Dr. Paul Rivers is CEO of Guidance Automation. Guidance Automation has over 25 years of experience in developing advanced solutions for the global robotic vehicle market, with thousands of systems in operation.
Over the last few years, companies of all sizes have invested in technology to address key areas of their business problem. Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) have reduced the amount of time workers spend walking around manufacturing and warehouse facilities. Software solutions such as warehouse management systems (WMS) have helped optimize operations, and pick-to-light technology has transformed the speed and accuracy of inventory picking. This investment has resulted in increased efficiency. But is this enough?
The speed of technology innovation and maturity opens up tangible opportunities to explore custom software development to bring these efficient pockets together. Whether combining AMR with fleet management and WMS, linking WMS to picking-to-light, or creating an optimized warehouse execution solution, companies can achieve step-change efficiency and improve existing can get more out of their investment.
Five years ago there were only a handful of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and AMRs available to UK businesses. Today, over 100 different vendors offer robot bases, each with different applications and capabilities to meet the specific needs of manufacturing and logistics operations. It is strong enough to move heavy loads, agile to move goods between production lines and completely safe to operate with your employees. With prices becoming increasingly affordable, businesses of all sizes are adopting these innovative solutions.
Adding AMR to your operations is easy and delivers a quick return on investment (ROI). It doesn’t even need to be integrated. At the simplest level, you can provide the robot with a list of activities by downloading a number of orders to a memory stick. Even at this basic deployment level of AMR, companies can minimize staff walking time and redeploy individuals to other areas of the business, such as quality control. The addition of robots allows for contingencies that cover not only busy seasons, but staff shortages due to recruitment challenges or illness.
But why stop there? Integrating AMR into operations provides even greater benefits. For example, does your business still rely on paper-based information to prioritize activities for both AMRs and staff? Is the picking based on a written list, either on paper or on a mobile device? Linking and automating one or more of these operations can improve production performance is greatly improved.
step by step
Robots typically have the option of built-in fleet management software, allowing vehicles to move safely and efficiently around the facility. Robots with picking arms, barcode readers, cameras or grabbing mechanisms can be integrated with he WMS or inventory management system for additional benefits. Creating custom warehouse execution software automatically optimizes jobs and provides end-to-end integration where AMRs and human staff work seamlessly together.
This is a significant development that must be customized for the specific software already deployed. But this is the end goal, you don’t have to do the automation all at once. An example of a simple integration would be using a button to guide his AMR to the right place. For example, press 1 to manufacture, 2 to store, and so on. This easy software integration with fleet management allows companies to easily automate the orchestration of his AMR.
A more sophisticated option is to integrate AMR fleet management software with your WMS and add radio frequency ID (RFID) tags to your totes. For example, automatically direct an AMR to the correct production line, conveyor or aisle to unload or collect goods. While this frees up more time for staff to focus on value-adding activities, adding a pick-to-light solution can also improve workforce efficiency. By replacing the need for an individual to check a picking list with an intuitive model that uses light to guide a robot to the next item to pick, picking can be three times faster than her. . This changes the accuracy, and even inexperienced staff can quickly get used to it.
The speed at which industrial robots are deployed underscores the shift in attitudes and confidence. However, it is important to understand the new timescales. Global supply chain challenges have led to a significant shortage of AMR availability. His 12-month lead for new equipment His time is frustrating, but it’s also a great opportunity to assess operational priorities.
No business expects big changes during busy season, but businesses should start planning now to deploy the best solutions before the next busy season arrives. Assessing volumes and workflows with information about last year’s busy season highlights key issues that need to be addressed.
By working with partners to understand how AMR can replicate existing processes and where key profit areas can be achieved, companies can confidently plan ahead. What is the ROI of AMR? Would a pick-to-light implementation be more beneficial? How long would it take to develop software to integrate both? Do you have room to move up? Do you need to rearrange your machinery so your robot can work efficiently? Planning ahead is key.
There are many simple benefits available to businesses at every stage of technology maturity. For companies that haven’t yet adopted automation, adding an AMR he said or two would allow companies to redeploy staff to higher value areas, reducing the pressure to hire warehouse workers. . Buttons, RFID tags, and light integration can be added incrementally to reflect evolving business needs.
Clearly, the more automated a business is, the more efficient it becomes. But even minimal automation can bring improvements and provide additional benefits from existing investments. The key is to understand and initiate the ROI opportunity.