What is Industrial Robotics?
Industrial robotics refers to using robots and specialised software called automated systems to transport materials and inventory and perform various tasks to streamline warehouse processes.
Industrial robots are growing exponentially, with LogisticsIQ reporting the market to be worth $7.9b in 2012 and approaching $22.2b in 2022. Industrial robots have entered the workplace, appearing in manufacturing, distribution centres, warehouses, and more.
The robotics are proving their value in warehouse and distribution centres and are delivering a return on investment within reasonable timelines. In addition, they are gaining a great reputation in supply chain and distribution centres for their significant role in improving efficiencies.
Why use Industrial Robotics?
The ongoing labour shortage is one of the biggest motivations for companies to include robotics in their warehouse plans and business growth. In the past, humans feared being replaced by robots, but now understand they serve to enhance employees’ work in manufacturing, warehouse, and distribution centres.
Furthermore, the technological advancements in robots and an increasingly competitive business landscape have operational management of modern warehouses seriously considering the use of robotics in their warehouses.
Industrial robots provide a guaranteed method of increasing productivity, the accuracy of tasks, operational efficiency, and consistently delivering 24/7 if required. In addition, they require little to no supervision, days off work with sick pay expenses, overtime or other employee costs, which is an attractive bonus for some companies.
Industrial robotics are no longer accessories; they have become pivotal to efficient warehouse operations.
Robots are completing the tasks that many people no longer want to do. Those tasks that are menial, dirty, repetitive, dull, and the sometimes-dangerous tasks. This allows people to focus on more complicated tasks.
Improved accuracy of Robotics
Human error is both a risk and can be quite costly for businesses. It can also lead to lower customer satisfaction when the errors relate to orders and returns. Companies investing in warehouse robotics experience an increase in productivity and accuracy of inventory management. Warehouses using robotics experience little to no error levels in handling, picking, sorting, and replenishing products in order fulfilment.
Minimising risk of human workers
Using industrial robots in warehouses and distribution centres can reduce the time-consuming, stressful, and dangerous aspects of warehouse operations. This is often related to situations where people are required to transport inventory and retrieve inventory from heights. Robotics are ideal for these functions and reduce physical and mental strain on human workers. In addition, the reduced stress on workers can increase morale and engagement, which creates a better work environment and boosts productivity.
What type of industrial robots are available?
In the warehousing, distribution and manufacturing space, there are several main types of industrial robots you will find available. The following robots can start preparing you to determine what is best for your operations.
A common type of robot is the mobile robot known as Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV). These robots can take a direct route in the distribution centre, optimising workflows and increasing throughput efficiencies and productivity. These highly adaptable mobile robots move anything from smaller parts to heavy loads and pallets. They can be deployed and redeployed in hours and work safely alongside people.
Automated storage and retrieval systems AS/RS refers to a group of computer-controlled industrial robotic systems specifically designed to store and retrieve products and inventory on demand. They operate as shuttles or cranes on fixed tracks and can easily navigate warehouse aisles and vertical heights of pallet racking to deposit or remove items. This diversified technology can move micro-loads, mini-loads, and unit-loads and consists of shuttles, cranes, carousels, vertical lift modules (VLMs), or other systems. They are designed to speed up order fulfilment and materials handling operations.
Goods-to-person (G2P) industrial robotics operates on the same principle as an AS/RS system. The G2P technology is designed to deliver items to stationary pick stations, enabling efficient fulfilment of orders by human operators. The retrieval time of items is reduced considerably, providing increased order output. G2P industrial robotic systems have the potential to deliver the highest returns on investment and should be designed in the warehouse layout.
Collaborative robots, or co-robots, are semi-autonomous mobile robots designed to assist human workers in performing diverse tasks such as picking, packing and assembly in a warehouse environment. They have the ability to follow humans to facilitate the gathering of goods or can lead humans to where specific goods are located, increasing the productivity of the person. Co-robots are fitted with sensors, enabling them to distinguish between boxes, racking, and other obstacles providing accurate navigation through the warehouse facility. In addition, they can deliver picked orders to workers in other locations in the warehouse, such as sorting or packing stations assisting in speeding up order fulfilment.
An important difference is that co-robots are designed to carry out multiple tasks, whereas most other industrial robotics complete only one task. In addition, they are designed with AI capability, meaning they learn to improve their skills, and they can interact with humans.
When you think of an industrial robot, many people think of an articulated robot. This is because articulated robots are the most common type used in industrial settings. Articulated robots are defined as robots containing rotary joints. They are a type of pick-and-place robot used to manipulate or manoeuvre products within distribution centres and warehouses. As the arms can move, turn, and lift items, they are used for picking and packing, receiving and storage and palletising within warehouse operations.
Determining the right Industrial Robots for your operation
We have outlined some of the critical considerations you need to review before commencing your journey into industrial robotics.
Determining the right fit for your operation means working with your warehousing and robotics partner on crucial factors like:
- Is this a new, greenfield operation or a brownfield?
- Are you considering upgrading or adding on to a legacy system?
- What is the size of your operation and your productivity goals?
A warehouse solutions provider with robotics experience will know how to guide you and find the right solution.
Industrial robotics are innovative solutions that can zero in on your operational inefficiencies and, through careful warehouse design and layout, can optimise your floor space and workflows for inventory and human efficiencies.
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