The article explains how to choose the best automation solution for your warehouse system without becoming overwhelmed by the abundance of available choices. Keep reading to learn more about the subject.
Modern enterprises, logistics centres, warehouses strive to automate processes and mitigate possible risks and hazards. This is primarily due to the fact that businesses are unable to paint new clients. The market is inherently limited by the number of existing companies. The core tool for revenue leveraging of a logistics company is costs optimization. In this case, warehouse robots are a reasonable and necessary warehouse management solution. Being automatic or semi-automatic, these machines are capable of managing various jobs and optimizing production and logistics processes. Warehouse robots have an undeniable advantage over humans, including the ability to work under any conditions and freedom from weariness. Robots dramatically reduce the time spent by humans in production, serving as their assistants. Based on our estimates, the robot, which is about to be presented in the article, saves more than 8 man-hours per month in production, or a whole working day.
Warehouse robots in logistics
Enterprises that use the lean manufacturing methodology employ warehouse robots to complete the tasks just-in-time without resorting to a conveyor. With the help of robots, the whole system is built in such a way that the exact number of parts are finalized before the next same number of parts arrives at each subsequent stage of production. The system prevents stocks from accumulating at certain iterations, thereby reducing the costs of storing parts in warehouses, transporting them to the production site.
Warehouse robots are gaining an increasing prominence in logistics, becoming its core solution. When it comes to repetitive tasks like gathering, sorting, packing, and delivering goods, robots outperform humans in terms of efficiency and accuracy. Automation and optimization of these jobs makes it possible to deliver goods to the end user more quickly and lower the human factor risks in logistics to a minimum.
ABB is one of the leading manufacturers of warehouse robots. The maximum load capacity of their robots reaches 1500 kg. The ABB robots move at speeds from 0.05 m/s to 2.2 m/s, and are secure to operate. With the architecture ensuring the robot's operation in conditions of heavy traffic. The machine is fitted with a PLC and 2 laser sensors that provide 360 degree protection. ABB's robots are configured to carry a variety of goods, including pallets, racks, containers.
What you should consider when selecting a warehouse robot
By the time you read this, you've probably already seen a ton of videos about robots that assist with warehouse tasks and devoured a ton of articles by manufacturers and integrators of these systems, but none of them explained how to decide on a robot for your production or what you should pay attention to.
Once you have chosen a technically suitable robot, you will be able to optimize your investments and achieve cost savings in the long run. While a compact and slow-moving robot may not be able to cope with the demand in your warehouse, a large and fast one may result in inflated costs which won't do you any good if you stick to a digital transformation approach.
In this article, we will examine one of the most deciding technical aspects that you shouldn't turn a blind eye on while selecting a warehouse robot.
First and foremost, one should make up one's mind as to the purpose of a robot. While seemingly reasonable, "to optimize and lower costs" will not serve as an answer here. You need to decide on the jobs your robot-to-be should perform. Will the robot merely transport items or pack them as well? Will the robot load itself, or will a human load the robot. What kind of product will the robot move, and will it require any fixing? Asking yourself the aforementioned questions will help you choose the best warehouse solution. You should also give specific details to the tasks the robot should carry out. It is essential to consider a robot's general characteristics and measure the values of the driveways. Because the space between the shelves in the storage system is so little, you might need a multi wheeled robot which will allow it to spin around.
Load capacity is one of the key factors to take into account while selecting a robot for your automated warehouse system. When referring to it, they imply the maximum weight a robot can carry. To choose the best option, consider robots whose load capacity is suitable for the kinds of goods stored in your warehouse. Normally, robot specifications lay out the maximum load capacity and the type of object being moved, e.g. pallets, racks, etc.
It's nevertheless important to consider the robot's working area which can accommodate the necessary load. Depending on the robot type, the size and shape of the spot that makes contact with the load will change. These parameters will greatly affect the longevity of the machine. For instance, the robot's specification caps the load capacity at 100 kg. You can load the robot with a 95 kg weight, however because of the shape of the load, the bulk of the weight will be distributed along the edges or above the wheel rather than in the middle of the machine.
