Tag Archive for: AMR

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Think you need to invest in a Unit-Load Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS)? Maybe not.

Combining automated guided vehicles (AGVs) or autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) with deep lane storage provides similar operational benefits! Dependent on your application this solution:

  • Costs less
  • Reduces manual labor
  • Offers more flexibility
  • Is more easily scalable

Our data-driven engineering approach can create a customized solution for each unique operation.

Let us help you find the right solution.

7-automation-solutions-to-support-ecommerce

There is a rapidly growing market for interest in automation solutions, especially in response to the COVID-19 crisis that has reshaped supply chains globally.

Before the crisis began, businesses of all types were slowly shifting to support e-commerce. However, when the pandemic hit, that shift suddenly forced those interested in these solutions to re-evaluate if automation was required to meet customer demand. With the recent acceleration of e-commerce demand, many fulfillment centers need to incorporate automation to a higher degree.

To meet customer demand – where the time between order and delivery expectation is shorter than any time in history – warehouses need to change. Warehouses that are not fully prepared for this rapid rise of e-commerce often rely on an excessive amount of labor (including additional overtime), missing ship dates, and do not meet customer expectations on order accuracy or fulfillment times, all while confronting an ever-increasing volume of SKUs.

The pain points are all building up for those who have not yet adjusted. In those cases, how does one respond?

Some businesses start from scratch by building new facilities, while others are looking to adjust by retrofitting under their current footprint. These companies are looking to increase storage density, reduce time and costs, and achieve higher throughput capabilities by introducing automation into their processes.

Several solutions help warehouses and distribution centers stay competitive and thrive in today’s changing world. Below, we have highlighted seven automation solutions we have seen be useful in these efforts, no matter what level of automation your facility currently has implemented:

Solution 1: Goods-to-Person Picking with HAI Robotics

HAI Robotics ActionHAI Robotics is an intelligent, efficient, and flexible automation solution that utilizes a combination of HAIPICK robots, customizable storage units, software, and workstations to create a robotic goods-to-person picking workflow in a warehouse setting. These robots can handle up to eight cases simultaneously and reach heights up to 33 feet, increasing operational efficiency by up to 4x while also increasing storage density by up to 130%.

This solution replaces the repetitive, time-consuming costs of manual storage and handling and introduces a goods-to-person technology that can drastically improve fulfillment efforts.

Solution 2: Goods-to-Person Tote Handling AS/RS with Opex Perfect Pick

Goods-to-Man Tote Handling AS/RSHigh-speed AS/RS tote handling solutions offer scalable goods-to-person picking that improves the speed with which orders are picked, increases order accuracy, and reduces labor costs related to the picking process. It is a low-risk solution for those looking to introduce automated solutions into their operations. An additional benefit of this solution is that an operator can customize either the software or the system quickly if needed.

These systems offer high-density storage both vertically and horizontally within the system with robots that deliver products to a packing station or workstation for further fulfillment. It utilizes put-to-light technology that offers a high degree of accuracy, even with high volumes of order picking.

Solution 3: Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)AMRs offer a wide variety of benefits, including facilitating complex fulfillment, zone picking, each picking, case picking, maximizes labor, reduces labor costs, and can be designed to be scalable, flexible, and adaptable to nearly any fulfillment process. Because they do not require massive investment or even a WMS, on-demand automation solutions like AMRs are becoming adopted widely, especially for those looking to make low-risk introductions into automation.

Solution 4: Handle Complex Product Mixes with EffiMat® and ClassicMat™

Effimat-in-ActionEffimat® is an ideal solution for fast-moving products and small parts but can also increase fulfillment efficiencies with slow runners. The technology can determine the speed with which to pick the order. However, ClassicMat™ is constructed to be the ideal handler for slow runners and can prevent the parts from lowering the speed of the order.

By combining the two technologies and using their intelligent software system, users are ensured highly efficient storage or production environments that can handle complex product mixes.

