Are Robots To Take Over E-commerce Warehouses?

The rapid advancements in artificial technology have introduced many people to strange new coworkers that do not talk much and endorse a simple philosophy: “Work, work, work”. These “dumb” robots have been utilized in product assembly for years now, mostly for handling repetitive tasks.  Over time, the range of tasks robots can perform has expanded, and hence a “smart” model was born. This has come as a blessing for e-commerce business owners, who were faced with increasing demands for fast and reliable delivery of goods.

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The age of amazing robots

Amazon, one of the pioneers is the field, currently uses thousands of robots in the warehouses, and even bought the company which produces these automatons (Kiva Systems).   Their orange robot fleet is capable of dealing with operations autonomously or in cooperation with the humans, possessing computer-vision and machine deep-learning capacities. The corporate giant also uses state-of-the-art algorithms to enhance the operations: They identify the most popular items and locate them closer to the pickers.

This has transformed the picking process from man-to-goods into goods-to-man. The result is astonishing: Workers can now pick items two to three times faster than it takes to do it manually. To be specific, pulling an item from the shelf and putting it in a package lasts 15 minutes, instead of an hour and a half. A broader implementation of similar measures thus reduces the fulfillment costs and allows enterprises to gain a powerful edge on the market.

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On auto pilot

Apart from the unflagging Kiva Robots, there are also some exciting alternative robotics systems. Fetch and Freight, for example, features a complete pick and pack system. One component (advanced manipulator- Fetch) selects the objects on the shelves, while the other (mobile base- Freight) enables smooth transit throughout the facility. They can work hand in hand or separately.

The accompanying cutting-edge software, an open source robot operating system (ROS), integrates these robots with any warehouse environment. Advanced sensors prevent them from running into each other or humans, while the cameras pinpoint requested objects on spacious pallet racks. Other startups and corporations have launched automated guided vehicles and mobile racking units, enriching the vivid robotic landscape even further.

Solutions such as GreyOrange specialize in the process of streamlining the order handling. Namely, robots are able to scan, weigh, and sort parcels in order to prepare them for transportation. Fulfilling the high-volume orders is now made possible, provided that you come up with substantial funds. The investment is likely to pay off, as tech developments are moving warehouse businesses closer to automation, and third party logistics providers are also leaning towards the new tech frontier.

We are not very far from completely automated warehouses devoid of human workers. The advantages of their robotic counterparts are obvious. They can work around the clock without breaks, food, medical attention, air-conditioning, and they pay no heed to the intimidating amount of tasks ahead.  During holiday season, e-commerce business owners do not have to worry about vacations and workforce shortages.

Robot technology gradually decreases the need for human intervention, and we are witnessing more and more models that go about their business autonomously. This is a problem of the most serious sort for employees, which will require proper response. Regardless, with the prices dropping and the tech bar rising, we expect to see a new surge, and a more wide-spread adoption of robotics in e-commerce warehouses around the globe.

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Into the future

An army of robots is navigating the warehouses across the globe, collecting products and preparing them for shipping. Scientists are making leaps and bounds, constantly building on the existing technology and improving it with new, killer solutions. Simple, repetitive tasks will be handled predominantly by robots in the near future, and e-commerce warehouses that want to stay competitive will have to step up the game and make their operation future-ready and robot-friendly.