CXO Matters

How Robotic Systems Can Help Supply Chain Fulfillment Centers

How Robotic Systems Can Help Supply Chain Fulfillment Centers
Image Courtesy: Pexels
Written by Dheeraj Kapoor

Reliable and scalable robotic systems can help a struggling supply chain. Let us explore three myths about robotic systems and the supply chain.

Each automated picking is all about the robot

What matters is the intelligence behind the robot. In fulfillment processes, robot arms are essential. But an arm on its own is useless unless augmented with intelligent systems working in concert with dynamic picking environments, product presentations, and product form factors.

Robotic systems need intelligence

Robotic picking requires not only the ability to reach, lift, move, and place known items using robot arms, but it also needs to see, feel, sense, and dynamically adjust manipulation to the “specs” of tens of millions of different items. Precise maneuverability and flexibility are critical.

Agility is key

Smart robotic picking should adjust to unexpected behavioral changes. The arm should know if it accidentally drops an item in flight — and how to stop and retrieve it instead of just moving on empty-handed.

Machine pick rates equal system throughput rates

The performance will vary (widely) by the environment. Robotic picking systems are often presented with performance numbers that represent “machine potential” or close approximations.

However, this performance is dependent on the environment in which the systems are deployed.

Ultimately it all depends on your process, how your items are presented to the robot, and where your items are placed after being picked. Infeed rates, including charging delay.

Put a cobot where people stand, and you’ve created robotic picking

Cobots can’t replicate picking performance at a sustainable scale. Cobots are wonderful machines with many great applications.

Most cobot arms are not as performant nor precise enough to automate the complete range-of-motion/planned-motion activities currently done by humans in goods-to-person picking stations.

The way forward

Today, there’s tremendous interest and investment in intelligent robotic systems for picking. Intelligent robotics technology is a must today in dynamic environments such as distribution centers, fulfillment centers, 3PL facilities, and package hubs.

Automating distribution and fulfillment center processes offers the prospect of high returns for businesses.