Logistics (1B): Autonomous Robots in the Warehouse: Concept, Development, and Real Life Application

Lewis Frazer Bruce Welty

Logistics (1B): Autonomous Robots in the Warehouse: Concept, Development, and Real Life Application

With the reduction in financial barriers and overall improvement in capabilities, robotics implementations in the warehouse are becoming a reality to more and more distribution centers, especially 3rd Party fulfillment (3PF) providers who have been seeking a solution that can handle the requirements of all their customers.  Given that at typical 3PF signs shorter term contracts (average is 3.7 years), its automation cannot be specific to a single customer.  Historically, for this reason, 3PF companies have been unable to justify the expense of most Material Handling Equipment (MHE) in their operations.

This presentation will begin with the founder of Locus Robotics discussing his own experience using Kiva at Locus’ predecessor company (Quiet Logistics) and how, once Amazon purchased Kiva Systems, and ceased commercial operations, his team decided to build the next generation robot to Kiva.

As a case-study example, using slides and video, Lewis Fraser of Barrett Distribution will discuss the integration of the “Locus System” at his warehouse in Franklin, and including the systemic/physical integration challenges they worked through with Locus, in order to optimize the use of the robots.  After using the system in production for 6 months, it became clear that there was a further optimization opportunity, if they made physical changes with the robots’ capabilities in mind.  They redesigned some workflow and systemic processes and modified the physical plant to include mezzanines.

Lewis will talk about the thought processes around using this Locus system in a complex 3PF environment, and how Locus affected their:

  • cost throughput,
  • SLA performance, and
  • order cycle times.

In summary, the current generation of autonomous robots assisting humans in the performance of warehouse tasks has lowered the barriers to entry, reduced risk, and resulted in a quicker payback.  In 2018, the warehouse has become the epicenter in the implementation of the newest, most important technologies in tech today:

  • Robotics,
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence) & Machine Learning,
  • Big Data,
  • Sensors, and
  • Autonomous Navigation,

—resulting in real operational improvements.

Who would have ever thought that warehousing could be so exciting?!