Sudden surges in warehouse demand result from increased access to retailers. The internet and mobile technology give customers the ability to become one with their shopping experiences, including e-commerce purchases and in-store experiences. The ability of a company to guarantee customer happiness lies in effective, efficient fulfillment, and the easiest way to reduce spend revolves around lowering travel time. Autonomous mobile robotics (AMR) make this possible. Let’s look at how robots have evolved and their benefits in modern warehousing.
Why Aren’t More Companies Using Autonomous Mobile Robotics?
Robots have a history, spurred by Hollywood and investors. On the surface, AMRs represent a costly investment that only the most prominent companies could afford. Distribution centers and major companies were the first to tap into the value of AMR in the form of automated conveyors and equipment that lessened the burden on workers. Their capabilities were limited, so warehouse managers may not have seen their value.
The earliest robots had limited intelligence and autonomy, only capable of performing one or two repetitive tasks. In 1981, the first robotic arm with motors in its joints was built by Takeo Kanade, and by 1988, robotic arms had advanced with controls on up to 12 axes. Over the next ten years, robotics progressed to become more accessible for repair and maintenance, and they began to move into other industries, like arc welding and handling.
The Move to LTL Digital Shipping
When advancement seemed to have hit a roadblock, Kiva Robots came into play. Kiva Robots changed the game for the use of AMR in the warehouse, and although Amazon later acquired the company, industry leaders and technology developers had taken notice of how much robotics could mean for efficiency.
Today, warehouses can utilize robots in all aspects of fulfillment processing, including both inbound and outbound freight management. The technology progressed within Amazon and in external technology development centers. Companies that invest in AMR can reap significant savings, and for comparison purposes, Amazon saves approximately $22 million in each fulfillment center that uses Amazon Kiva Robots, says Jim Romeo of Robotics Business Review. Tapping into this potential means investing more capital into AMR in existing operations.
How Mobile Robots Benefit Supply Chain Management and Warehouse Operations
As explained by Mike Futch of Material Handling & Logistics, the savings through the use of AMR in supply chain management and warehouse operations are the result of these key benefits:
- Faster order fulfillment.
- Greater order accuracy.
- Reduced damages.
- Improved labor productivity.
- Increased use of reslotting and slotting optimization programs.
- Better customer service levels.
- Compatible with new, advanced order processing systems.
- Reduced shipping and handling costs.
- Lower risk of injuries or accidents.
While the benefits and history of AMR in the warehouse detail a story of innovation, their greatest strength lies in the potential applications of robotics today. The rising demand for more orders, more options, and more variety mean warehouses may lack the labor resources necessary to keep costs under control. Paired with a possible talent shortage, the need to automate more processes, especially those involving motions in the warehouse, such as picking and packaging orders, has grown more important. Up next, we’ll stroll into the top four applications of AMR in the warehouse and where the technology is heading for both the industry and customer service.
In the interim, is your company struggling with new systems or technologies? Find out how Veridian can help solve problems and add value to your operation through integrated, AMR-ready systems.