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Conveyors or AMRs

For decades, conveyor systems have been a standard solution in warehouses to move products through the fulfillment process. They grew popular because they can handle the heavy-lifting of transporting products while saving the wear-and-tear on your workers, who would otherwise be required to move those products physically.

Unfortunately, conveyor systems can be expensive, bulky, and take up too much room on the warehouse floor. More importantly, they offer an inherent lack of flexibility as companies adapt to changes in the way consumers are ordering products.

One solution we see in this area is integrating autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) alongside conveyors. For the right tasks, these AMRs can give businesses that adaptability to adjust their operations to meet where consumer demand is going. For warehouses and distribution centers, flexibility is more important now than ever. The speed of change is accelerating, and warehouses that rely solely on conveyor systems may not be able to react with the swiftness they need to.

Where AMRs can replace conveyor is in the areas of transportation and work distribution. They assist in moving products from one pick zone to the next or from a pick zone to a packing area or a quality control area. They can also move products from pick locations to a put-to-light area. Several applications potentially make sense for this change. Really, other than when a package must move through a place at a very high rate, AMRs can potentially make sense to replace conveyors.

By integrating AMRs, you can have your labor force working on more valuable tasks like picking versus physically moving products themselves. We have broken down the many advantages of these AMRs in warehouse operations prior (link), but this relatively new technology is a smart, flexible technology that can sometimes replace functionality historically handled by conveyance.

Look, conveyors will never go away completely. There are some things a conveyor does that really can’t be replaced altogether. Especially with high-speed transportation or sortation, a conveyor will probably be needed. However, full reliance on these monuments of infrastructure may keep your company from adapting as necessary to changes within the supply chain industry.

Really, an investment like this is an investment in your facility’s ability to be dynamic in response to demand changes. As e-commerce continues to grow at an unprecedented pace, facilities need to follow suit and understand how to react accordingly. By prioritizing adaptability in your processes, you can meet the challenge of changing demand quicker. That means down the road, your costs will be fewer, your downtime will lessen, and ultimately your customers will be more satisfied.

Of course, if you need any assistance in evaluating your facility design, the Storage Solutions team will help. Our experts have decades of experience in equipping warehouses and distribution centers with the right mix of tools to get the job done right. We understand that, as the industry continues to change, adaptability is becoming increasingly important. Armed with the right combination of technology with tried-and-true mechanisms, warehouses can respond to dynamic changes with relative ease.

If you are considering adding conveyor systems to your facility, talk with us first. While we recognize the value that these systems have traditionally brought to warehouse operations, technology has evolved to the point where they may not be the best option any longer. Our team of experts can talk with you about your processes, challenges, and then design a custom workflow to amplify efficiencies without breaking the bank.

SmartGuard UV Blog

As the supply chain industry continues to adjust to a “new normal” in business operations due to the COVID-19 crisis, managers across the country are looking to provide their employees with additional measures to stay safe in uncertain times.

What new products are out there to keep your team moving? What solutions could maintain – or improve – productivity while limiting distractions? Is there such a thing?

We are excited to share an innovative solution for warehouse safety, introducing the SmartGuard UV disinfection autonomous mobile robot (AMR). The AMR moves through a facility and uses flashing ultraviolet lights that send out antibacterial and germicidal flashes that act as a powerful sterilization agent.

The result is a process that eliminates 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the AMR’s path.

Dual pulsed xenon UV lamps power SmartGuardUV, so while the robot has the highest germicidal power, it is also environmentally friendly with low power requirements and no toxic mercury like other UV lamps.

The SmartGuard UV technology has been tested by independent, accredited third-party testing labs to deploy these broad-spectrum UV-C, UV-B, UV-A, and violet-blue light to kill germs. The system has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in food and medical areas but is adaptable to take the same disinfecting technology into the warehouse. The device is also registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The SmartGuard UV robot offers quick disinfection with minimal downtown and can disinfect from 2,400 to 3,800 square feet of space in an eight-hour shift. The technology also features a safety motion sensor for automatic shut-off to prevent unnecessary UV exposure. So, once the robot completes an area, it is immediately available for use by employees.

These AMRs are particularly effective in disinfecting areas where there is a high level of activity in a condensed space, making it perfect for:

  • Pick modules
  • Picking/packing areas
  • Break rooms
  • Changing rooms
  • Cafeterias
  • Waiting areas/lobbies
  • Private offices
  • Conference rooms
  • Loading areas
  • Entrances / exits
  • Hallways
  • Work stations

Because these devices run on the cloud-based FetchCore operating system, you can be up and running in just hours. The AMR’s task flow can be mapped, tested, and deployed simply and easily. Once deployed, the AMR’s sensors allow it to follow workflows while avoiding obstacles, keeping employees safe.

If changes need to be made once deployed, the cloud-based platform also allows you to dynamically schedule, initiate, or modify the workflows from anywhere with an internet connection using a mobile device. This technology gives you more control to disinfect your facility without requiring you to supervise every move.

Optional disinfection analytics provides disinfection event validation and UV light performance, including date, time, location, photographic evidence, disinfection duration, and cleaning performance.

