How Robotics is Helping the Logistics Industry Move Ahead
Discover how robotics is helping the logistics industry to move ahead and even help the human race fight the pandemic in tough times.
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Imagine an automated software that can keep a check on the vaccination data for COVID19. Looks like science fantasy, right? Many of you might be already tapping that nostalgic feel of star wars robotic characters, but “Olive” is developed around reducing repetitive tasks at hospitals.
It is a concept that fuses deep learning and computer vision to automate repetitive tasks like documentation, seeking approval before surgeries, and more. Such concepts can be leveraged to document vaccinations across the world. But, robotic applications are not limited to automation in repetitive tasks, and the kiosks from Sanofi are one example.
The pharmaceutical giant has created an autonomous inoculation booth like a photo booth. These booths allow the users to have their body temperature checked and then get the vaccine shot after a brief questionnaire.
During the pandemic, many organizations like Carrier and DHL have plans to improve the cold chain in the logistics industry. As major vaccine producers will need to stick to a stringent temperature regime throughout the vaccine development and delivery phases, the challenge is massive.
Well, fret not! Robotics is the "reborn superman" of the present-verse(Snyderverse)! So, let’s dig deep into robotic applications in the present and future of the logistics industry.
#1 Warehouse Automation
If you think that Amazon is the only one with amazing robots for warehousing, you are living in a bubble! Warehouse automation is commonplace among many organizations and enterprises. There are several different warehouse automation employed by businesses these days like,
- AGV (Automated Guided Vehicles)
- AMR (Automated Mobile Robots)
- AS/RS (Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems)
Automated Guided Vehicles are robotic carriers of goods that follow specific navigational paths for warehousing purposes and manufacturing activities. The first AGV was introduced by Barrett Electronics way back in the 1950s. AGVs are a vital tool in the entire supply chain to add sensors for better tracking of the inventory. A plant manager or warehouse manager can monitor AGVs easily from a central dashboard.
AGVs have evolved so much over the years, and the present generation of self-programmable devices use technologies like IoT (Internet of Things). If you want to see advanced AGVs in action, there is no better visual than Amazon’s warehouse!
What’s more interesting is the benefits of advanced AGVs, not only are they flag bearers in robotics for industry, but they are also one of those must-haves for saving on expenses like the packaging. This evolution has given away to the next level of automation in warehousing—AMR (Autonomous Mobile Robots)
AMRs are modern versions of AGVs that help with logistics operations. They are intelligent AGVs that have intelligent onboard systems to improve navigation. Most of the AMRs used today have intelligent algorithms governing their moves. These algorithms are either programmed with a blueprint of the warehouse or other times their sensors help them map surroundings.
AMR is one of the most exciting devices for logistics, but it is not limited to manufacturing or supply chain only. Take the example of the Teradyne Robots. The firm from Boston needed a solution for their sanitization needs for resuming the office after COVID19 affected operations.
To ensure the safety and protection of their employees, Teradyne has developed an AMR that can sanitize their 61000 Sq. Ft. office campus. Apart from the employee training to deal with the new normal of social distancing, Teradyne decided to create a unique solution. The robotic device can spray sanitizer in an aerosol mode in 300-400 Sq. Ft. in 15 minutes.
AGVs and AMRs are nothing without a reliable AS/RS system in your warehouse. So, Let's look at the impact of robotics on AS/RS.
AS/RS (Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems)
AS/RS is an automation technology designed to buffer, store, and retrieve products according to demand. The technology varies according to the application and business vertical.
Think of it as a library full of books that itself hands over the book you need to read. It is often integrated with warehouse execution software (WES) or warehouse management software (WMS).
Though you can choose to customize the software through outsourcing the development or even create one from scratch, the choice depends on the scale of operations and business requirements.
The warehouse is just one part of the entire logistics ecosystem. Robotics is not just revolutionizing warehouse automation but each part of the supply chain. Apart from the AGVs, AMRs, and AS/RS, other automated devices in the supply chain leverage robotics.
#2 Autonomous Vehicles
One of the most significant contributors to automated operations in logistics is AVs or Autonomous Vehicles. The most crucial development in AVs has been in intelligent drone technologies. There are giant eCommerce firms like Amazon and food market leaders like Domino’s Pizza that are already using drones for last-mile delivery.
These advancements in drones have not just helped the logistics industry but are also helping the human race. However, such innovations need an equally capable software solution for better automation similar to what we see in the marketing automation software. Take an example of the Zipline delivery service that is using drones to deliver vaccines. The delivery service has been using drones to deliver vaccines amidst COVID18 in Ghana, Rwanda, and other such countries.
Moving forward with the technology innovations like Autonomous trucks are also contributing to a synchronized supply chain. One of the most significant developments was Semi trucks from Tesla launched back in 2018. But, more than that,, TuSimple from San Diego, an autonomous trucking startup, is taking it to another level.
TuSimple is merging human supervision with Artificial Intelligence to create synchronized automation. Here, human supervision on the movement of autonomous trucks can help in improving the efficacy, while the entire prick up and drop activity is done through trucks automatically.
#3 Packaging Robotics
Logistics has four main activities to deal with, storage, retrieval, transport, and packaging. Robotics can help lower the cost of packaging by reducing the errors and proper handling of the products.
Take an example of the impact-aware learner robots. The Technical University of Munich (TUM) and École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is researching creating impact-aware robots for automation in packaging.
The concept behind the program is to create packaging robots that can predict the effect of a hard or soft collision on objects. Based on this data, they can optimize the package and reduce the number of damaged products. With the research, they want to achieve,
- The ability of robots to predict collision between packaging and conveyor belts\
- AI-based algorithms that can help with optimal movements of the robots to reduce damage during the transport
- Developing advanced sensor-based technology fused with IoT to power robots with an understanding of the surroundings
Robotics is not limited to logistics, and it has seen integration in the fields of healthcare, manufacturing, and other business verticals. But, what makes the story of robots compelling is the journey of their evolution which makes it one of the most significant innovations.
It is more or less the journey of human evolution and innovation that transforms the logistics industry in the form of robotics. The best part being the hand-in-hand operational excellence that humans achieve with robotics in logistics. As we move forward, robots will get better, making automation look easy. So, cross your heart and hope to live for another robotic miracle!
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