Solution 5: Put to Light Tables/Workstations

Put-to-Light TablesPut-to-Light systems are an automated sortation method to break down larger product quantities into smaller individual orders. Known as the “scan and sort method,” this order fulfillment method takes items that are usually batch picked beforehand and transports them to the put station. The operator will scan a bar code on individual items, and the lights will illuminate with any customer order including that product. This technology solution will increase productivity as it reduces the time associated with searching for the put location. By the time the operator is done, the next product is already waiting, meaning it is a nonstop picking environment where workers are never waiting on automation.

Put-to-Light offers the same hardware devices and software as pick to light, meaning you can utilize both systems on one platform. This process will be beneficial when it comes to training new employees to use this technology solution. This system’s primary goal is to give you the ability to pack and ship more orders in less time while reducing errors.

Solution 6: Mixed Use of AMRs, Pick Modules, and Conveyors

AMRs and Conveyor CombosWe’ve touched on the integration of AMRs in conjunction with pick modules in addition to (or in place of) conveyors here. In short, by using this solution, you are shifting the work of your labor force to more valuable tasks. Like many automated solutions, it lessens the pick process’s length and gives you a flexible, scalable solution to adjust as e-commerce continues to grow.  Click here to learn more about this solution.

Solution 7: Introduce Automation without Massive Infrastructure with inVia Robotics

inVia Robotics ActioninVia Robotics offers a “crawl-walk-run” approach to introducing automation with their PickMate, Picker Robots, and PickerWall solutions. Users can integrate robotics at your scale, ultimately improving productivity up to 10x while seeing a return on investment on day one of implementation.

inVia is the only technology that can create a goods-to-person picking environment out of an existing pick module while not requiring massive infrastructure changes within your facility.

Their unique robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription models offer an ideal place to start automation because the subscription model removes the massive capital expenditure from the equation

Which is Right for You?

Which is the right solution for you? Will you need a WES/WMS system? Do you need a partner to help you consider using an engineered solution in the future?
There are several factors distribution centers need to consider, not only to meet today’s demand but also to facilitate growth and adaptability for future unforeseen changes in fulfillment expectations.

We have the design and expertise to partner with you through the decision-making and implementation processes. Give us a call today!

Warehouse Safety Solutions

As states across the country begin to lift restrictions considering the COVID-19 crisis, managers are working on creating work environments with safety at the top of mind to prevent an expansion of the virus. This “new normal” will likely feature new processes and operations to which your team will need to adjust.

To make this transition smooth and void of disruption, managers need to take some time and evaluate tools, products, and processes that can help keep employees safe and productive.

Below, we have highlighted the warehouse safety solutions that warehouse managers are adopting to help keep their employees safe. If you are in this stage – or are about to be – let’s talk about your operations and see if there are any options that suit your needs. There are options out there that, for a relatively low cost, can keep your operations running smoothly while still maintaining an appropriate social distance.

Limit the Number of People in Your Warehouse with Building Access Cages

Building Access Cages are installed at the entry points of warehouses and are designed to control who can access your facility. By creating this additional level of security, you can help prevent unnecessary contact with the outside world and restrict the number of humans unnecessarily coming into contact with your staff. These cages are adaptable and offer the benefit of avoiding unwanted disruptions and keep people safe within your day-to-day warehouse operations.

Integrate Dynamic and Technology Solutions to Lessen Dependency on Human Interaction

Technological solutions, such as autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), offer several benefits to a warehouse’s operations, including an increase of safety. In zone picking situations, for instance, the robot can take a package from one destination to another, limiting human-to-human contact and keeping employees within safe, designated zones. Not only does that reduce wear-and-tear on the body, but it also allows your staff to remain productive while maintaining social distancing within the operation.

Keep a Safe Social Distance with Employee Separation Panels

Employee Separation Panels are clear, portable panels that can protect your team from human-to-human contact by physically creating a barrier between groups or individuals. With no timetable for how long we can anticipate social distancing requirements, this is a low-cost, high-reward tool to implement into your warehouse while giving your employees peace of mind and may prevent workers from missing additional time due to an illness they may have contracted. Plus, with cold-or-flu season seemingly always around the corner, this is a tool that can keep your team productive year-round.