Robots are exposed to various adverse conditions in the warehouse. To the main harmful factors they generally attribute moisture and temperature extremes. We advise utilizing IP45 for the enclosure as a minimum. A robot must be able to withstand mechanical loads that could occur while it is in use, such as the fall of a tool onto a work area. To completely minimize the chance of mishaps being brought on by the robot, it is crucial that the working surfaces of the robot are built of materials that are wear-resistant and non-flammable. The robot's working temperature range must correspond to the temperature range in your warehouse to prevent the electronic components failure.
By lowering the time and human expenses required to move products, warehouse robots can dramatically increase your warehouse's productivity. However, if the robot is continuously broken and in need of maintenance, it will be of little benefit to you.
A malfunctioning robot may spell tragedy in the warehouse. In 2018, a robot in a warehouse for Amazon accidentally opened a jar of bear repellent, poisoning 24 workers and sending them to hospital. To learn more, visit the page.
The navigation system of the robot is an additional crucial aspect to take into account. The robot needs to be able to move around the warehouse in a safe and efficient manner in order to do its job effectively. This requires a combination of sensors, cameras and mapping technologies that help it avoid obstacles and navigate the warehouse. Choose a robot with a navigation system that is compatible with the obstacles in your warehouse. The ability to recognize and avoid obstructions in real time is the key feature that every robot should have.
Based on our expertise, a robot's sensors kit should include:
- LiDAR, which is a rangefinder that takes scans in the optical band and creates a two-dimensional image of the area around it.
- Inertial measuring module, which determines the position of the warehouse robot in space and its acceleration during movement.
- Ultrasonic proximity sensor, which determines the distance to the surrounding objects to prevent collision.
- Digital camera, which allows for tracking tags in the warehouse. Tags create a coordinate grid along which the robot moves.
- Programmable control unit, which provides a machine interface and allows robots to sync their actions.
Robot integration and scalability
It's critical to select a robot that can be modified to meet your individual needs because every warehouse has different purposes. The robot should offer customizable possibilities, such as the ability to add or remove functions as needed or link its work with other robots, and it should be simple to connect with existing warehouse management systems.
As your business grows, your warehouse or logistics center will scale and adapt to demand changes. A perfect warehouse robot should be able to adapt to different use cases while still being capable of doing your existing chores. As a result, you won't need to invest in any new robots in the near future to maintain the efficiency of your warehouse operations.
Risks associated with selecting the wrong robot
Selecting the wrong warehouse robot will undoubtedly lead to a number of negative effects. The reputation of the business and the profitability of your enterprise can suffer from a wrong setup or insufficient functioning of the robot. Ineffective warehouse management will cause delays in orders delivery and lower customer satisfaction. In manufacturing, efficiency may decrease several-fold. A robot that is too small, too weak, or too slow won't be able to quickly deliver parts to the necessary production step. Operating costs will rise if you select a robot with reserve characteristics. In comparison to a robot that would be perfectly suited for your process, the one you have chosen will use more energy and cost more to maintain.
If the robot is inappropriate, there is a higher risk of an emergency, spelling a danger to workers and other equipment. Due to its speed or size, a lack of sensors, the robot may collide with humans or equipment which could result in casualties and property damage.
A robot that doesn't match your current needs might not be able to adapt to new jobs and requirements imposed on it if your warehouse operations change or develop. As a result, it will be necessary to buy a new warehouse robot or alter the layout of the warehouse, both of which can be costly and time-consuming.
