These two companies are on a mission to prove that workers are better off with intelligent automation – and Zebra is backing their efforts with new venture investments. Article by Tony Palcheck, Managing Director, Zebra Technologies.
For decades, there have been sci-fi stories about how – sometime in the future – humans and robots form a symbiotic relationship that helps to accelerate innovation and improve life. Well, intelligent automation is now very real, and we have officially reached that “time in the future” when we’re ready to stand up a robotics ecosystem – at least in the warehouse.
The timing couldn’t be better either.
Ready or not, the “now economy” is quickly shrinking lead times to hours. In some cases, fulfillment is occurring (or being forced to occur) within minutes. That rapid response burden is not going to ease either. You need a way to fulfill more orders with less labor and more easily respond to volume growth and seasonal peaks.
That’s why companies like Plus One Robotics and Locus Robotics are focused on automating the picking, packing, shipping, receiving and sorting workflows in a way that will ultimately reduce the time humans spend on mundane, repetitive tasks and more time on value-added actions. Together, they have more than demonstrated that “intelligent automation” is a smart technology solution to a growing set of demand-driven problems:
- Plus One has developed artificial intelligence (AI) software that enables robotic arms to know what item to pick, how to pick it and where to place it.
- Locus has a collaborative, autonomous mobile robot solution that optimizes “each picking” workflows.
Robots are Proving Just How Hard They Can Work to Make Jobs Easier on Human Workers
These synthesized human-robot relationships can help you to overcome labor shortages and productivity and efficiency challenges. They can also help to expedite fulfillment without compromising quality or creating new cost burdens.
For one major automotive manufacturer, Locus Robotics’ LocusBots™ connected to Zebra label printers are helping to reduce unproductive walking time by over 80 percent and increase productivity 2x while decreasing drudgery and improving workplace quality in a parts warehouse. The bots travel autonomously to the bins where the items are to be picked. A worker “meets” the them there, picks, scans and places the item in the tote then meets the next robot at the next pick.
In other cases, Plus One’s 3D vision and AI software enable robotic arms to perform mundane, repetitive tasks such as package singulation (picking individual items from a cluttered pile of mixed parcels at human speed) or packing (transferring the contents of an order tote to a cardboard carton for shipping).
And this is just the beginning!
Imagine how much robotics can help humans accomplish over the next 5-10 years simply by taking busy work off our plates. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
You Can and Should Put Robots to Work in Your Warehouses Today to Capture Your Edge
“Robot as a service” models enable simple and frictionless deployment and scaling. There is minimal disruption to existing infrastructure during the integration period and robotics systems’ interfaces are user friendly, so there’s minimal worker training required to on-board new bots. In other words, it may be easier than you think to begin to stand up a “warehouse robot ecosystem”.
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