Retailers and logistics service providers have shown enormous flexibility and adaptability in recent years. They have evolved from traditional service providers to parties that are active both online and offline with a multi-channel, cross-channel or omni-channel approach.
Currently, retail and logistics are in the midst of the landslide called corona. It is accelerating digital transformation at an unprecedented rate and crushing several organisations that were not ready for it.
A return to ‘normal’, which we were all looking forward to, is out of the question. The world has changed forever. The changes that retailers and logistics service providers are now implementing are also permanent. The digital transformation that retail warehouses already had in mind has been brought forward by several years.
Online shopping is unstoppable. Now that the shops are closed, the pressure on collecting and sending parcels has become enormous. Consumers do not pay a penny extra and do not want to wait longer for their order because the retailer is so busy. We have even reached a limit in terms of human work. To make a distribution centre work efficiently, there is only one choice to make: automate and robotise.
What kind of robots are we talking about?
Perhaps you have seen robots in a shop or hospital that serve as hosts. Or you may know that Amazon uses drones for order picking. When we talk about robots, we often mean AMR (Autonomous Mobile Robots) like those of our partner Fetch Robotics. These are self-propelled transporters that carry packaged goods, crates and pallets, particularly in logistics environments.
There are also robots that follow the order picker. The order picker places boxes on the robot and the robot finds its way back. This saves the order picker a lot of lugging around and kilometres. Other robots drive through the warehouses themselves to count the stock. And some robots have an ‘arm’ and can pick and fill orders themselves.
In a shop environment, the robot can be equipped with Artificial Intelligence, for example, to check the articles on the shelves unmanned for type and quantity. Sometimes it can even replenish them.
What needs to be done if you want to robotise?
Robotics cannot be fitted into every existing environment and situation. To start with, the wireless network and software must be suitable. Is the coverage good enough? Can all elements be integrated into one efficient working system?
The physical environment must also be suitable for robotisation. Is there enough space so that people and robots can move about safely? The routing of robots must be worked out with care. Another important question is whether the floor is suitable for moving robots.
Obviously, the intelligent and physical environment can be made suitable for robotisation. Suppliers of robot solutions have all kinds of tools to interface with WMS software.
The human factor
Many companies are afraid that people will become redundant. Of course, this is not the case. Robotisation mainly reduces the burden on people. Robots can also provide relief ergonomically, for example if a package is very heavy and/or high. Moreover, in this day and age, it is undesirable to have many people working in one room. With robots, organisations can reduce the risk of contamination.
Now that the limits of human capabilities have gradually been reached, organisations cannot continue to expand with more people. Robotics can help you achieve greater efficiency and reliability.
Robotics, yes or no?
The decision to automate warehouse operations must have a sound basis. The following considerations play a role:
Costs – it requires considerable investments to deploy robots.
Company size – the company must be large enough to recoup the investment (quickly).
ROI – how long will it take, depending on the situation, to recoup the investment?
Infrastructure – the adjustments may be too extensive to take full advantage of robotisation.
Operational downtime during installation – if shutting down the company for a number of days, let alone weeks, is not an option, robotisation is not always a realistic option.
Depending on the above, some companies opt for robotisation that requires little infrastructure adjustment, can be installed in work processes, increases employee productivity and at the same time has a short payback period. Companies that have not yet automated their processes often go for mobile devices first to increase productivity and efficiency.
Dalosy: Training, software & hardware
Dalosy is happy to help you with the transition. This starts with sound advice on the best approach. We can set up a test or demo environment for you and supply the software / licences for that environment. You can come to us for the purchase of hardware – the robots – and finally, we offer various software training courses for service engineers.
Heb je vragen?
Do you have questions about automation or the use of robots in your organisation? We are at your service. Mail us or call 078 681 1200
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