In warehouses, robots are now able to move and perform tasks independently. They improve reliability, productivity and even the employee experience of companies that have taken the leap.

The e-commerce surge these last months has affected everyone. Depending on the country, number of online orders has increased by 15 to 30% according to OECD calculations. Many warehouses have been saturated by the volume of orders, which their traditional management methods could no longer keep up with. Fortunately for their managers, there are now effective solutions to remedy this, such as AMR robots. Let’s have a look at their three main assets to improve your supply chain ... and better meet the expectations of your 2.0 customers!


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No, robots aren't just about science fiction anymore. AMRs, from the English acronym Autonomous Mobile Robots, have already conquered the warehouses of many companies.
These machines are able to perform different tasks and move on their own, without anyone directing them: they are given instructions via a computer system. It is quite a transformation, which has many advantages. They provide greater precision and reliability in warehouses and increase productivity fast. In addition, the employee experience is greatly improved. You want to know more? Stay with us, we will dive into these advantages one by one.

 

 

Improved precision and rock-solid reliability

The first benefit of robots is that they are built to achieve precise goals. With them, the risk of errors is reduced.

Since the invention of the first prototypes by William Gray Walter in the late 1940s, AMRs have come a long way. Today, they have become little gems of technology, equipped with sensors, scanners and cameras that make them fully autonomous.

In the warehouses of a women's clothing brand in the United States, Geodis was able to observe amazing results by deploying 21 LocusBots, for an inventory of around 30,000 items spread over an area of 20,000 sq.m. The firm needed to complement its usual order picking systems during a high point of the season with a solution that was quick, easy to implement and did not require specific training.

LocusBots can determine the shortest possible route through the racks, in order to be as efficient and precise as possible in the picking phase, a step prior to complete pending orders.

 

Autonomous robots make the longest trips, saving employees time. Productivity is therefore increased.
Autonomous robots make the longest trips, saving employees time. Productivity is therefore increased.
 

In the e-commerce industry, sometimes all it takes is a picking or packaging error for the entire process to jam. This can reduce the level of productivity and generate dissatisfaction on the customer side. Traditional methods are not always sufficient to avoid these mistakes, especially when the number of orders skyrocket, and when shorter shipping and delivery times are expected.

LocusBots are equipped with a hands-free pick-to-picture technology to execute commands: they display the image of the product to fetch on the screen, so that the operator can better visualize it. They also have a defined and registered warehouse action zone mapping system, which increases the level of precision.

The goal was achieved in terms of precision handling, but this was not the only advantage that was highlighted during this experience. Productivity has also been increased by these LocusBots.

 

 

Increase productivity without losing flexibility

Previously, the company used to assign many tasks to the warehouse’s 20 employees. These ranged from handling products to maneuvering picking trolleys to the packing area. They covered most of the journeys on foot, losing precious time on each run. They also got tired more quickly, because of the distances traveled.
Thanks to AMRs, employees can stay in the same area, with the robots taking care of the movement between the different stages of order picking, until they are dropped off in the packing area.

By reducing travel and automating certain tasks, teams have gained in comfort as well as in productivity. The latter can increase up to 100%!

Resource optimization with AMRs is even more convenient for warehouse managers as they are very easy to set up. The robots can be deployed quickly to a site, in a matter of months. Should the increase in orders only be temporary, such as during sales, it is also possible to simply rent them to adjust the number of robots on site to meet the demand. This avoids the massive recruitment of staff, which is not always easy to implement in times like Christmas or Black Friday when everyone is looking to recruit. On a logistics site based in the United States, the integrator Bastian Solutions will work with Geodis to develop an AutoStore solution on the fulfillment site of a textile distributor. As reported by the Voxlog website, it will be possible to process up to 270,000 order lines per day on this site. The robots bring in bins of products to the operators for picking.

This massive omnichannel facility is one of the largest in the world in its class. In total, no less than 37,000 sq.m. will be covered... in record time! The setup will last only a few months, starting in January 2022, and ending in November.

 

The Exotec Skypod is an autonomous robot that is particularly useful in the retail and e-commerce sector
The Exotec Skypod is an autonomous robot that is particularly useful in the retail and e-commerce sector.
 

So far, the benefits we have discussed have mostly concerned warehouse managers. But robots can also benefit employees.

 

 

How robots improve the employee experience

When we talk about the robotization of warehouses, some fear that machines will replace humans. But, as economist Joseph Schumpeter explained, it is often just a question of a new division of labor, which ultimately benefits everyone.

AMR robots, which already reduce training time by 40%, relieve repetitive tasks and make work less tedious. They also help reduce travel distances, reducing physical strain and leaving more time to focus on the rest of the mission. Employees are ultimately upgraded through more interesting or complex assignments.

"The question of how the use of robots would be received by the teams in place was heard. But during the pilot programs, they responded positively, saying that the robots gave a feeling of empowerment and allowed employees to do their jobs more efficiently. "

 

Collaborative robots or AMR? Let’s focus on the different logistics solutions: Read our article on autonomous vehicles and collaborative robots solutions for warehouses today

 

In terms of comfort, this also prevents employees from spending time in narrow storage areas, without natural light and therefore, unpleasant in the long term.

Finally, far from preconceived ideas about them, robots offer many advantages in warehouses at the supply chain level. These assets will appeal to managers and warehouse managers, employees, but they will also benefit consumers, to get their orders on time even in periods of intense activity.

More and more customers are asking for free, and above all, fast delivery. Peak activity or not, they want to make sure their order gets to their mailbox as quickly as possible. This is one of the consequences of the success of big online shopping sites like Amazon, which have made (very) fast delivery their top priority.

Robotization via AMRs is a solution to consider in order to keep up with these new requirements. It is taking up more and more space in the industry, so robots like the CountBot are also being developed to manage stock inventories, improving reliability and saving time.

 

So, what are you waiting for to take the leap?

Contact us!

 

 

The CountBot carries out inventories in warehouses. This is a less risky and faster solution than a manual inventory carried through on a basket.
 
 
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Author
Antoine
Pretin
Vice President Engineering Group at GEODIS
Antoine has over 15 years of experience in automated systems for logistics. He has worked for machine manufacturers and has often collaborated with 3PL customers through a variety of projects and applications in areas such as handling systems, robotization, conveyors, sorters, and more. Antoine has extensive knowledge of e-Commerce and Retail, as well as the Intralogistics solutions market and their players. As VP Engineering Group at GEODIS, Antoine’s mission is to help facilitate GEODIS’ growth ambitions through the use of automated systems, which are key to business development. More specifically, he will help our Lines of Business and Regions conduct mechanized solutions during Calls to Tender while working on innovative solutions for GEODIS’ future.

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