By Pieter Feenstra, the CEO of Addverb Technologies’ EMEA region. Addverb’s expertise includes robotics, AI, IoT in the space of industrial automation, and especially warehousing consulting and automation. Addverb has provided warehouse automation solutions to companies such as
Unilever, Amazon, Flipkart, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, ITC, and more.
One of the most important but easily forgotten aspects of day-to-day life is how products get in front of the average consumer. Everybody consumes, but not everybody thinks about the process from manufacturing, to storage, to distribution, and finally to the handover unless a problem arises. It is also no surprise that over the past few years, companies have seen an unprecedented spike in demand for faster delivery. That is where companies like ours come into play – in the logistics behind how things get from point A to point B. Each year, the need for a wide variety of robotics continues to grow. These robots can be specialized in storage, transport, picking, and sorting. Each has very different but equally important functions to optimize the warehouse logistics process, and each is crucial for a smooth timeline without too many interruptions or delays. These innovations are how consumers get their Amazon products, how restaurants get their Coca-Cola, and how many different countries continue to keep up with the massive delivery demand in today’s society.
The Vice President of the Ford Motor Company coined the term “automation” in 1948 because he noticed the need for better material handling between production stages. From then, industrial robots of the 1960s became the very beginning of warehouse automation. The first mobile robots to enter the industry were Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV), and these robots would be the ones to lay the foundation for what later became the automation revolution in the modern-day warehouse. The first fully-autonomous robots were developed in 2006, and from then, the industry boomed.
At Addverb, our robots are designed to enhance warehouse logistics performance. Zippy, our ultra-fast moving Sorting Robot, performs 100% accurate SKU level sortation up to 20,000 sorts/hour. We have Dynamo, our robust autonomous mobile robot powered by natural navigation for efficient material movement. Quadron, our carton shuttle robot, and Multi-Pro, our pallet shuttle robot, perform the storage and retrieval of materials from a warehouse. While this is a brief overview of how robotics can enhance logistics and smooth out processes, all of these robotics improve efficiency and costs drastically and are, within themselves, innovations of today.
We’ve discussed where intralogistics robotics started and where we are now, but what can we expect in the future? First and foremost, in COVID’s aftermath, the supply chain disruptions are requiring more of an immediate remedy in order to regulate the massive growth. We’re seeing robotics become faster and more easily adaptable to quick changes in 2023, with semiconductor and steel industries experiencing the most expansion. Additionally, 2023 will have robots doing more tasks efficiently with a greater mix of warehouse automation technologies. With the increase in opportunities, a variety of technologies have been developed to complete customer projects faster. We’re also noticing that more mobile robots might be displacing more conveyors. A downside of belt conveyors and other automatic conveyance systems is that they take up a large amount of warehouse space and can limit travel within warehouse premises. Their fixed structure also makes it pricey to change the layout in a warehouse, which often needs to be changed to keep up with distribution best practices. In comparison, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are extremely flexible and can adapt quickly and easily to any redesign of operations.
In this day and age, most warehouses automatically gather massive amounts of data. This is usually done through the use of sensors on materials handling and other resources. In the past, the datasets that pulled through were typically profuse and would have taken too much time to analyze in their entirety. Another innovation in our industry is the accessibility of analytics solutions. Today, it is much faster and more streamlined to do tasks involving analytics and data. Analytics systems can detect patterns in data that would nearly be impossible to dissect otherwise. These kinds of automation present businesses with information that allows optimum decision-making and improvement.
The way in which shipments go from manufacturer to consumers’ front doors has evolved very quickly, and innovations have been made to keep up. The fascinating thing about intralogistics robotics is that they are inherently innovative, and updates and features are constantly being included in their programming to ensure they are always performing optimally. There are many ways that companies can keep up with innovations that will change our tomorrow. Most importantly, it’s crucial to understand the long-term benefits of robotics and automation. While it might be a hard sell now, it’s good to get started for sustainability purposes. While we’re not on the ground floor of robotics, they haven’t been around in this capacity for too long, so it is a great time to be a part of the innovative progress that robotics can bring.