If you choose the wrong robot, you run the risk of overpaying significantly. You'll pay between $ 10,000 and $ 20,000 for a small robot with basic navigational skills and a load capacity of up to 500–600 kg. They won't be able to create 3D maps in real time or avoid collisions with rapidly moving objects. Advanced robot models can support loads of up to 3000 kg; thanks to their sensors, a machine can keep an eye on the situation in real time and account for any unforeseen difficulties. Such robots are priced starting at $30,000 to $40,000 per unit.
Warehouse robots by EnCata
We know firsthand what a warehouse robot should be. Our portfolio includes projects where we created robots that were specifically designed to meet the requirements of the clients. The best way to ensure that a warehouse robot is ideal for your warehouse, logistics center, or production is to develop a robot precisely for your needs. We'll go over a few instances from our portfolio where we created warehouse robots to meet specific requirements.
EnCata was approached by a startup that is working to integrate industrial robots into the business environment. The startup provided us with a TRL-4 prototype of a Warehouse Robot with a request that we upgrade it to TRL-7 and get it ready for small-scale production.
We faced several tasks, including:
- industrial design development;
- electronic components optimization and preparation for mass production;
- DFM approaches integration.
In order to ensure stability of the robot's suspension and its effectiveness in various circumstances, we began the project with idea refinement and computer simulation.
We have run a wide range of kinematic simulations for a number of different use scenarios. The robot's design was then improved by EnCata's engineers, and the robot's aesthetic appeal was added by our industrial designers.
The robot was given an IP-45 enclosure and had a carrying capacity of 50 kg, with a maximum speed of 2 m/s.
While keeping DFM in mind, we attempted to move away from the clunky straight shapes typical of industrial robots and offered a more streamlined robot shape. As a result, during the industrial design stage, the customer received the design for a protective cover created using vacuum forming technology. This allowed for cost reduction of production.
We engaged closely with the startup team on the electronic part, optimized the specs and components purchase.
At the prototyping stage, the robot was represented as a frame with chassis. An electronic component and wiring were added at a later stage. Simultaneously, molds for vacuum forming were made.
Consequently, our client has progressed from a pre-series prototype to a state of being fully prepared for production, which is indicated by TRL-8.
Collaborating with EnCata enabled the startup to concentrate on their core strengths, which involve integrating software and embedded robotic systems designed for warehouse and enterprise applications. The startup has launched small-scale production and now supplies the robot to various logistics centers and warehouses.
LeanKey is a combination of software and hardware that offers management and control of industrial processes for businesses engaged in single or small-scale production. The robot addresses the problems related to inefficient use of production resources. LeanKey is designed for use in small-scale production, where the technological process is rapidly changing.
As a comprehensive solution, LeanKey combines hardware and software technologies functioning as a single system in order to arrange technological processes.
The LeanKey Robot is a device resembling a mobile robot platform. The product is centrally managed by an intelligent automation system, which enables the robot to operate on its own without assistance from a human operator. The device has a client-server module for centralized tasks handling and performance monitoring and also provides integration with external IT systems.
The robot is developed for movement automation of standard floor loads in production. The device is capable of transferring a load up to 200 kg in weight that could be staked on typical pallets of 1200x800 mm, and can move in any direction without changing the enclosure position. The battery gets charged using a special charging station, with a full charge sufficient for 8 nonstop hours of operation.
The robot is supplied with sensors necessary for autonomous operation. With the use of sensors, the robot can scan the area around it, create a machine vision system image of the area, identify its location, and adjust its speed of movement in accordance with the needs of the task at hand.
The LeanKey Robot was developed out of necessity by EnCata. EnCata production employs the Lean manufacturing methodology, thus we work to maximize both tangible and intangible resources, prevent waste, and reduce processes that don't benefit our clients.
Selecting the ideal warehouse robot for automation requires careful evaluation of both technical and business objectives. By taking the time to assess your demands and the features of various robots, you may choose the robot that is best suited for your warehouse and production operations. If your research revealed that none of the market-available options will be able to perform all of your jobs, the best course of action would be to create a warehouse robot that is perfectly suited to your needs.