Today, robots are popular units in warehouses, with experts predicting continued growth in coming years. However, there is a massive difference in understanding the potential of robotics in the market and determining how to scan an automation solution fast correctly. The problem with scanning robots for a DC (distribution center) is that a lot of time is spent searching for a suitable unit.
The robot you choose depends on the warehouse workflow you plan to automate, product dimensions, volume and order mix, and labor and layout considerations. Still, some robotic best practices surface around understanding operational priorities, being precise about the challenge, and having reliable data like SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) dimensions. If you are a warehouse controller, read on to learn how to determine suitable robotics for the organization’s needs.
Determine the Company’s Dynamics
The first step involves determining where a cobot would fit best and help enhance your operations. According to supply chain vice president Dwight Klappich, the next step involves evaluating the details like the materials that will require handling or moving. Remember, moving a pallet using conventional industrial robots can be more challenging than adopting collaborative solutions.
One operation can use various robotics types, such as entirely automated lift trucks, capable of hoisting a pallet. Small alley-based mobile collaborative robots that lead human workers and facilitate efficient picks can also come in handy. Organizations can also leverage products-to-person mobile robots or robotic picking arms and connected software to facilitate e-commerce fulfillment.
Robotics applications such as horizontal pallet transportation are relatively uncomplicated; others can be complex and involve a web of cell model issues, robotic systems and require software tools to facilitate integration with different systems and performance visualization. Details like SKU velocity, dimensions, and the number of lines within customer orders can influence the robot option you choose.
Suppose you attempt to deploy robotics in an environment with an already existing rack framework that you do not plan to change. In that case, that could determine your ideal robot, according to Dwight Klappich. Despite these factors, many companies are struggling because different robotics dealers may offer different solutions for the same problem.
Understanding Your Data
Knowing your order data and SKU can be complex, primarily due to the recurrent shifts in SKUs and demand volatility during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to experts, some elements such as dimensionality are critical with robotics, and dealers will want to know the order velocity and order mix of your varying SKUs. They may also want to determine the layout of your warehouse and the number of hallways available. Customers who are more equipped and knowledgeable will easily get the right robotics solution for their needs. As a robotics customer, you should seek answers to the following questions from your dealer.
- Is the system capable of scaling to manage both average and peak volumes?
- In what DC (direct current) workflows and environment has the robotics performance been the most efficient?
- When running a third-party fulfillment center, seek to determine how the robotics solution can integrate multiple tenancies. How can one group of cobots facilitate tasks for multiple clients?
To determine the differences between comparable robotics operations, consider consulting multiple dealers. Seek to determine how their units facilitate your preferred workflows. A reputable dealer should be willing to outline the distinctiveness of their units. Such information will help customers determine where the system fits best within their organizations.
Discuss your needs with a reliable third-party specialist for proper guidance. Remember, you may require multiple robotics to execute your different workflow and inventory types. Avoid using a single solution for every segment in your organization.
Pair Robotics to Operations
To identify the ideal robotics solution, you need to properly know order profiles and proposed throughput dimensions, levels, and inventory days. You will also need to consider the availability of labor and expected productivity. Other crucial drivers such as DC network procedures and the demand for additional space can affect your robotics project.
A change to a consumer direct e-commerce fulfillment will also determine the robotic unit you choose. A sequence of factors could be significant drivers for automation. When an organization determines its plans, it will only need to evaluate data like the throughput requirements, order profile, and the prevailing inventory to configure the ideal robotics solution.
Potential robotics users need to be prepared with information on various factors like order profiles, layout, and product dimensions. However, advanced robotics is flexible, and users can tap its benefits with the proper approach. According to robotics experts, any warehouse controllers thinking about adopting collaborative robots should get started right away.
Deploying modern technology is easy, and organizations can get it through RaaS (Robotics as a Service) with limited configuration costs. Getting started is better than fear. Getting started is better than fearing disruption.
Universal robot’s multi-collaborative picking system leverages existing shelf and storage framework. They are designed to reduce employee movement while increasing picking productivity. In this case, picking require minimal to no storage changes. However, warehouse controllers will still need to consider the effect of added productivity on ensuing processes like pack-out centers.
Such evaluations are possible without the need for extensive research. Some people think automated deployment needs a complete overhaul of your warehouse which can be costly. However, you do not have to. Determine what works best for your process, maintain simplicity, and begin the automation process without making tremendous infrastructural changes. You can modify some operations and improve the solution on the go.
Having sufficient data on different elements such as product dimensions is critical to acquiring the ideal robotics. Evaluating a robotics dealer’s software functionality and industry performance is critical to addressing exceptions like missing bins in the inventory.
An operationally efficient automated system should communicate with a warehouse management system (WMS) to prompt necessary inventory corrections and cycle counts. Organizations considering automating their warehouse operations should determine exemptions between robots and the WEM (warehouse execution management) or the WMS and robots. Such complex operations require industry expertise from the dealer and software capable of addressing various tasks such as cycle counts.
The availability of a wide range of warehouse systems and technology has triggered an increase in extensive warehouse automation. Automating warehouse processes helps reduce manual tasks and accelerate processes.
Determining when to adopt warehouse automation depends on various factors. Organizations considering automating their operations should assess their processes and identify missing gaps in their already existing technology. Understanding future business goals play a huge role in choosing the best robotics system that best meets your needs.