Cobots in Warehouse: Benefits of Logistics Automation

Cobots in warehouses

The recent pandemic has disrupted the supply chains, impacted competitiveness, economic growth, and job creation. These uncertainties, however, have positively impacted on technological advancements in logistics. Be it the number of logistics technology start-ups getting funded or the existing tech organizations moving into a consolidation mode through mergers and acquisitions – all are indicators that directly correlates with these changes. In addition, after the COVID-19 outbreak, there is a boom in online orders and e-commerce business which has resulted in a 15-20% yearly growth for warehouse providers.

Behind this growth is the underlying technology powering warehouse operations, including hardware and software. To sustain this growth and to serve future customers, there is an urgent need for technology scalability and agility and the Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) must do it without breaking the bank. Robotics in the warehouse space has grown by leaps and bounds during the past year, especially with the emergence of Robotics as a Service (RaaS). The technology is now more affordable, and this automation can help warehouse providers handle the sudden increase in volumes.

The reason behind LSP’s shift towards automation can be attributed to the following reasons:

  1. Warehousing is a labor-intensive industry; having robotics handle these jobs help LSPs increase their output exponentially.

  2. The pandemic has led to lockdowns, social distancing and employee safety which can be achieved through robotics that can serve with minimal human intervention.

  3. With increased focus on just-in-time (JIT) inventory, optimizing inputs and outputs can be executed with robotics.

Bots vs Co-bots

Whenever we think of robots, we are encountered with an innate fear of losing out our jobs to machines, a fear that every working class must have encountered. But that is not the kind of robots we are talking about; we are talking about co-bots (collaborative robots) which work in tandem with humans. These co-bots are packed with advanced sensors and vision technology to cater to the needs of warehouse operations. Co-bots do not replace operators, but they learn to perform functions with utmost accuracy without the slightest wear and tear. As a result, they increase the accuracy of picking/putaway, improve safety, and reduce operating costs, thereby creating a positive impact on productivity. According to ISO 10218 part 1 and part 2, some of the key variants in co-bots are:

  • Speed and Variation co-bots
  • Hand Guiding co-bots
  • Safety Monitored shop
  • Power & Force Limiting co-bots

Loup Ventures, the venture capital firm, has predicted that the co-bot industry will represent a $6.8 billion market opportunity by 2025. It is easy to imagine why. Co-bot increases performance by carrying out tasks like screw driving, helping with the knife sharpening, assembly process , and folding & packing boxes. Co-bots help in eliminating the ergonomic risk by automating packaging and palletizing. They are user-friendly, extremely efficient, and maintenance-free. Co-bots are highly usable during the Goods Receipt process, identifying multiple parameters, such as wear and tear of pallets, items, and verification of quantities.

But having only co-bots is not the answer to all the warehouse woes. What will bring an overhaul in the warehouse is an integrated software solution, which can guide the co-bots and reprogram them through its integration capability. It will also improve the interaction between the employees and the co-bots, ensuring there’s seamless flow of information between the two. With its leading warehouse management system, Ramco provides complete automation across order streaming, planning & allocation, waving and load planning, and integrates with Bots, AGVs, ERPs, and order management systems. For anyone operating a warehouse, it is now up to them to embrace the complete solution that will complement each other, instead of a piecemeal adoption of the new-age tech.

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