Automatic Innovation

By Lior Elazary

This article originally appeared on Supply Chain World.

The effects of robotics technology can be witnessed across industries, with groundbreaking implementations being tested in fields from healthcare to manufacturing and e-commerce. One such use case is the major progress being made within the supply chain, specifically in warehouse automation.

In e-commerce specifically, dominant retailers like Amazon have been incorporating automation in their warehouses and setting a highly competitive pace for order fulfillment and delivery since 2012. This has led to the modern adaption of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that can revolutionize the supply chain for small and medium-size companies, too. Here are a few key ways innovations in robotics are benefitting the supply chain at large.

Increasing productivity

Autonomous mobile robots can deliver significant value when it comes to increasing warehouse and supply chain productivity. They can speed up routine processes, increase accuracy and solve a variety of common efficiency issues when deployed side-by-side with human employees.

Most robotic solutions available today are highly adaptive – they can be deployed within the existing infrastructure of a company’s warehouse, map the most efficient routes and even shift workflows in real time. This allows a company to accommodate changing needs, routes and product placement based on current demand, popular inventory, peak seasons and other varying factors.

Reducing mistakes

Using a goods-to-person workflow allows the mobile robots to bring one item type to an employee at a time, meaning there is a low chance that the picker will make a mistake – compared to the workers traditionally needing to locate and choose among many shelves of items.

This system will also eliminate the mistakes made and time spent during the process of simply walking to different sections of the warehouse. As the employee no longer spends time traveling to various pallet racks, they have more time to inspect the items being picked and focus on quality control. Cycle counting and general product quality control become more efficient, instantly.

While statistics vary based on industry, shrinkage is a major concern as U.S. retailers have been reported to lose up to $60 billion annually. Lost, damaged and stolen inventory contribute to shrinkage, all of which can be aided by the addition of autonomous mobile robots in the warehouse. With much of the movement of items being done by machines, there is a lowered chance of items going missing or being misplaced. These solutions are streamlining the picking process and working alongside human employees to fill gaps and increase efficiency throughout the traditional supply chain.

Improving safety

Incorporating autonomous mobile robots into a warehouse fulfillment strategy can also mitigate, and often eliminate, common risks to human workers. Some of the most common injuries to employees in a warehouse setting are caused by collapsing pallet racks, slips and trips, along with falls from often high ladders.

Using a goods-to-person workflow allows human employees to handle the high-level tasks of sorting, packing and checking fulfillment orders, while robots assist with picking, climbing shelves and moving throughout the warehouse – fulfilling several of the higher-risk tasks.

Lior Elazary is the founder and CEO of inVia Robotics, a company that develops, implements and deploys robotics automation technology through an innovative “Robotics-as-a-Service” platform for e-commerce distribution centers and supply chains. A serial entrepreneur, he has more than 20 years of leadership experience and has completed three successful exits. Lior holds a masters in Robotics from the University of Southern California and has several publications and patents ranging from neuroscience to robotics. 

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