Install Additional Machine Guarding to Separate Operational Groups

From a COVID-19 safety standpoint, fencing such as machine guarding can help keep groups together – and in some cases, separate groups entirely. For instance, if you have a maintenance area that may have a tool that another group uses, you could create a machine guarding barrier to prevent individuals from going into an area they were not intended to be within. This is a low-cost solution that prevents groups from intermingling during this time but can be easily removed once restrictions on social distancing are removed.

Reduce Bacterial Concerns with Antimicrobials Mats

Ergonomic mats are ideal solutions to protect your employees from the wear-and-tear that comes with working in a warehouse setting. By introducing antimicrobial matting – commonly found in foodservice and medical settings – you can help eliminate cross-contamination hazards on your floor.  These mats are produced with an antimicrobial additive that reduces bacterial contamination concerns. Because these mats are also designed for healthcare settings, you can trust that they are effective in curbing the spread and multiplication of microbes.

Decrease the Number of Touchpoints with Key Fobs and Keycards

Typically, we recommend that warehouses work with key fobs and keycards anyway to help reduce unwanted visitors and to ensure that your facility is always safe. By reducing the number of touchpoints –locations upon which every employee touch – you will limit the exposure to any harmful bacteria that may be living on that surface.

Supply a Modular Location for Changing Clothes

During the COVID-19 crisis, medical professionals across the country took steps to limit their family’s exposure to the virus by changing their clothes in a safe, secure location between the inside of their home and their hospital. With the same thought in mind, consider installing a modular building or cleanroom within your facility to allow your employees that same courtesy. This step will assist in keeping any clothes that may be carrying a virus contained within a secure area without introducing them to the warehouse setting.

Any Questions? Let’s Get Started.

If any of these solutions sound like they will be of benefit to your business, let us connect. Click here to speak with one of our Storage Solutions experts who can work with you to find the right solution to fit your operational needs.

autonomous mobile robots-social-distancing

If there is one thing every person can agree on, it is that we do not know what our world will look like after the COVID-19 crisis finally concludes. As a society, we will likely re-evaluate social practices. As people, we may re-think how we go about our daily lives. As warehouse managers, we may look at this disruption as an opportunity to automate processes where we can.

In the age of social distancing – where we are asking humans to stay anywhere from six to 27 feet away from one another – we have seen an increase of interest in technology solutions like autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).

In the current environment, AMRs also enhance safety by allowing simple automated methods to transfer work from one person in the operation to another while eliminating the need for direct human contact. This allows your team to maintain or increase productivity, while also enhancing personal safety for your employees.

In short, an AMR is a warehouse manager’s dream. They are powered by sensors and on-board computers and programmed explicitly to carry out repeatable tasks within an operation. They are capable of reacting to their environment and avoid things like people, forklifts, and pallets while carrying products from one place to another.

AMRs Can Reduce Labor Disruptions

Right now, you do not have to look too far to see industries impacted by labor disruptions. Labor disruptions can result in anything from a flat tire to a worldwide pandemic – and everything in between. AMRs are just one of many technology solutions that can reduce labor disruptions. They are ideal because they are flexible and cost-effective and can be programmed without the need for substantial additional investment in facility infrastructure or IT.

Autonomous Mobile Robots Can Work Alongside Your Team

Warehouse associates can benefit from the integration of AMRs, especially in the realm of health and safety. For instance, in the picking process, one a product is picked and placed upon a robot such as Fetch Robotics’ HMIShelf, the robot can then take the package to a pre-determined place in your warehouse. This process saves the associate the trouble of lifting and carrying the product, reducing the stress on back, knees, feet, and overall wear-and-tear.

By shortening the distance traveled by humans in your warehouse, you are also reducing the risk of forklift accidents and injuries. These collaborative work scenarios then allow your humans to focus on higher-level tasks and let the robots do the heavy lifting. Literally.

AMRs Can Optimize Efficiency

Every percentage of the laborious, monotonous, and physically exerting labor done by humans that you can transfer to an AMR pays off. Pick times get reduced. Turnover becomes lessened. And, not only will employees be more appreciative of their jobs being safer, easier, and more fulfilling, the work they can do now becomes a better return on your investment in valuable human capital.

