When spikes in demand put fulfillment operations at a breakneck pace, a common way to cope is to throw more people into manual workflows, hoping to keep up. That worked well enough when unemployment was much higher and hourly labor was readily available. That’s not the case today.
Today, companies with production and fulfillment requirements are after automation solutions that can flex to spikes in demand without adding dozens of people. The last thing they need is inflexible automation than can’t be scaled up or down, or reassigned to other workflows or locations., therefore the automation technology must be quick to deploy and easy to reconfigure, given the way that ecommerce growth and new market opportunities are prompting companies to revise distribution networks.
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are shaping up as the way to meet this set of challenges, but it takes the right set of AMR capabilities to fully achieve flexible automation. For example, cloud-based platforms permit rapid deployment without onsite information technology (IT) infrastructure; easy access to metrics and reports; and support a subscription-based “robot as a service” solution approach. The robots themselves should come in a variety of form factors aimed at moving different payloads, with purpose-oriented attachments and accessories that have been certified as an entire entity instead of separately. Additionally, the platform’s software should be easy to use, with useful metrics for operations managers, and smart algorithms to coordinate robot resources.