All this means the SmartGuard UV offers a fully-automated disinfection solution that allows the employees currently tasked with a new degree of workplace cleaning to be repurposed to only focus on high-traffic or high-touch areas when the AMR is not in those areas. In short, you can clean more areas more thoroughly, using fewer labor resources.

As times change, we understand that businesses and managers change to meet the needs of changing demands. With employee safety at a premium during the COVID-19 crisis, these AMRs provide a simple but effective tool to ensure your team stays safe in uncertain times. If you are interested in utilizing a SmartGuard UV AMR in your facility, contact our team of experts, who can speak further to these devices’ benefits.

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.

reduce-labor-disruptions-with-tech

By nature, warehouse operation managers are skilled problem solvers. The best of these managers can quell many disruptions with quick, efficient on-their-feet decisions. Planning plays a crucial role in ensuring a smooth operation. However, there will always be plenty of unforeseen hurdles to overcome, especially when it comes to labor disruptions.

No operation runs at 100% efficiency, without disruption. Even the best managers are going to come across underperformance from their teams. They will also need to overcome outdated design and other challenges that may come with traditional labor. Reducing these inefficiencies allow managers to make fewer, more thoughtful decisions by nature because they won’t be distracted by preventable disruptions.

If you are among those experiencing these issues, know that there are many flexible, cost-effective technology solutions available.

Technology Solutions for Your Operations

  1. Integrate Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). AMRs work in collaboration with human labor to achieve optimal production efficiency without the need for costly facility renovations. As a Certified Fetch Solutions Provider, we can work with you to design workflows that can be easily adjusted thanks to their cloud-based software, FetchCore. Thanks to their built-in sensors, these robots can also dynamically follow a map, allowing for an optimal travel route.
  2. Begin Smart Slotting Your Inventory. Smart Slotting is a warehouse slotting optimization tool that factors in operational, space, replenishment, equipment costs, storage mediums, and more variables to define the lowest-cost operational plan for your facility. With Smart Slotting, we can take the guesswork out of facility layout by calculating the impact that potential changes will make before implementing them.
  3. Install Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light Solutions. Because they use the same hardware and software, warehouses can utilize both Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light Solutions to automate various fulfillment processes. The main goal of both systems is to give you the ability to pack and ship more orders in less time while reducing errors.
  4. Implement Warehouse Execution Systems. A Warehouse Execution System (WES) is a software solution that directs all processes that occur in a distribution center. This system will prioritize work in a way to optimize fulfillment while keeping your facility streamlined. These systems are ideal for operations with less-robust WMS or ERP support. Also, these systems may let you introduce zone or batch-picking to your pick process. This benefit is not possible through some Warehouse Management Systems (WMS).

Whatever the level of consistency you have in labor costs, it can increase with the implementation of technology solutions. Contact us today and let’s talk about what might be right for your operation.

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.

WERC Robotics in the Warehouse

Mark your calendars! On March 20th, Storage Solutions and Fetch Robotics will be hosting a WERC event at our headquarters in Westfield, Indiana to help you learn more about autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in warehousing. Robotics and automation are overhauling warehouses and changing how work gets done. Even though robotics are relatively new in the warehousing industry, they are quickly making their impact.

We are ecstatic to provide the opportunity to teach you more about robotics and their role in the modern warehouse. This event will highlight the general landscape of this up and coming technology, as well as how it will affect the industry in the near and long-term. This will also include a demonstration and our insight into this new tool and how it can help you.

The demo will talk about some success stories that other companies have had with Fetch AMRs. In addition, we will showcase ways they helped improve operational efficiency, increased man-hour value and made overall operations more profitable.

Want to be a part of this event? Click here to register and learn more about this new technology!

Fetch Robotics Shelf

In case you missed it, we recently announced our latest partnership with Fetch Robotics. Now let’s learn how can you benefit from it. With this new collaboration comes a wide array of products and services, and we are ready to pass that along to you! Whether you face staffing issues, increased shipping volume or flexibility challenges within your operation, we will find you the right robot solution to remedy those problems.

As the leader in the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) industry, Fetch brings numerous products to the table that can fit multiple ways in your solution. While most robotics companies specialize in a single type of robot and application, Fetch created smaller robots that can handle totes all the way up to larger robots that can move full pallets. With all varying in max capacity, we will work in collaboration with you to find the robot that works best in your solution.

Available Product Line

Fetch Robotics Products

Fetch Robotics also has their own cloud-based operating system called FetchCore. Fetch created this operating system to be as user-friendly and flexible as possible, from launch through operation. You can easily set the operation workflow for robots on the system and even pair it with your WMS software for complex solutions. However, having WMS software integration is not necessary, and therefore allows for a quick and seamless setup in any facility.

Of course, safety is of paramount importance when it comes to choosing a partner. Fetch products have received countless safety certifications. All robots are built with numerous protection features, making them extremely secure to work collaboratively with warehouse staff.

Above all, we strive to be your service partner. Therefore, we will ensure that we provide the best products and services possible for all your AMR needs.

Want to learn more? You can read more about our partner and contact us for more information here!

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.