Retailers and logistics service providers have shown incredible flexibility and adaptability in recent years. They evolved from traditional service providers into organisations active both online and offline with a multi-channel, cross-channel or omni-channel. Retail and logistics are currently at the epicentre of the seismic shift known as corona. The pandemic is accelerating the digital transformation at an unprecedented rate, leaving a whole slew of unprepared organisations in the dust.
The return to ‘normal’ that we’ve all been waiting for is not happening. The world has changed for good. The changes that retailers and logistics service providers are currently implementing are also here to stay. The digital transformation that retail warehouses already had in mind has been bumped forwards several years.
There’s no turning back the clock on online shopping. Now that the shops are closed, the pressure on order picking and dispatch has skyrocketed. Consumers won’t pay an extra cent or wait a minute longer for their orders just because retailers are so busy. In terms of human work, we’ve even reached a limit. If we want to run efficient distribution centres, only one choice remains: automate and robotise.
What kinds of robots are we talking about here?
You may have seen a robot serving as a host in a shop or hospital. Or you may be aware that Amazon uses drones to pick orders. When we talk about robots, we often mean the AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) of our partner Fetch Robotics. These are self-driving means of transport for goods, crates and pallets, particularly in logistics environments.
One kind of robot follows order pickers. The order picker sets boxes on the robot, and the robot finds its way back. This saves the order picker a great deal of backache and mileage. Other robots drive through the warehouse by themselves for stocktaking. Also, some robots have an ‘arm’, and can pick orders and replenish stock on their own.
In a retail environment, this kind of robot can be fitted with Artificial Intelligence for tasks such as autonomous checking of the types and quantities of items on the shelves. These robots can sometimes even restock the shelves.
What all needs to happen if you want to robotise?
Robotisation cannot be easily implemented in every possible environment and situation. First, it requires a suitable wireless network and software. Is the coverage adequate? Can all elements be integrated into a single efficient system?
The physical environment must also be suitable for robotisation. Does it offer enough space for people and robots to move around safely? Robot routing must be carefully planned. Another key question is whether the floor is suitable for robot traffic.
Naturally the physical and IT environments can be made suitable for robotisation. Providers of robot solutions have a wide range of tools to interface with WMS software.
The human factor
Many companies fear that people will become redundant. Of course, that’s not true. Robotisation is mainly about reducing the burden on people. Robots can also offer ergonomic benefits, such as for packages that are too heavy or located too high up. Moreover, it’s currently undesirable to have a lot of people working in the same room. Robots can help organisations reduce the risk of infection.
Now that we are slowly reaching the limits of human capabilities, organisations can’t keep expanding with more people. Robotisation can help you achieve greater efficiency and reliability.
To robotise or not to robotise?
Any decision to automate warehouse activities should be well-founded. The following factors play a role:
- Cost: deploying robots takes a considerable investment.
- Company size: the enterprise must be large enough to see a prompt return on its investments.
- ROI: how long will it take to see a return on investment in the situation at hand?
- Infrastructure: the changes may be too expensive to achieve the full benefits of robotisation.
- Operational downtime during installation: if shutting down the company for a few days – or even weeks – is not an option, then robotisation is not really an option either.
Depending on the above factors, some companies opt for a form of robotisation that enables minimal infrastructure changes, integration into work processes, a boost in worker productivity and a short payback period. Companies that have not yet automated their processes often prefer mobile devices to boost their productivity and efficiency.
Dalosy: training, software & hardware
Dalosy will be happy to support your transition. This starts with sound advice on the best approach. We can set up a test or demo environment for you and provide the associated software/licences. Not only can you purchase the robots from us, we also offer a variety of software training sessions for service engineers.
Do you have any questions about automation or the use of robots in your organisation? Is there anything else you’d like to discuss? Please don’t hesitate to contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 078 681 1200