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Warehouse Robots – 9 Types Of Truly Revolutionary Smart Robotics That You Need To Know About

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 9 different types of warehouse robots you can now find in supply chain operations.

1. Augmented Manual Picking Warehouse Robots.

Augmented Picking Robot - Warehouse Robots
Augmented Manual Picking Robot

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.

Colaborative Picking Robots - Warehouse Robots
Collaborative Picking Robot

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).

Transport AGV Robot - warehouse robots
AGV Transport Robot

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.

Goods To Person Robots - Warehouse Robots
Goods-To-Person Robots

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.

Articulated Robotic Arm - Warehouse Robots
Robotic Arm

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 Warehouse Robots Systems.

Engineered Robotic System - warehouse robots.
Engineered Robotic System

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 Warehouse Robots.

Sortation Warehouse Robots
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.

8. Autonomous Flying Robot Drones For Inventory Counts.

autonomous flying robot drone for inventory count

These flying robots automate the process of keeping track of inventory. Specifically, these drones are equipped with sensors, cameras, and sometimes RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology to scan and record the quantity, location, and status of inventory items. For example, see Verity‘s capabilities with automated inventory management powered by self-flying warehouse drones.

9. General Purpose Humanoid Warehouse Robots.

These robots are designed with a human-like form (bipedal, two arms, torso, and sometimes a head). What’s more, these robots have the capability to do warehouse functions such as picking and placing items, packing, sorting, and moving goods. They are called “general purpose” because they are not specialized for a single task but rather can be adapted to perform multiple functions.

Currently, humanoid robots may not have a significant role in most warehouse operations. This is because other robots, as mentioned earlier, can carry out various warehouse tasks more efficiently and economically. However, specialized use cases for humanoid robots may exist in dynamic or restricted environments. For instance, inventory stocking in war zones, hazmat sites, or construction sites. Also, for more details and references on humanoid warehouse robots, see IEEE Spectrum’s article, Anthropomorphic Robots.

For more details and examples of robots in logistics, 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. Also, see 6River’s Warehouse Robotics, Fortna’s 7 Types of Warehouse Robots, and Modula’s 15 Types of Warehouse Robotics For Optimal Efficiency. For more on robotics from SC Tech Insights, see Robotics In Logistics – Stunning Technology With Unlimited Operational Applications.

“Personally, I’m not afraid of a robot uprising. The benefits far outweigh the threats.”

Daniel H. Wilson

For more information from Supply Chain Tech Insights, see articles on intelligent technology.

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