The labor shortage, pandemic-related supply issues, and the continuing growth of e-commerce all put pressure on warehousing and fulfillment operations, driving explosive expansion in automation.
Modern warehouses employ robots that integrate with their warehouse management system (WMS) to augment the efforts of warehouse associates. Some are completely autonomous, meaning they function without human intervention. To stay updated with changing technology, consider contacting a 3PL provider who can offer personalized solutions.
The warehouse robotics industry is innovating rapidly, and keeping up with the trends can be a full-time job. Here are some technologies to be aware of and to consider integrating into your operations to embrace excellence.
Many warehouses have introduced some form of AS/RS over recent years. Many of these systems reduce warehouse labor by retrieving items, racks, or pallets and delivering them to picking stations. Others move with pickers and transport items to packing when orders are complete. Modular AS/RS even includes robots that can climb shelves to assemble orders. These systems provide numerous benefits, including increased efficiency, accuracy, safety, and cost savings.
Drones are no stranger to warehouses. Many facilities use them for inventory and to retrieve small items stored high. Currently, humans control most drones using a tablet or other mobile device.
New drone technology is incorporating machine learning to make them more autonomous. Self-flying drones are already widely available and used in some warehouses for inventory control, uploading data into the WMS in real-time.
Like the autonomous guided vehicles (AGV) that many warehouses have integrated into their systems, AMRs shift inventory within the facility. However, unlike AGVs, AMRs do not use tracks to navigate and can travel anywhere in the facility.
AMRs incorporate internal maps, sensors, and computers to navigate a warehouse. They can determine the most efficient route and re-route if they encounter an obstacle. Often equipped with visual, auditory, thermal, and haptic sensors, they are safe working in environments with humans.
Warehouse operators are sometimes reluctant to invest in new robotic technology. Besides the capital investment, introducing new technology creates unavoidable disruption in operations. In addition, the technology is changing so rapidly that a new and more efficient system might be available before a recently purchased system is fully operational.
Working with a 3PL provider could solve those issues. By focusing on the specific needs of your operation, they could introduce the available technology that best suits your purposes. Robotics as a Service (RaaS) systems reduce the cost of entry and allow your workforce to adjust to the system at a pace that works for your operation. In addition, the designs are scalable to respond to growth or temporary spikes in demand.
Utilizing the latest available technology increases efficiency, brands your operation as innovative, reduces the need for human labor, and increases safety. Teaming up with third-party logistics providers allows you to reap the benefits without significant front-end risk. Together, you and your 3PL provider can help your operation boost customer satisfaction and promote continued growth. Contact Brown West Logistics today to learn more about integrating robots into your warehouse.