Evaluate, Then Evolve

As we continue to re-evaluate all of our practices, it may be a perfect time to re-evaluate the inclusion of technology solutions like AMRs or other systems that allow you to continue to operate at maximum capacity and efficiency, even during challenges times.

If you would like more information or would like to discuss the challenges you see with your workforce or operation, contact one of our Storage Solutions experts. We would love to connect and provide customized solutions that are suited to fit your needs.

Fetch Robotics Smart Slotting

One of the hidden costs of warehouse operations is inefficiency. Because there is no line-item on the operating statement associated with suboptimal performance, the costs associated with unnecessary wear-and-tear, unneeded turnover, and the growing gap between what you are doing and your competitors’ performance. Sometimes, these inefficient processes go untended for too long.

What is the value of your warehouse efficiency? What is it worth to improve your storage utilization by more than 70%? How much longer is your business going to wait for data to drive your processes?

Warehouse picking is about balancing what has to be done manually with areas where automation can be cost-justified.

At the end of the day, warehouse optimization is all about balancing workloads within picking zones. Every bottleneck or delay in picking causes the next action to be delayed. When you take into account the number of picks per day, week, and month, the total can begin to add up in the wrong way. Especially for operators who lack good balance throughout their picking areas.

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) provide a great flexible and scalable solution to automate picking. However, one big challenge of all AMR solutions is the need to balance workload throughout all pick zones. The easiest and most cost-effective way to address this balance is with a good slotting plan.

By combining Fetch Robotics’ On-Demand Automation services solutions and Storage Solutions’ Smart Slotting, warehouses can experience unmatched efficiency in their picking processes.

How Does It Work?

To begin, Storage Solutions will evaluate your current process and layout. Using our special slotting tool, Storage Solutions establishes a “heat map” of your most popular SKUs. From there, we evaluate costs associated with space, replenishment, and equipment to provide you with the most productive solution possible. It is all based on data — not guessing or assuming.

In short, we use the information to configure the SKUs you pick the most to be as efficient as possible. And, we spread them evenly throughout all pick zones to avoid bottlenecks and maximize productivity.

From there, once the proper inventory slotting plan has been established, we work with our Fetch Robotics team to ensure the optimal workflow is put into place.

Finding the right balance

Fetch Robotics is an industry leader in On-Demand Automation. As a Fetch Certified Solutions provider, we offer dynamic, flexible solutions to make the most out of every square foot. Autonomous mobile robots are designed to be deployed into any facility, as is – without adding physical infrastructure or installing IT systems, built to any scale with flexibility to change on the fly.

We work with your footprint to get the most products out of your door in the most cost-effective way. Also, we design with flexibility to adapt to ever-changing business needs and scalability for your company to grow.

Less wear and tear

With Smart Slotting, you can make the best use of some of your biggest capital investments: your material handling equipment. Many other slotting systems only take into account the total distance traveled in the picking process. Smart Slotting assigns dollars to your data, measuring labor, materials, equipment, storage mediums, and more. Then, we define and implement the lowest-cost operating plan for your facility.

Let’s say your environment changes, given new demand or a new set of orders. We can reoptimize the inventory slotting plan at any time. We would only need a new data set.

Lower labor costs per pick

By placing the most-selected items in the easiest-to-access areas of your warehouse, you physically move less. Imagine the savings in labor costs and efforts by doing the most repeated tasks more efficiently, every time. We also have the ability to factor in seasonal spikes to account for times in which you may be moving more products.

Want to learn more about how Smart Slotting works? Read our latest case study and success story here.

While You Wait

While you continue operating with inefficiencies, the world is changing. The “Amazon Effect” is real. The highest-performing warehouses are constantly re-evaluating and optimizing.
While you are addressing your warehouse’s labor shortages, your competitors are reducing their turnaround times and adjusting to a new demand model.

By combining Smart Slotting with a Fetch Robotics solution, you are setting your warehouse up for success both in the short-term and long-term. You are using data, technology, and automation to achieve maximum efficiency as soon as possible, all while factoring in future growth potential.

The decision does not have to be made today. However, the process can start at any time. Click here, hit the chat button below, or call us at 317-449-8740 and one of our experts can get begin to determine your workflow needs.

