The Rise of the Collaborative Warehouse Robot

May 3, 2019

Two Locus Robotics mobile robots at work with a staffer picking products at a warehouse

Locus Robotic Corp. robots resemble motorized stools with shelving and touchscreens. They operate in groups and use sensors to navigate through warehouses as workers pick items and move on. They are part of a new generation of automated tools known as collaborative robots because they work with human staffers. They come equipped with software that ties together inventory management data and warehouse management systems to help the robots quickly locate products in vast warehouses and figure out the fastest, most efficient path to the goods.

The robots can double the efficiency of human workers by cutting the time workers spend walking between shelves, reports The Wall Street Journal (April 23, 2019). “We do that by surrounding a human with the robots, and we have algorithms that dramatically decrease the walking time in a building,”  said Locus’ CEO. “Instead of walking up and down aisles, the human will work a zone and the robots will come to you.”

Most warehouses still rely largely on people who pull carts through the aisles, and even automated facilities like some of Amazon’s vast fulfillment centers require hundreds of workers to pick and pack goods for shipping. But the market for logistics robots is growing as online sales surge, pushing companies to fulfill orders faster for rapid delivery, and a tight labor supply makes it harder and more expensive to hire warehouse workers.

A report last month said that heavily automated warehouses worldwide would grow from 4,000 last year to 50,000 by 2023 and would put some 4 million commercial robots to work.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at Professors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.


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