology is to eliminate all human dependency.
Some of the top warehouse robotics companies in 2021
6 River Systems
6 River Systems’ robot called Chuck is a semi-autonomous robot that operates alongside humans. Their most important use is to help in the picking and packing tasks in the fulfillment centres.The workers no longer need to walk around the warehouse since Chuck comes to them and assists in the processes. Shopify has been using them for boosting its warehouse operations since 2019.
Geek + is a China based robotics company that has over 10,000 operating robots acquired by several companies around the world.
Locus Robotics manufactures collaborative robots that operate autonomously with various storage configurations. These robots come to the worker, and guide them through a computer screen about which items to pick.
The cloud- driven semi-autonomous robots by Fetch works on several platforms. They depend on a cloud-based platform and so it doesn’t require the installation of an on-premise software.
As the name suggests, they are mainly used for order fulfillment and picking and placing. Its prime use consists of identification and picking products of varying shapes and sizes, even from mixed bins.
Benefits of using warehouse robots
Here are a few reasons why more and more warehouse operators are investing on procuring warehouse robots:
- Firstly, they help to reduce dependency on the human workforce and make the warehouses more functional.
- Secondly, they improve accuracy and operational efficiency in the warehouse.
- Most importantly, they help to lower the costs in the warehousing industry.