Leveraging the Synergies of Integrated Robotics

Leveraging the Synergies of Integrated Robotics

Robots designed specifically for the logistics industry have come a long way from the days when they were only suitable for performing the same pre-programmed task all day, every day. A new generation of smart robotics is capable of much more: functioning autonomously, responding to constant change, and scaling up or down as needed.

But even this is only the beginning.

In a recent On The Move webinar, we explored how today’s robots have now reached a level of sophistication that allows them to benefit your operation not only by working independently, but also by working together in seamlessly integrated solutions.

Smart robots work autonomously. Smarter robots work together.

When we talk about “integrated robotics”, what we basically mean is some combination of two or more different robotic solutions. Each combination will have its own strengths, and there are general benefits you can typically expect to achieve as well.

The first advantage is obvious: when you have multiple types of robots involved, you can automate multiple workflows. Each robot in a system does the job it’s designed to do. But when you combine them together, you can create synergies that you don’t get when they’re used as stand-alone solutions.

One of the benefits you’ll see right away in an integrated robotic environment is fewer touchpoints where manual processes are needed — which in turn means fewer opportunities for manual errors.

At the same time, you’re reducing your labor burden for some of the most physically demanding, time-consuming and injury-prone tasks in the warehouse. The labor resources that you free up can be assigned to higher-value jobs where they’re likely to be more satisfied, which can improve your safety and worker retention rates.

All of these factors add up to more operational consistency and efficiency in your day-to-day operations. And because robots are a scalable and flexible resource that can easily be repurposed, robotic integration helps to future-proof your operation.

Integrated robotics in action

A practical integrated robotics use case that we featured in the webinar and at MODEX 2022 combines autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) with a smart flexible depalletizing cell. The AMRs retrieve pallets from pick-up and delivery (P&D) stands and deliver them to the depalletizer.

The AMRs could be transporting pallets that just arrived on the receiving dock, retrieving items from reserve storage, or moving loads of case-level batch orders. The depalletizer unloads each pallet onto an induction conveyor and the AMR removes the empty pallet when it’s finished.

Not only is the efficiency of the smart flexible depalletizer substantially increased by AMR integration, but also creates beneficial effects elsewhere on the warehouse floor. First, it addresses the all-important issue of availability. You get more predictable, consistent and reliable depalletizing throughput because the AMRs enable continuous operation with little or no human supervision.

Your workers benefit in many ways as well. The smart flexible depalletizer relieves them of one of the most arduous and injury-prone jobs in the warehouse, while the AMRs reduce worker travel time by up to 95 percent. Both advantages free up scarce labor for more satisfying and higher-value jobs, which makes workers easier to hire and retain. And you’ll have better visibility into your staff requirements, reducing the number of unexpected changes needed to keep pace with your capacity requirements.

This is just one of many integration possibilities. This example could easily be expanded to include light curtains or gates, integration to a host warehouse management system (WMS) or warehouse execution system (WES), empty pallet stacking and removal, slip sheet handling, downstream labeling, or fixed pallet conveyance and/or accumulation systems. And we’re sure to see even more opportunities for integration synergies as new robotic solutions become available.

Where to learn more

If you missed the live webinar, you can still catch a recording online to learn more about the possibilities of robotic integration in today’s DC environment. “Leveraging the Synergies of Integrated Robotics” is available on-demand.

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