The Warehouse Robotics industry in North America, western hemisphere in general, is exploding. In the last year, at a micro level, we have seen:
- a) an uptick in customers exploring robots for their operations
- b) software leaders like Manhattan Associates introducing a plug and play solution for faster onboarding of robotics
- c) new robot vendors like Geek+ entering US market
Above are just a few highlights, solidifying robots disrupting American Warehouse Operations. With MODEX less than a week away, we’re putting together some FAQs for the warehouse leaders that are looking to be better prepared for the flood of information on robotics at MODEX.
- What are Robots doing in the warehouse?
Robots are available to do a variety of warehouse tasks, but recent growth has been in the labor-intensive operation of order fulfillment which is picking & packing.
- How are warehouse robots segmented?
Warehouse Robots can be broadly segmented into three categories based on their offerings
- Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS)
- Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)
- a) AMR-enhanced Goods-to-Person
- b) AMR-assisted Person-to-Goods
- Robotics Arms
- What is the difference between AMR-enhanced Goods-to-Person(aGTP) vs AMR-assisted Person-to-Goods (aPTG)?
Both solutions aim to reduce unproductive travel time for warehouse associates. The approach however, is different:
- AMRs in aGTP are robots that can carry shelves to a packing station where a packer will pack the final order. The non-productive travel time for warehouse associate is practically reduced to zero.
- AMRs in aPTG are robots that are working along with humans. A human will pick or retrieve an item out of the bin/tote on the robot. After confirming the action the robot will drive itself to the next zone or aisle for the next task. Associates will still have to walk around aisles for replenishments or different picks, but it eliminates the non-productive time of taking a tote/bin to the pack-out station.
- What is a Robotic Arm?
As the name suggests, it is a programmable arm that can sort and pick. Most use cases in the warehouse are eCommerce piece picking but newer technology is enabling the use of the Robotic Arm with palletizing and de-palletizing tasks.
- What is Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS)?
A zero-travel time solution for picking in the warehouse. Robots traverse horizontally and/or vertically across the multi-level metal framework to bring inventory to the packing station, which is one end of the ASRS system. Associates’ non-productive travel time is reduced to zero.
- Who are some vendors in this space based on their offering?
|AS/RS (Goods to Person)
|AMR enhanced Goods to Person
|AMR assisted Person to Goods
|6 River Systems
|Kiva (now Amazon Robotics)
- Which robotic solution should you consider for your warehouse?
There is no one silver bullet. There are a variety of factors to count before deciding on a robotic solution. For example, if you are implementing a brand-new eCommerce DC and have capital, then ASRS might make sense to consider. But if you are upgrading your existing facility then maybe aPTG might give productivity gains. Again, there is no one answer for the robotic solution but keep in mind the following factors when making a decision. Factors include, not limited to,
- Greenfield implementation OR existing facility
- Ecommerce, retail-only or mixed
- Volume of Orders
- Order profile
- SKU variety
- SKU dimensions
- Physical Space in the warehouse
- Material flow
- Capital Investment Budget for a robotic solution
- Operational & on-going Maintenance Budget for a robotic solution
- Where should you start for Warehouse Robotics?
We don’t recommend bulldozing your existing setup and starting from scratch. Implementing robotics in the warehouse is a delicate balance between managing on-going business activities and bringing new technology to help with business longevity.
We recommend starting with a process review – identify opportunities within the warehouse that are repetitive and non-productive like walking from picking area to the packing station. Once you identify them, explore solutions to address it.
- What factors should I include when building a business case for warehouse robotics?
ROI is an important factor in building the business case, but a strong case includes tangible benefits of robotics like shipping accuracy, high physical space utilization, inventory accuracy, productivity gains, labor retention, and safety.
- What to expect in terms of capital expenditure for warehouse robotics?
It is getting easier to enter this space as robot vendors are providing a variety of financing options. For example
- Subscription model: Pay a fixed amount per month for the system
- Pay-per-use model: Pay a fixed amount per warehouse pick
- Leasing model: Lease the system hardware
- Express delivery: Reduce installation time
- Flexibility: Renting additional robots in peak seasons
If you are interested in learning more about the real-life experience of implementing robotics in the warehouse, set up a consultation with us today. If you are attending Modex, we invite you to a roundtable, a thought leadership event, with Manhattan Associates and customers that have implemented robotics in their warehouse. Join us for dinner and drinks on Tuesday, March 10th at 6 pm. The event has limited seats, so reserve your spot quickly.
Bricz is a leading advisory and technical services provider in Warehouse Robotics space. Stop by booth# 7285 to get your questions answered and to learn more about our services.
Contributors: Parth Pethani, Supply Chain Leader at Bricz