According to Gartner, by 2026, 75% of large enterprises that move products will be using smart robots in their warehouse operations. To explain in more detail, below are the 7 different types of warehouse robots you can now find in supply chain operations.
1. Augmented Manual Picking Robots.
These are machines such as robotic pallet jacks that follow case pickers around. Specifically, this type of robotics saves time as the picker does not have to get on and off the trucks. Afterwards, the robots take the completed picked pallet off to be stretched wrapping or staging.
2. Collaborative Picking Robots – Cobots.
These are robots that work with order pickers. In the case of Cobots, operations can use them in a variety of picking scenarios to include Follow-Me and Meet-Me. Furthermore, the benefit is that the pickers just need to travel a little to add picks to the mobile robot. To explain, the robot then moves to the next picker near the next product storage area. When orders are complete, the robots take them to the packing area.
3. Transport Robots – Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV).
These robots move goods from point A to point B. For example, this type of robotics includes automated guided vehicles (AGV) for moving pallets. Other types of AGVs can move cartons or containers. Robotic “tuggers” also fall into this category. To add, AGVs can have various degrees of autonomy. Traditional AGVs navigate warehouses using guides such as wires, magnetic strips, or sensors embedded in the floor. With recent advances in AI and computer vision, high-end AGVs can be completely autonomous in navigating workspaces, identifying obstacles and avoiding collisions.
4. Goods-to Person Robots – Mobile Racks.
Amazon made these Kiva Systems robots famous. Amazon acquired Kiva in 2012. To explain, these “Come-To-Me” robots bring shelves of goods to stationary pickers who then in turn select the products from the shelf for their order. Next, when the order pickers pick all the products from the mobile shelf, the robot takes the shelving unit away. Lastly, the robot then picks up the next shelving unit and moves it to the order pickers for picking.
5. Robotic Piece Picking Robots – Articulated Robotic Arms.
These types of robotics are usually some type of robotic arm. Specifically, these multi-jointed robotic arms can grasp or use a vacuum device to select items and then generally drop them in cartons or totes. Because of continuous advancements in AI, robotic arms are getting extremely versatile doing a wide range of tasks from picking, packing, receiving, put-away, and palletizing
6. Engineered Robotic Systems.
These are grid-like structures that allow very dense storage of inventory. Here robots grab totes and deliver them to picking stations just outside the grid structure.
7. Sortation Robots.
These robots are an alternative to traditional conveyor-based sortation. As an example, a robotic tilt tray sorter will move across a warehouse where pickers will put product order items in the robot’s tray. Once the order is complete, the robot delivers the picked order to a shipping carton or tote.
See SCDigest’s Gartner’s Warehouse Robot Framework, LogisticsMgmt’s 2022 Robotics Survey, Knapp’s Robotics and AI in Logistics, and Dfreight’s Top Use Cases of Robotics in Logistics for more details and examples of robotics in logistics. Also, see 6River’s Warehouse Robotics and Fortna’s 7 Types of Warehouse Robots.
“Personally, I’m not afraid of a robot uprising. The benefits far outweigh the threats.”Daniel H. Wilson
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