Driverless cars might be getting a lot of attention these days, but the idea of driverless forklifts has been around for decades. Half a century ago, driverless forklifts ran along overhead wires. Their modern counterparts make use of driverless robotic equipment to help with picking and moving.
Modern shoppers tend to buy things more frequently and make smaller orders, which is making warehouse operations increasingly costly and labor-intensive. Full case and layer picking are playing a bigger role, and safety regulations continue to tighten, meaning that warehouse managers have their work cut out for them.
Automating layer picking processes can help increase efficiency. In some cases, a robotic layer picker could help people do 10 times as much work, making this route very worthy of consideration. Some of these systems use a clamping tool with a large gantry moving on two rails with a staging area and a pallet underneath. A WCS is used to relay the order information to the layer-pick robot and instruct it on how to handle replenishment. The built orders are then transported to the loading dock on a robotic pallet truck.
Humans and Robots Working Side by Side
In some warehouses, human pickers and robotic ones work side by side or even work together one the same order, which is why safety is taken very seriously. Driverless pallet trucks and forklifts are required to adhere to industry standards. They must feature lights, audible warnings, and built-in sensors that can detect obstructions. Lasers and cameras are often used to boost their safety even further, and they are programmed to slow down or stop if a collision is possible.
While these robotic solutions are not the most affordable option in terms of cost alone, the overall return on investment can be rather impressive and make the purchase price pale in comparison. They are especially useful in warehouses that are short on labor or have high-pay employees working on case pick-to-pallet operations. They are also a good choice for enormous warehouses that entail lots of horizontal, repetitive travel with full pallets across long distances.
As technology continues to evolve and make life easier, firms that make investments in automation will be able to stand the test of time.
This blog post was based off of an article from Robotics Tomorrow. View the original here.