Fetch Robotics Webinar CartConnect

We would love for you to join us next Tuesday, August 27th for our latest Fetch Robotics webinar on CartConnect. This dynamic solution can speed up your facility, therefore, increasing ROI in the long-run.

Many leaders in the manufacturing and supply chain industry agree that robotics and automation are the most effective ways to stay competitive in a dynamic marketplace. However, not all automation mediums are created equal. This technology can transform the way you go about your material handling solutions and can double productivity within your facility.

This new technology is called CartConnect. CartConnect is an autonomous material handling solution that picks up, transports, and drops off warehouse carts to any location, within any warehouse, factory, or distribution center. During the webinar, we will show how CartConnect can be used for multiple picking strategies and other applications such as put away, replenishment & retail stocking. In short, this Fetch AMR solution can give you a competitive edge in your operation.

Want to learn more? Join us on Tuesday, August 27th at 2:00 PM EST to learn how to launch your facility into the future. Sign up for the webinar today!

AMR vs. AGV

Due to market conditions such as labor challenges and increasing customer service demands, warehouse automation is a hot topic lately. Companies both large and small are looking into resources to move items throughout their operation more efficiently. If you’ve been following this trend, you’ve most likely heard the buzz around using AMR vs. AGV.

AGVs, or Automated Guided Vehicles, have been familiar in warehouses for quite some time now. AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) on the other hand are a little newer to the scene. It’s important to understand what you’re getting with each of these solutions.

AMR vs. AGV: What’s the Difference?

While on the surface the two may seem very similar, there are several key factors that set an AGV and an AMR apart. The most fundamental difference between the two comes down to how they move through a facility. A guided vehicle is just what the name implies, a vehicle that operates on a fixed and guided route. Usually AGVs run along some sort of path, such as embedded magnets or wires. With this set path, an AGV does not have the ability to make quick changes on the fly, and does not always have the intelligence to stop when something comes in its path. This can lead to expensive upgrades down the road as your operational needs change. It could also put you at risk for more work-related accidents to occur.

An AMR is an autonomously navigating robot designed to work collaboratively with humans. Therefore it offers a much smarter solution. With an AMR, you get a flexible solution that offers easy adjustments as your operational needs change. In addition, the implementation for an AMR is much simpler. There is no need to make costly facility adjustments to get started. Finally, another key point that sets an AMR apart is the safety factors. AMRs use vision systems and laser sensors to ensure that accidents are avoided in any environment.

Cost Standpoint When Addressing AMRs vs AGVs

When you hear the value that an AMR can bring your operation you probably assume that the cost must be much higher than an AGV, but that is not the case. Since AMRs help you avoid costly modifications, getting started with one is fast and relatively inexpensive.

Storage Solutions is proud to partner with Fetch Robotics as a Fetch Certified Solutions Provider. Through this partnership we offer a variety of AMR solutions that can be customized to meet your needs. Want to find out how a Fetch AMR solution can assist you in achieving optimal efficiency in your facility? Click here to learn more about the products or to schedule a free consultation with one of our Fetch experts today.

Fetch Robotics SSI Partnership

To round out a great 2018, we are excited to announce that Storage Solutions has completed the requirements to become a Fetch Certified Solutions Provider! This partnership will provide us with a wide variety of solutions that we feel will be able to help our customers work efficiently while saving them money.

Who Is Fetch Robotics?

Founded in 2014, Fetch Robotics is one of the leaders in robotics and innovation in the supply chain industry. Located in San Jose, CA, they benefit from the abundance of technological resources the Silicon Valley has to offer.

Fetch is the leading technology partner when it comes to Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). With a wide variety of options, we are able to find you the robot that fits perfectly with your solution.  Together, we will work as your one-stop-shop for robotic automation from small parts to large pallets.

We are beyond excited to start working with Fetch Robotics. This partnership allows us to provide you with an even bigger solutions catalog, thus optimizing your facility to its highest point. Want to learn more about our new partner? Contact us today and we’ll give you the full breakdown on what the partnership means for you!

The Fetch team was on-site this week for a training session, so stay tuned for more details. Until then, be sure to check out the pictures below of our site visit to Fetch’s headquarters recently.