What You Will Learn
With all the industry buzz around fully automated, “lights out” DC operations, many companies are trying to figure out where robots might fit within their distribution process. The idea of fully automated warehousing is especially appealing as customer service expectations grow and labor pools shrink. But the idea of jumping entirely into expensive, potentially complicated and largely untested mechanization is daunting. And what about the return on investment (ROI)?
The good news is, there’s a better strategy to maximize throughput and labor productivity without the risk: bot-assisted material handling systems. Combining Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs), Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) and other robotic solutions with an operation’s existing automated technologies can deliver excellent results. This approach enables DCs to tailor technologies to their unique needs while building in flexibility to handle myriad fulfillment channels and requirements – both today and tomorrow.
This seminar shares specific application examples where the integration of bots into a facility’s current material handling equipment (MHE) and software adds order fulfillment speed, accuracy and agility. These include:
Semi-automated Picking Systems such as pick-to-light, batch picking carts and radio-frequency (RF) picking. Bot-assisted picking can be configured in different ways:
‘Picker Assistant’ bots. A bot with multiple shelves travels alongside a human operator, from zone to zone. Pickers place selected products into totes or cartons on the ‘mule’ bot. This is an ideal solution for areas that don’t justify conveyor or require more space flexibility.
‘Pick/Put’ bots. This bot technique is the same as the mule, except the bot also features light-directed picking modules mounted on the shelves. When integrated with pick-to-light systems, the bot helps operators batch or cluster pick orders. Acting as a mobile ‘put station,’ the bot replaces sleds or other manual methods for light-directed pick-and-put systems.
‘Tugger’ bots. One of the challenges in any DC operation is maximizing order picking productivity due to the labor-intensive nature of the task. Ideally, pickers are making picks—not doing excess walking or less valuable tasks like pushing carts to and from a specific zone. Tuggers can move multiple full or empty carts in and out of the pick area, freeing operators to select more merchandise.
Put Walls fed by pick-carrying bots for fast and accurate e-commerce scan and sort ‘put and pack’ tasks.
Fixed conveyor systems integrated with bots sporting motor-driven roller (MDR) conveyor on their top decks. This allows the bots to receive conveyed cartons or totes, then transport them to areas (pick, put, pack, other conveyor) not otherwise connected. This adds movement flexibility to areas where a permanent conveyor installation doesn’t make sense. Some bots even feature adjustable height conveyor decks, allowing them to align with different conveyor positions in a facility.
Loop sorters for item sortation (tilt-tray, bomb bay, crossbelt) interfacing with bots to receive full totes for takeaway or bring more merchandise for induction.
Finishing systems for automated labeling, document insertion and more fed by (or outputting to) bots.
Complete integration of bot movement and function with a facility’s overarching Warehouse Execution Software (WES) for end-to-end optimization of interconnected subsystems to produce balanced, continuous workflow.
The session will include video examples and application briefs of these solutions in the field.