What Is Warehouse Robotics?
Warehouse robotics is the use of automated systems, robots, and specialized software to perform tasks that streamline and automate warehouse processes.
Warehouse robots typically have a single task such as automatically picking products off a shelf. In the past, these tasks were rigid, with little room for flexibility. Now with machine learning, computer vision, and artificial intelligence, warehouse robotics can perform tasks dynamically while adapting to changing environments.
Robotic technology is still a long way from automating all warehouse functions. However, businesses can still see major performance improvements and cost savings when robotics and humans work side by side.
How Does Warehouse Robotics Work?
On the most basic level, all warehouse robotics rely on some mechanism for navigation. Older warehouse robots used rigid programming and precise timing, while newer robots leverage technology such as LiDAR, GPS, and lasers for navigation.
It's important that warehouse robotics are continuously updated with the latest information, especially in dynamic environments. For example, autonomous robots would need to know if a section of the warehouse is blocked to avoid wasting time and getting stuck.
While onboard sensors and video cameras can quickly detect new obstacles such as people and walls, warehouse robotics need to communicate on a large scale to remain efficient and achieve the true promise of warehouse automation.
Cellular networks provide warehouses with the coverage, capacity, and low-latency performance needed to manage fleets of dynamic robots across an entire enterprise. Many enterprises are choosing private 5G networks to satisfy the need for control, flexibility, and security required by these new systems.
Warehouse Robotics Use Cases
Whether you’re fulfilling consumer orders or shipping B2B products internationally, warehouse robotics can help streamline the fulfilment process– providing valuable new insights into warehouse performance.
Robotics can automate certain processes, like sorting and picking to improve efficiency and increase traceability, allowing you to track inventory and orders more accurately.
Sorting robots leverage computer vision to navigate a robotic arm that identifies products and moves them in the correct pallet or conveyor belt.
Picking robots use similar technology to sorting robots to find products and fulfil orders faster. Picking robots can help reduce the physical strain on warehouse workers and continuously remain efficient even during staff shortages.
Historically, warehouses have relied on forklifts and pallet trucks to move materials and pallets. Now, autonomous machines can safely take over these tasks to move products and materials throughout the warehouse.
Some warehouse operations even use autonomous vehicles for last-mile shipping and repetitive deliveries from train depots to warehouse loading docks.
Lastly, businesses use warehouse robotics to package products quickly and efficiently. With little to no error, packaging robots identify different products and understand how they need to be shipped.
Advanced packaging robots can differentiate between products, shipping priority, and understand special instructions such as gift wrapping.
Advantages and Disadvantages ofWarehouse Robotics
Warehouse robotics vastly improve the way businesses operate, but they aren’t without their challenges.
Using robotics in the warehouse can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase the overall productivity of your operation. For example, a Boston Dynamics Stretch can break down pallets and load them with products. Using artificial intelligence and computer vision systems, the system can calculate how big of a box to use for each item, all without human intervention.
By automating repetitive tasks, warehouse robots free staff to focus on more critical tasks and reduce turnover due to burnout. While it's a common misnomer that robots will replace humans entirely, many robots make manual jobs safer and easier to accomplish.
Typically, robots are expensive to buy, install, and maintain. This leads to a larger upfront cost but ultimately a positive return on investment over time. Having the right technology and people in place is key to avoiding unexpected downtime and inefficiencies.
For example, investing in warehouse robotics without understanding the network requirements necessary to maximize ROI can setback automation plans by months.
Another disadvantage often not talked about is your staff’s sentiment towards robotics. It's important to communicate how robotics will improve their working conditions and train staff on how to work with and maintain the warehouse robotics.
Warehouse Robotics Can’t WorkWithout A Reliable Network
Your network is the backbone of your warehouse robotics operation. Without a reliable means of connectivity and communication, robotics stray off course, miss their KPIs and ultimately cause disruptions detrimental to the business..
Whether you’re improving your existing warehouse network, or building one from scratch, Celona can help. Celona has deployed its 5G LAN products and technology in some of the largest brand named warehouse environments. It has partnered with enterprise warehouse integrators and robotics companies to plan, build, and manage cellular networks for the express purpose of enabling warehouse automation.
Celona’s unique 5G LAN architecture is the industry’s only private wireless solution that directly integrates cellular wireless technology directly with your existing architecture allowing administrators to easily integrate and synchronize QoS across the enterprise without impacting your other network services or uptime.