Robotics is a fast emerging and developing sector of the industry. Automation is seen in various environments and warehousing is no different. The goal is to develop intelligent machines to help with warehousing tasks and reduce the use of human labour. Probably the best known example of warehouse robotics is Kiva robots used by Amazon but other companies have also acquired non-human intelligent helpers.
Warehouse Robotics at Amazon distribution centres
Amazon robots that have been created by Netherland-based TU Delft Robotics Institute and Delft Robotics have been awarded the best ‘picker’ machine recently. Contest involved attempts to pick objects in various shapes and sizes. Amazon has been using Kiva robots for some time now and they do not see them as a threat to human labour. In fact, with number of ‘employed’ robots exceeding 30,000 the number of human workers increased as well.
Self-driving warehouse robots
Pittsburgh-based Seegrid developed vision-guided vehicles to improve productivity at Giant Eagle warehouses. They use from 2 to 4 of such robots in each of their facilities. Machines work non-stop, 24/7. They collect cargo from front docks and transport it to designated aisles. Cargo is then put by another, this time manned, vehicle to the appropriate rack. Pallet trucks journeys are no longer manned and this leads to distribution centre productivity increased by 10-30%. Another advantage of Seegrid machines is lack of changes in infrastructure to accommodate them.
New technologies and solutions
Companies developing software and solutions for warehouse robotics are doing great. Locus Robotics developed software that allows easy control of robots. It enables keeping track of their location and deployment. Workers scan products and robots are used for their autonomous transportation. Another notable example is Fetch Robotics providing solutions and advice for businesses. They are targeted at companies that would not normally go for such solution as they do not consider them cost-effective. Rethink Robotics built software to improve co-operation of robots and humans. Known for some time now, Grizzly and Husky mobile robots by Clearpath Robotics can be used on various terrains. And last but not least, to be covered in this article – GreyOrange Robotics designed a system that allows to efficiently keep track of inventory.
And what’s your take on robotics? We’d love to hear what you think!