Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, warehouse robotics solutions realized massive adoption from retailers and distributors, as well as increased investments from venture capital and technology organizations. While catalysts for robotics adoption such as labor shortages, capacity constraints, and increasing order volume continue to persist, there are now several new challenges posed by the pandemic that are strengthening the business case for these solutions. For example, social distancing requirements and maintaining a healthy workforce have forced organizations to invest in dynamic, flexible, and safe solutions that ensure resiliency in the supply chain.
According to Grand View Research, the warehouse robotics market is predicted to reach 7.6 billion by 2027, up from 3.9 billion in 2019. This assumes a compound annual growth of 12.6%. However, at Bricz, from what we are seeing from our network of prospects and customers, this growth may be understated. The pandemic is forcing retailers to make decisions to become resilient not only today but for future disruptions. Warehouse robotics is certainly an option for resiliency as it pertains to their fulfillment operations. The result: interest in these solutions is rapidly increasing.
At Bricz, we help retail and distribution customers digest the rapidly advancing, commercially available robotics solutions to understand the right solution fit for their business use case. Below we will summarize five key robotics solutions transforming fulfillment operations.
- Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
Automated Guided Vehicles, also known as AGVs, are used within a warehouse facility for transporting material autonomously. These vehicles may leverage magnetic tape to route vehicles safely around the distribution or fulfillment center. However, other types of AGVs such as Vision Guided Vehicles, or VGVs leverage software and optics for navigation. AGVs can be used for inbound putaway, picking, and replenishment procedures. A large use case for these vehicles is pallet shuttling, or goods-to-person movements with the main goal of reducing travel for warehouse workers and increasing throughput.
- Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)
Autonomous Mobile Robots, or AMRs, are also used for transporting material within the warehouse. These vehicles are engineered to navigate completely autonomously utilizing sensors and machine learning capabilities. These robots are designed to ensure the safety of those working alongside them inside a distribution or fulfillment center. AMRs can be used to move a variety of inventory such as pallet, rack, case, and tote, and even each picking. They can even be used for sortation activities, where robots navigate to and from dedicated receiving and putaway locations.
- Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems, also known as ASRS or AS/RS, fully automate the putaway and picking process. These systems are made of 3 main components: a structural grid for storage and transportation lanes, delivery robots to putaway and bring inventory to picking stations, and storage bins to hold inventory. This solution is typically used for e-commerce fulfillment operations and many large, big box retailers are adopting these solutions across their networks with the rapid growth of digital commerce.
- Aerial Drones
Drones are a growing technology in many aspects of the supply chain, most commonly known for their potential in final-mile-delivery. However, other solutions are surfacing such as cycle counting within the warehouse. Cycle counting is a daunting task that every business must perform to ensure inventory accuracy. With the help of automation through drone technology, inventory accuracy may be achieved, while also decreasing manual labor. Drone cycle counting can perform more efficient and accurate cycle counts than other robotic solutions and manual procedures. As this technology advances in capability and costs decrease, the use case will become stronger.
- Robotic Picking and Palletization
Robotic arm solutions are being leveraged to solve numerous challenges within the warehouse. The solutions can be used in harmony with other AMRs to ensure maximum productivity and accuracy. For example, AMRs and AGV can be integrated with robotic arms to streamline the picking and palletization process. Manual labor reduction and speed is the main business case, but it also ensures optimization for transportation volume purposes. Similarly, robotic arms can help with depalletization during your inbound process to create efficiency.
For more information on how to analyze and implement the best warehouse robotics solution in your organization’s supply chain, reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributor: David Steinfeld, Supply Chain Manager & Business Development Leader at Bricz