Warehouse automation and robotization can transform operations within your warehouse. Wonder how this can drive value in the supply chain? If we look to the future of logistics, and the six fundamental warehouse processes, namely, receiving, putaway, storage, picking, packing, and shipping, the following technologies can unlock the power of your supply chain.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are very sophisticated robots capable of moving without the necessity of supervised human support. Built with intelligent sensors capable of navigating without predetermined paths, integrating AMRs into your warehouse creates flexible routes, making processes more efficient and productive. The current development of this technology strives to enhance the application area from transport to automated un-loading of trucks at inbound dock doors. This would be a significant improvement of the first process in the future of warehouse automation and robotization.
Transport from the receiving to the storage area can be done by traditional conveyor systems for pallets and totes and cartons alike. A more flexible alternative for transportation is Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) which can be purpose-built or based on forklift trucks.
Tugger Automatic Guided Vehicles (AVGs) work best for repetitive actions, long distances, or hazardous areas in various industries. In case of changing requirements, they are relatively easy to re-program. This vehicle has the highest capacity among AGV types for material transport and substantially more than traditional forklift vehicles.
If applicable, the Putaway process can be complemented by Robotic depalletizing. Totes or cartons are automatically unloaded from pallets by an articulated robot specifically designed to manage various pallet configurations. As a result, eliminating the ergonomics and safety issues and labor shortages with manual unloading processes.
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) have been around for decades. Numerous pallet and tote storage installations have been realized, predominantly for the automotive industry and F&B applications.
A less costly and more flexible solution for pallet storage is available with Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) based on reach trucks or Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) trucks. Compared to manual trucks, the warehouse can rely on increased productivity, safety, improved ergonomics, and decreased room for error. Maximizing space utilization is an advantage of automated warehouses utilizing VNA trucks. Fulfilling product retrieval and storage tasks require significantly less space than wide aisle configuration.
As picking is a labor-intensive process, automation is widely deployed. In conjunction with AS/RS, conveyor-based workstations are a standard solution. More recently, modular, scalable solutions are available.
AutoStore is a goods-to-person automated storage and order processing system for small cases and single items. The benefit of implementing this technology is that it provides unsurpassed storage density, enabling an increase in storage capacity within a given footprint.
The modular system is highly scalable and adaptable to (changing) requirements. Last but not least, 24-hour operations are possible. As e-commerce continues to boom, this works as a great throughway on day-to-day deliveries.
To optimize warehouse automation and robotization, AMR-based G-t-P systems are available as well. Here the goods are stored on mobile racks presented by AMR at pick stations. The advantage is the wide range of goods in terms of size and weight that can be handled. Furthermore, the system features a short realization time and high flexibility. As these are mobile assets, they can even be relocated.
Shuttle systems are deployed for the highest pick performance. Via a conveyor system, high-performance pick-stations are fed. The productivity provided is especially suitable for high-volume e-commerce applications.
Robotic handling – picking, labeling & putting can heighten the productivity of the process even further. Articulated robots are mounted on a stable pedestal and fitted with arms to stretch wide. These robots are designed to grab, move and drop objects within their reach, e.g., from a table onto moving conveyor belts. The application area for these robots is steady, repetitive action with high precision, making them the best match for picking applications.
In e-commerce, packing is usually more labor-intensive than picking. Automated packing machines are available for various packaging types and materials. Automated carton erection and closing machines integrated into a conveyor system have been deployed at several installations.
Transport from picking/packing to the shipping area can be done automatically by AGVs or conveyors, depending on the type of goods and throughput. For high throughput e-commerce / retail solutions, the distribution of cartons or totes can be performed by an automated Sorter. Conveyor-based solutions are possible for medium high throughput. For the highest performance, specialized machines are deployed.
With the right automation and robotization as part of the overall solution, significant advantages over purely manual solutions can be achieved by improving operator safety, decreasing room for error, increasing productivity, and lowering operational costs.