Robotics is revolutionizing the warehouse industry by bringing new levels of efficiency, productivity, and automation success. How can warehouse managers ensure they implement warehouse robotics effectively, though? There are a few key steps to include in the implementation process that will help.
The first step in any warehouse robotics integration is to identify where a robot would be most useful. It is important at this stage not to pay too much attention to other facilities’ implementations. Warehouse managers need to focus on the unique needs of their facilities first and foremost.
Warehouse robotics is best implemented in a role in need of optimization. Any integration will be most successful when there is a clear problem to be solved. Consider the current operating setup of the warehouse. Are there any bottlenecks? Are there any processes or departments that tend to run behind? Where have the most accidents and delays occurred?
There are a number of ways to go about finding the answers to these questions. It is helpful to have detailed data on warehouse performance. Whether this is collected manually or using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, data will help reveal concrete performance trends.
Warehouse managers can survey employees, as well. Warehouse employees will be familiar with any areas of the warehouse that are operating particularly poorly.
After pinpointing some potential areas for implementing warehouse robotics, the next step will be to identify what kind of robot to invest in.
There’s a wide variety of warehouse robots on the market. While there may not be one for every single task, there are robots available to fill most roles within a warehouse. Choosing the right robot for the desired task will ensure the integration has the best chance of success.
For example, a warehouse manager might decide they want a pick-and-place robot. These are among the most popular warehouse automation tools, famous for being used in Amazon’s warehouses. There are numerous styles of pick-and-place robots, though. Some might be small with horizontal platforms low to the ground. Others might be as tall as a person with multiple stacked shelves.
Warehouses may use a combination of both types of robots. One may be better suited to a certain department than the other, though. Carefully assess the specific task the robot needs to do, including every item it might need to interact with and any challenges it might need to overcome.
During the planning process, remember to consider the existing technology around the warehouse. This could include legacy systems as well as any newer IoT or automation components. Any new warehouse robots may have to interact with these systems and at the very least work alongside them.
Analyzing the status of legacy systems can be critical for success when implementing warehouse robotics. This is especially true with robots that use IoT or other sensors to collect and report data. These robots will need to be able to communicate with servers and computers around the warehouse facility. If these devices are too outdated, compatibility may become an issue.
Additionally, there may be opportunities for new warehouse robotics integrations to enhance the performance of existing automation systems. So, remember to take a look at any automation currently in use and see if there is potential for a robot to boost results. For example, a packing robot could be added to work alongside a pick-and-place robot. This would allow for a fully automated picking and packing process.
It is easy to focus on technical details when planning a warehouse robotics implementation. However, it is critical to remember to set tangible goals for the new robot, as well. Even the most advanced warehouse robot on the market will fall flat without a clear goal to work towards. This is important to successful implementation because it gives a benchmark to measure performance against.
For example, a warehouse manager might add half a dozen new courier robots to their team. They could track the number of items picked or orders fulfilled over a certain period of time. By comparing this rate to previous quarters, they could see whether or not the robots were making a difference. A measurable goal for this robotics integration project might be “[to] increase pick rate by 35% within 6 months.”
Feel free to get creative with these goals, as long as they remain reasonable and measurable. A warehouse manager might want to improve the customer experience by using robots to pack boxes better. Similarly, they might want to use courier robots to decrease the time employees spend walking back and forth on the warehouse floor.
These are just a few examples of goals to aim for. A good goal will include a concrete time period and measurable metrics.
Employees are at the heart of any successful warehouse robotics implementation. A comprehensive training program will ensure they are as prepared as possible for their new robotic co-workers. Employee training is important even with autonomous robots, particularly in terms of safety.
After deciding on where to implement warehouse robotics and what specific robots to use, assess any potential dangers the robots pose. This has to be an in-depth analysis. It might be rare for a robot’s sensors to fail, but if they do, someone might get hurt. What should employees do in this sort of situation? This is the type of situation warehouse managers need to consider, however uncommon they may be.
A good employee training strategy will prepare employees to identify robotics safety risks before they happen. For example, experts suggest including a module on identifying signs that a robot is not functioning properly. Make sure to also designate a way for employees to report safety concerns if they do come up. Having a comprehensive training and safety strategy in place will minimize the likelihood of an accident derailing the robotics initiative.
It can be exciting to develop a strategy for a full-scale technological transformation. It is important not to rush warehouse robotics implementation, though. Integrating new robotics into a warehouse in stages allows the implementation team to focus on one robot at a time.
Segmenting robotics integration into stages will improve the overall quality of each new implementation. Team members will be able to focus on identifying flaws and issues as they occur and streamlining the new system. Not only will this improve the performance of each robotics implementation, but it will also improve the integration process for future robots.
The robotics implementation team will be able to refine its integration strategy with each stage. They may need to pivot, as well, by changing the warehouse’s robotics roadmap as they go. This is much easier when integrating robotics in stages rather than all at once.
With the right strategy, any warehouse team can implement warehouse robots effectively. A successful implementation is all about assigning the right robot to the job and preparing accordingly. By taking the process one step at a time and assessing the warehouse’s unique needs, warehouse robots can be implemented quickly, easily, and effectively.