Robots have a lot to offer warehouse workers as they can be very useful. It is the opinion of Zebra Technologies Corporation, a company specialized in offering solutions that improve business performance. However, they have not been as well received as they should be. More and more organizations are embarking on an automation journey, but it is important to determine if the robotic automation it’s a good option.
“There are some misunderstandings about how robots work, the benefits of working with them, and the amount of work that integration and management can entail. There is also an assumption that robots can be deployed in all warehouse environments without problems, or that their deployment and management through the cloud would cause operational, privacy and security issues, which is not entirely true.”, explains Melonee Wise, vice president of Robotics Automation at Zebra Technologies. “What may not be so obvious are the obstacles that can trip a robot, especially an autonomous mobile robot (AMR). Ladders? Pallets and forklift tines? A sudden fall on a loading dock? Water on the ground?”.
Although some AMRs are equipped with laser and sensor technologies that make them highly aware of their surroundings, many remain relying exclusively on single-plane laser which only allows them to see a small portion of the world, and they cannot “see” stairs or ramps. With this in mind, Zebra recommends carefully evaluating whether robotic technology will work in your facility from a safety standpoint.
It is important to understand that AMRs are not like other types of automation solutions. They are not even like other types of robots. They are self-contained units with autonomous controls and therefore can be deployed and managed in the cloud. In fact, many AMRs are designed to be deployed as software-as-a-service (SaaS) or robots-as-a-service (RaaS) solutions. Among the main advantages of SaaS stands out the 24/7 professional support, flexibility and redundancy. Additionally, cloud-based AMRs can be up and running in a matter of hours or days, and workers can experience an instant boost in productivity.
ask the right questions
Whether you’re new to implementing robots or want to switch to a different type of robotic automation solution, it’s important to ask yourself questions. Zebra recommends not taking anything for granted from our past experience. Also, the AMRs used in a manufacturing environment may be different than those in the warehouse. Therefore, before committing to a robotic automation solution, consider:
Are robots a good option for my warehouse?
Make sure you understand if there is some challenge in your facilities (ramps, drop-offs, water leaks, etc.) and work with solution providers to ensure the robot can function effectively in your environment.
What can be learned from a full-scale pilot?
In many instances, given the urgency to fill labor gaps or increase efficiency, decision makers may rely on a virtual or “sideline” demo to get a feel for the system. But robots can behave very well in a small test environment, and virtual demos can be easily mounted. So always take the time to see the solution working in your production environment before selecting a robotic automation solution, especially with AMRs and Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs).
What is needed to meet current safety standards?
Confirm that the vendor and integration team you have selected have both the knowledge and the willingness to follow and apply current regulations. Taking shortcuts could put your workers and your business at risk.
Do I fully understand the advantages of cloud-based robotic solutions?
Many companies are still defining their overall cloud strategies, and on-premises systems are still very common in supply chain environments. However, all ERP, WMS, and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) will soon be cloud-based. Why should we expect robotic automation systems to be housed or managed differently? The cloud enables seamless systems integration, eliminating data and functional silos across the enterprise.
What do my employees think of having robots as colleagues?
Nobody has an AMR at home. So unlike a mobile computer that can feel familiar, interactions with robots can feel awkward and awkward, so be prepared for that. address this issue through training to help them feel comfortable with their robotic co-workers.
Once you’ve carefully considered your options and understand the potential impact of each on your business, your systems, and your employees, you’ll be able to choose a solution that helps and doesn’t interfere with your workers’ day-to-day lives.