Is Your Warehouse Ready for Autonomous Mobile Robots?
The benefits of installing Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) in warehouses are becoming more obvious every day. For example, pickers in fulfillment centers are picking more items per hour by allowing AMRs to take over the time-consuming task of delivering completed orders to their next destination. Productivity goes up and employees are happy to let robots do the long-distance sprints. But aren’t autonomous systems difficult and time consuming to install? The good news is that they’ve gotten much easier.
Installing AMRs in a warehouse is a significant investment for any business. Deciding how to get started with a fleet of material handling robots is a nuanced question. But there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about – whether or not your warehouse is ready for an AMR system right now. Installing new autonomous hardware and software certainly sounds like a major commitment, but with the newest AMRs, it’s much faster, and much simpler than you might think.
In the past, installing automated material transport units, often called Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), was time consuming and expensive. Besides the hardware and software necessary to manage the AGVs themselves, it was also necessary to spend months preparing your warehouse, changing all kinds of things around to meet the operational requirements of the AGV system. That additional time and money made for a long and stressful transition. If the robots didn’t work out, it meant even more time and money wasted getting everything back to normal.
The latest generation of AMRs are much more advanced than older AGVs. One of the most surprising benefits of AMRs is how easy they are to integrate into almost any warehouse. For example, AMRs use a map to dynamically navigate and avoid obstacles, meaning that you don’t need to set up dedicated paths, install anything in the floor, or restrict humans or forklifts from operating in areas of the warehouse where the robots are in use. You’ll need to make a map of your warehouse for the AMRs to follow, but that’s a process that can be done by a single person in just a day or two, even for very large warehouses with hundreds of thousands of square meters of floor space.
Modern AMR software runs in a secure cloud, making it robust and easily accessible through a web interface from anywhere in the world. It’s not necessary to install new computer hardware or software in your warehouse, and there’s no need to get your IT folks heavily involved with the AMR setup.
Ideally, your warehouse has good Wi-Fi coverage, but if it doesn’t, AMRs can also use cellular modems to connect to the internet on their own. Otherwise, the only thing that AMRs need is floor space for charging docks, but even that’s a very simple install. The docks are generally low profile, inherently safe, and can be plugged into a regular wall outlet. Since recharging is autonomous, maintenance of the robots is minimal, and most of the time, AMRs run without needing any particular attention from you or your employees.
Once the map is complete, the docks are plugged in, and you’ve decided where you want your new AMRs to go, that’s it. Setup is essentially finished. For most warehouses, it takes less than a week from the time that the first robot arrives at your warehouse to having the system completely up and running and robots moving things around for you. The minimal impact AMRs have on your warehouse infrastructure makes them even more cost effective as the size of your warehouse increases. Lightweight AMR systems are easy to scale up, and the larger your warehouse, the more benefits you’ll see from efficient robotic material handling.
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