5 Steps to an Automated Warehouse.
Blog Post by Claire Kerr
Implementing Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) in your warehouse could be easier than you think. There are five steps you need to follow to implement an automated warehouse. If you’re keen to take advantage of the productivity benefits that robots bring, follow these five steps to get your warehouse ready for robots.
1. Evaluate how suitable your operation is for robots.
Unfortunately, not every warehouse presents a suitable environment for AMRs. There are a few considerations to be aware of.
Firstly, AMRs are ideal for use in ambient warehouses that run ecommerce, retail, omnichannel, wholesale, or store replenishment operations. They are not so suited to operations that involve fresh or frozen produce, or warehouses for large goods and heavy manufacturing.
A good fit would be a warehouse of around 15,000 square feet or more. Equally, the size of goods is important. If you’re picking long pieces of timber, bulky furniture or large white goods, then it’s obvious that AMRs carrying totes or boxes are not a good solution. But if you stock smaller items, then these robots could be ideal. Conveyable products that are under around 80lbs (36kg) are perfect, such as small consumer goods, clothing, cosmetics, small parts, medical devices and so on.
Collaborative AMRs that work with your operatives are suited for operations with a volume profile of around 5,000 or more SKUs per day and with five or more pickers on an average shift. These robots are well-matched for unit picking, each picking, discrete order picking, and picking to putwall. They can’t pick palettes, cases or crates.
2. Check your infrastructure.
If your robotics supplier is not providing all the hardware and firmware you need, then you’ll need to check that your infrastructure will support the implementation of robots.
Some AMR solutions – like LocusBots, the robots that Balloon recommends – come with all the required infrastructure you need. But if you want to retain your own hardware or use a supplier that doesn’t run its own system, then you will need to check compatibility. Wi-Fi, for example, operates over certain channels, and you need to be sure that the channels you are using will not conflict with those needed for the robots. Your own hardware will also need to be assessed to see how it interacts with robots before you can implement an automated warehouse.
3. Set improvement goals and establish a plan.
Your plan for the deployment of robots will need to include the timeframes and deployment steps that you will take. But it should start with an understanding of the improvements you will gain. Setting goals and a likely date that you can expect a return on investment (ROI) will help you later assess the impact of the project.
If you’re implementing LocusBots, then Locus Robotics will do this for you. They will review your historical data and project your productivity improvements, labour cost savings and predicted timeframe to achieve a positive ROI.
A Forrester study found that the average Locus Robotics customer sees a 129% ROI in less than six months. Customers typically see a two or threefold improvement in picking productivity, plus have faster cycle times and improved order accuracy.
4. Map your warehouse.
The next step is to map your warehouse, and again this can be done by your provider. The aim is to plot any immovable structures, like racking, and to assess the Wi-Fi receptibility across your facility. A radio frequency survey will confirm what the space is like and identify any Wi-Fi dead spots.
The outcome also acts as the basis for the robots to use once they are deployed. They use the map to dynamically plot optimum routes and order picking sequences. A central server supplies the robots with the map and their current location, giving them all the information they need to find their way around the warehouse. In conjunction with information received from their onboard sensors, including cameras and lidar (light detection and ranging), they can then autonomously travel through the warehouse, dynamically avoiding people and other obstacles.
5. Implement your robots.
The final step is to deploy your automated solution. With Locus Robotics, integration typically takes about four weeks, and is accomplished by way of a simple, well-defined process. This includes the steps outlined above, so everything is handled for you.
Within the first week, they will have created the full project plan, including calculations of the productivity gains you can expect.
With remote access via a VPN, engineers can manage the implementation remotely, if needed, navigating the robots, monitoring the deployment and providing any support.
These steps represent the path to a successful robotics project. Follow these and you could soon be benefitting from robotics. You’ll get fewer errors, greater efficiency, faster picking, improved productivity and a rapid return on your investment.
If you’d like to add autonomous mobile robots to your workforce, you could be up and running in a month. Call us on 020 8819 9071 or get in touch and we’ll guide you through the steps to an automated warehouse.
Read the other posts in our series on robots in the warehouse: