Make Way For The Machines - Warehouse Robots
Make Way For The Machines – Warehouse Robots
Make Way For The Machines - Warehouse Robots
The Rise of the Warehouse Robot...
Not so long ago, robots were the preserve of Star Wars, Doctor Who or the seemingly far-fetched technology we used to see on Tomorrow’s World. Now though they’ve moved from being a fantaWarehouse conveyer belt with Warehouse Robots taking care of logisticssy of the future to a very realistic option in many commercial environments. In fact, they’re now wheeling their way in a highly efficient manner around many companies worldwide.
The first warehouse robots were introduced onto assembly lines a number of years ago but these were ‘dumb’ robots - machines only capable of carrying out routine and repetitive jobs. The new breed of robots are much smarter and can handle a wide range of tasks, working alongside humans or even autonomously.
The robots are coming
So if you work in a warehouse, you’re probably wondering how soon you’ll be sharing your workspace with one of these robots? For most small businesses, the introduction of robot technology is probably still many years away. However if you’re employed by a larger organisation, you could be working with Robbie the Robot quite soon.
Amazon’s Kiva Robots
Amazon has fully embraced this new technology in their fulfillment centres. In 2011, they had 1,000 orange Kiva robots operating in their warehouses. They were so impressed with their performance that a year later they bought the company that manufactured them.
Kiva is a compact, squat robot – not dissimilar to a toddler step-stool – and today you’ll find over 15,000 of them spread around 10 of Amazon’s warehouses. They work collaboratively with Amazon’s human employees, so rather than the picker having to go to the right shelf, the helpful orange bot, brings the shelf to the packer. This means a human will still pack and ship the items but all the walking backwards and forwards will be eliminated. What’s more, data is constantly being analysed in the background and the robots will place the most frequently used shelves closest to the packing area. This means that even with seasonal shifts, the system always works at full efficiency.
Another company that has made great moves in this area is Fetch Robotics. Founded in Silicon Valley in 2014, they manufacture Fetch and Freight – a complete pick and pack system. Fetch is capable of selecting and carrying items up to 13 pounds in weight, whilst Freight concentrates on transporting it around the warehouse. The two systems can be used in tandem or on their own depending on a customer’s needs.
Based in Singapore, GreyOrange has focused on creating a machine that can streamline order handling in the warehouse. Working mainly with Indian ecommerce merchants such as Flipkart and Jabong, its Butler robot helps companies deal with high-mix and high volume orders by moving around the warehouse and collecting the products that are being shipped.
The same company also offers Sorter – a high speed sorting system that scans and sorts parcels for shipping. With eight different components, it can handle everything from dimensioning and weighing and has a sorting conveyor and arm as well as a bagging unit.
So what benefits do robots bring?
Undoubtedly, robots can bring many benefits to the warehouse. Perhaps it’s no wonder that companies like Amazon are seeing them as a great boost for the future and a way to run their business without the costs and complications of a human workforce. Here’s a quick look at some of the most obvious robot benefits:
- Speeding up operations – Amazon claims that Kiva allows their warehouse workers to pick items two or three times faster than filling orders manually. This has reduced both their fulfillment costs and the order picking and packing times drastically.
- Lower your costs – with robots you can save on salaries, national insurance payments and training costs. What’s more, robots can work 24/7, don’t take lunch breaks and never call in sick.
- Invest and save – although the average cost of a warehouse robot is currently around $35,000, as more are sold that cost is likely to come down. So while a warehouse robot represents a high investment now, it’s estimated that within five years, the cost of a robot will be less expensive than a human employee if you take into account salary, holiday pay and benefits.
- Happy workers – robots will happily carry out even the most monotonous tasks and will keep working efficiently and accurately as long as you like, without so much as a tea break. They never complain, won’t ask for a pay rise and are never late for work.
- Lower utility bills – Amazon has been criticised in the past for making its employees work in sub standard conditions or expecting them to work at an unbearable rate. Robots don’t care what the temperature is like, can maintain a quick pace for hours on end and will even work in low light levels. That all adds up to a great reduction on your overheads.
Will robots replace the warehouse worker?
While there’s definitely a place for robots in the warehouse, it’s likely that they’ll work hand-in-hand with the manual, human worker. The bots will be able to handle the most repetitive of tasks and speed up the process of picking, leaving the living, breathing worker to carry out the more specific and interesting duties.
It’s also worth remembering that whilst the human may be slower, they are infinitely more adaptable.
Get in touch with a real human, not a bot...
There are no robots working at BSE UK (yet) so if there’s anything you need to know about warehouse racking or safety, you can talk to one of our humans. Just pick up the phone, dial 0117 955 5211 and one of our experienced and knowledgeable team will be on the other end of the line waiting to help you.
Bristol Storage Equipment Limited
Unit 2 Mead Court,
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