In modern Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), a range of robot technologies is utilised to optimise operations seamlessly. They are used to automate repetitive and tedious tasks, whereas specialised robots transport and perform logistics, removing the need for humans to intervene. They can also sometimes be programmed to be used for purely engineering purposes and, at other times to design products. As global automation of warehouses is expected to grow to USD 27 billion by 2025, the incorporation of robot technologies will only increase. This article will discuss robot technologies in a WMS in 2022.
But First - Why Autonomous Robots?
Managers in the warehouse industry struggle to cater to its immense customers promptly. It was to solve this major delay that robotics was introduced into warehouse operations. Subsequently, however, the advantages robots offered were more wide-ranging. It, for instance, did not put humans at risk of working in hazardous environments. As robots, unlike humans, do not get tired, warehouses could operate overtime when required. They can also complete any task with much reliability as they are less prone to make errors. This does not mean robots have replaced the need for humans in warehouses. Instead, the existing human workforce can shift their attention to more demanding tasks concerning innovation, carrying out analysis or making important decisions for the success of a facility. It is wrong to believe that robotic technology is a new concept since various industries have long used them for automation. What makes the new age of robotics different is its integration of AI technology which helps robots easily navigate a facility, pick items and collaborate with people on their own.
Types of Robot Technologies
There are different ranges of robot technologies that are present today. The types of robots used in warehouse management have been a trending topic since the COVID-19 pandemic, as warehouse operations came to a complete standstill. If anything, the pandemic has been a stark reminder and an important wake-up call for warehouses to incorporate robotics as a mandatory technology into all their facilities in the modern age. Here are 6 of the most famous robot technologies:
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)
One of the most flexible robots that can easily be deployed, AMRs can navigate their way around the factory autonomously. Having a factory blueprint embedded in its system can help it make necessary turns when needed. Where obstacles are met on the way, it can find an alternative path in the defined route just as efficiently. Due to its AI and MI technologies, each time it takes a new direction, it saves its location, ensuring there will be no mishaps next time. In other words, it can learn, adapt and relearn from past mistakes. Additionally, if the placement of a warehouse is suddenly changed, the AMR will not require drastic resets. With a few clicks of a button, the robot should be able to adapt to the new working setup in a few minutes.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
Once the facility manager sets the route in an AGV, it can drive itself around the warehouse without assistance. They are similar to forklifts, which mainly carry objects from one point to another in a building. As they are connected and programmed to reach two areas in the factory, they are able to utilise existing space in the most energy-saving manner, improving the overall operations in the factory. Although this is similar in function to AMRs, its difference lies in the mechanism used to travel around the factory. AMRs, for instance, are able to adapt to new routes in real-time due to their AI and MI abilities, whereas AGVs have a wire-guided system.
Automated Storage (AS) and Retrieval Systems (RS)
Robotic technologies used to carry out logistic functions include automated storage and retrieval storage robotics, both of which refer to two categories of robots. Hence, automated storage robots such as stacker cranes or shuttles specialise in storing goods in the correct location of the factory independently. There is also equipment like a pallet conveyor that transports goods wherever required. This is an excellent way factory workers can save time by receiving the goods right to their hands for packing and processing. They are both used to automate a warehouse’s stock movement and are best for high-density storage.
“Cobots” or Collaborative Robots
Collaborative robots’ primary function is to reduce the travel of pickers working collaboratively with them. This is an accessible robotic technology with which the human work staff can work alongside. There are two types under this robots category, including ‘Meet-Me Bots’ and ‘Follow-Me Bots’. The former travels to a pick area and waits for a worker to unload. The latter travels to a worker and leads them from one location to another for some or all of the picks on the bot. They are best used for high-volume environments but for low pick density.
Articulated Robotic Arms
Articulated robotic arms are a more robust and flexible mode of forklifts that can independently pick and place objects with their multi-jointed limbs, especially heavy objects. These robotic arms can carry out rotational motion and linear displacement like a human arm. They are easily found mounted on a Goods-to-Person (GTP) workstation or even an AMV. They are commonly also found in supply chains during the delivery phase of production as heavy empty cartons to the overhead conveyor can easily be placed with its strength. However, the weight an articulated robotic arm can carry varies according to the custom weight its manufacturer had built it to handle. While this is mainly used for heavy objects, an articulated robotic arm is ideally made to retrieve any type of product. Hence, it can also carry items that could easily break gently by making use of its flexible gripper types.
Finding The Right WMS Solutions Provider
The Cerexio WMS, in this regard, is a trusted digital solutions partner that guarantees compatibility with the latest robotic technologies. Whether it is a forklift fleet powered by AGV, AMRs or AS/RS, automating your warehouse has become much easier. In addition to this, Cerexio takes advantage of industry 4.0 technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, predictive, and other advanced technologies to maintain product quality. The software consolidates all integral information about your warehouse into one accessible platform that select supply chain members can use to gain real-time insights and make fast decisions. All this and more await you when you purchase Cerexio MES. Find out more by contacting us today.
A Cost-Effective Method To Achieve Better Efficiency
A WMS makes a well-integrated network for your robotic technology to communicate in the warehouse. As it merges various industry 4.0 technologies, this is not your ordinary robot. You can expect it to be independent when moving around the facility and will not require anyone to look after it. It is meant to be your team’s work buddy who helps them organise the in-house processes more efficiently and improve the safety of their working environment by doing the dangerous heavy lifting. By incorporating a powerful WMS system, this one-stop solution is a cost-effect way to achieve better efficiency.