August 22, 2019
by Gary Forger, Supply Chain Management Review
It seems that most everywhere you look in the past couple of months there are robots. And they are almost always doing something new.
To start, look at the news coming out of the ProMat and Automate shows in April, where robots dominated even though there were many more than 1,000 exhibitors with supply chain solutions. The introductions ranged from collaborative robots to pick-and-place to autonomous mobile robots and beyond. Artificial intelligence and cloud-based systems figured prominently too.
Meanwhile, you now have to watch out for mobile robots at your local store. When you go to Walmart, look for robots taking inventory storewide. Ditto for grocer Giant Eagle. Robots in the personal care and pasta aisles? Really? It’s happening now.
Of course, Amazon’s bots continue to proliferate to fill your e-commerce orders. Meanwhile, Ryder Systems is cycle counting in its smart warehouses with robots from Fetch Robotics. Hollar, which offers products starting at $1 online, has deployed inVia Picker robots at its new Cincinnati warehouse.
Don’t overlook companies like family-owned national 3PL Barrett Distribution. It’s using Locus Robotics’ order picking robots to fill orders at its facility in Franklin, MA. “This most recent busy season we were able to utilize the bots to ship a record number of packages with less headcount than we’ve had before,” explains Doug Varga, vice president information technology at Barrett.
That puts robots in a nutshell – higher throughput with less labor. But don’t expect people to go away. Collaborative robots, those that work alongside people in the warehouse especially, are at the top of people’s cap-ex budgets these days
All this robotics technology is having an impact
Here are four other recent examples of new introductions of mobile robots with AI from the recent shows.
InVia offers a cloud-based robotics-as-a-service management system for its robots. The artificial intelligence-based system learns the warehouse and improves processes over time.
Vecna recently introduced its AI-based platform for coordinating workflow of piece-picking robots and people. It analyzes current operations and adjusts processes within pre-set norms. Boston Dynamics has acquired Kinema Systems that enables industrial robotic arms with deep learning technology to locate and move boxes on pallets.
Geek+ introduced autonomous mobile robots for warehousing and order fulfillment. They are powered by machine learning to improve picking and inventory accuracy.
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