May 26, 2021
The Association for Advancing Automation recently featured Daniel Theobald, CEO and Founder of Vecna Robotics in a Q&A to discuss the future of Automation. Daniel is an automation expert and industry leader with decades of experience. Daniel has spent his career leading teams of engineers in developing robotic solutions for multiple industries. He has 67 issued patents and an additional 30 pending. Daniel has worked closely with leading technology organizations such as DARPA, DOD, NASA, NIH, and USDA. His work aims to advance the use of robotics and AI software to improve supply chain efficiency. In addition to founding Vecna Robotics, Daniel also co-founded MassRobotics, a non-profit dedicated to the global advancement of the robotics industry. Daniel is dedicated to the idea that technology can be used to empower humans to live more fulfilling lives.
As an experienced leader in automation, Daniel shared his opinion that the decision to adopt autonomous solutions should not be solely based on solving the stress of increased demand alone. The bigger picture to consider is workflows as a whole. By 2025 it is predicted that 4 million robots will operate in 50,000 warehouses. The next decade will be spent coordinating and orchestrating those robots to achieve productivity goals.
Workflow Orchestration can share the status of all robots in real time. This includes the human workforce, manual trucks, and all autonomous equipment, including tuggers, pallet trucks, small robot conveyors, and robot arms. The advantage of Orchestration is increasing throughput and operating more efficiently. While working, facility management can collect real time data, increase efficiency, control precision, and leverage human creativity.
According to Daniel Theobald, the environments of warehouses and distribution centers are constantly evolving. Facility management may be excellent problem solvers, however, they are at a disadvantage on the data front. Access to real-time data will help them anticipate future changes and quickly implement new strategies. The goal is to prepare for any scenario without impacting operational efficiency. AI provides necessary information to maintain maximum productivity. The Association of Advancing Automation included a summary of the key benefits of applications that continuously improve efficiency.
Humans are essential to all warehouse operations. In a single facility there is an optimal role for each key player; humans, robots, and AI. The job of AI is to constantly seek out opportunities for improvement, learn, and communicate the findings with the human workforce. Humans then plan the best use for robots and deploy them to those tasks. Robots are responsible for carrying out the grueling labor with precision and efficiency. A key benefit to this system is improving the quality of life for the human workforce. By assigning the dangerous and repetitive tasks to robots, humans can focus on higher-value activities. Tasks for laborers include exception handling and creative problem solving.
One of the unique benefits Vecna Robotics provides to its customers is the considering all elements of a facility and workflow. Vecna Robotics understands that optimizing a single piece will not give customers the results they want. Considering this, Vecna Robotics AI-powered orchestration engine, Pivotal, and the autonomous equipment work in sync. The deployment of these solutions into a facility also includes in-depth training for the existing human workforce to understand and maximize the power of their autonomous equipment. The allocation of tasks between Pivotal, AMRs, and humans results in high employee satisfaction and engagement.
Deploying robots and overcoming the learning curve is often the most difficult part of implementing robots. The key to optimizing autonomous solutions is simple, start small. By starting small, customers learn how the technology works best for them and their workforce. From this point, it is easier to scale. Without experience, a small fleet is more manageable and allows teams to gain confidence and assess ROI. Once the production environment is working in a comfortable routine with AMRs it is easier to grow the fleet.
Learning how to read and leverage data is a low-cost way to simulate multiple scenarios and determine ideal utilization practices for your equipment. Analyzing data also helps identify areas for improvement. Data on resource usage, distance traveled, travel time vs. idle time, deadheading, and high-traffic routes through facilities are collected. Translating data into action is one of the greatest advantages of AMRs as it brings significant value to your operations.
Daniel was recently named a 2021 Pro to Know by Supply and Demand Chain Executive, read the announcement here.