How the Smart Flexible Depalletizer Addresses Supply Chain Labor Challenges in the DC and Warehouse Space

How the Smart Flexible Depalletizer Addresses Supply Chain Labor Challenges in the DC and Warehouse Space

During a recent interview with Bob Bowman, editor-in-chief of SupplyChainBrain, I was asked about the specific supply chain challenges that prompted Honeywell Robotics to create the smart flexible depalletizing solution. The simple answer was the increased labor shortage that came about as a result of the recent pandemic.

While there are many distribution center (DC) tasks we might have chosen to automate, we placed a high priority on depalletizing because it is manually intensive, highly repetitive, injury-prone and among the most difficult jobs to retain workers to perform. In short, it’s one of the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs ideally suited to robots — one that scarce human workers are happy to give up in favor of less strenuous and more satisfying tasks.

We also relished the challenge of tackling one of the jobs in the DC and warehouse space that’s traditionally been difficult to automate. Thanks to advances in computer vision, robot control and machine learning technologies, we were able to develop a solution that can meet the demands of complex decision-making, throughput and efficiency necessary to handle single- or mixed-SKU pallets in any pattern or sequence.

But we weren’t content merely to solve a longstanding industry problem. We also designed the smart flexible depalletizer to optimize DC operations in every way possible with benefits like these:

  • Increasing throughput by picking multiple items simultaneously when possible
  • Automatically increasing throughput when handling consistent layers or pallets
  • Handling pallets up to 8' tall when layers above 72" are built with consistent SKUs, eliminating the need for expensive pallet-lifting devices
  • Autonomously adjusting speed to ensure safe handling of items up to 80 lbs. without pre-programming or sacrificing performance
  • Automatic height adjustment to optimize speed and motion paths
  • Box on ground detection, which determines when a robot can safely retrieve a box that has fallen onto the floor, reducing uptime interruptions when handling unstable pallets
  • Automatically detecting and handling slip sheets
  • Identifying empty pallets and signal change-outs via an automatic pallet feed system, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) or a manual operator

A wide variety of flexible configurations, backed by a range of supporting automation options, makes it easy to seamlessly integrate automated depalletizers into your existing workflows.

For maximum flexibility in the smallest possible footprint, a depalletizing robot can work in conjunction with pallet conveyance AMRs, as recently demonstrated in our booth at MODEX 2022. This enables continuous operation of the system while providing the flexibility to stage pallets and empty stacks virtually anywhere a robot is capable of traveling.

Honeywell Intelligrated provides the smart flexible depalletizer as a complete turnkey system, including safety risk assessments on all deployments. Alternative financing options are available to lower your capital expenses and other barriers to entry while giving you more ways to control costs.

You can watch my brief interview with SupplyChainBrain below.

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