5 leading warehouse automation technologies you need to be following now.


Posted on October 27, 2020 by Esoteric Staffing


Warehouse automation equipment is changing rapidly. Enter the age of autonomy. Mobile robots and multi-directional shuttles that are autonomous and independent are rapidly replacing fixed path systems. These new technologies demand advanced application expertise, but they offer increase flexibility and performance.

Some of the technologies are emerging, some have a few years under their belt. All are state-of-the-art industrial robotics. Here are 5 leading warehouse automation technologies you need to be following:

1. AutoStore

AutoStore is the cube storage pioneer. Numbered bins are stacked high and compactly in modular aluminum grid system. The bins are retrieved by robots and delivered to pick stations. Bins may contain a single SKU or can be subdivided to contain multiple SKUs. Fast-moving products remain near the top of the grid for rapid accessibility and slow-moving products end up near the bottom. If your SKU profile follows the 80/20 rule, where 20% of your products make up 80% of the order fulfillment activity, this system is for you. AutoStore is established and proven technology, when implemented by a reputable partner.

Popular applications:
grocery fulfillment, E-commerce fulfillment, document storage
Technology Pros:
many robots for redundancy, small number of components
Technology Cons:
fixed bin size, not ideal when all products randomly accessed
Company Headquarters:
Nedre Vats, Norway

2. geek+

Geek+ is best known for their grid-based mobile robots used to support good-to-person picking for E-commerce fulfillment. The mobile robots are used to transport storage racks that are approximately 4' square, 7' tall, with multiple shelves, navigating in a grid layout. The robots allow the workers to stay in one place while the robot moves around the warehouse. Geek+ is making rapid strides the sortation robot market and free-roaming AMRs (Automated Mobile Robots), equipped with state-of-the-art sensors for self-driving applications. This technology is evolving rapidly - both good and bad news for adopters.

Popular applications:
E-commerce fulfillment, apparel distribution
Technology Pros:
many robots for redundancy, quick implementation time
Technology Cons:
poor density (more building space required)
Company Headquarters:
Beijing, China

3. Alert Innovation

eGrocery Micro-Fulfillment Perfected is the slogan for Alert Innovation. If you are in the grocery business and automated order picking is in your future (if it isn’t, it should be soon!), then keep Alert Innovation at the top of your watch list. Alphabot is an alternative to AutoStore, but with laser-focus on the e-grocery micro fulfillment segment of the market. An Alphabot system includes robots, specialized racking, and powerful software. Alert has just begun the first implementations of their system, but it’s technology to watch.

Popular applications:
grocery Micro Fulfillment
Technology Pros:
high density, selective access to entire SKU range
Technology Cons:
sophisticated rack system, emerging technology
Company Headquarters:
North Billerica, Massachusetts, USA

4. Columbia MiniPAL / Universal Robots

Columbia-Okura provides COBOT palletizing solution. A COBOT, or collaborative robot, is a type of industrial robot that can work safely alongside people. Unlike traditional industrial robots, a COBOT does not need safety guarding to protect employees from interacting with it. They use sensors and an auto stop function to allow people to work next to them safely.

Columbia/Okura miniPAL® COBOT collaborative palletizing system, features the Universal-Robot UR10e robot. There are over 46,000 UR COBOTS in operation in around the world. They offer easy programming, fast setup, and safe operation. They are limited in weight and speed, but if your application fits the criteria, it’s a no-brainer.

Popular applications:
palletizing food products
Technology Pros:
easily moved, no guarding, easy install & set-up
Technology Cons:
speed and weight limits, though technology evolving rapidly
Company Headquarters:
Vancouver, Washington, USA

5. Fetch Robotics

Fetch Robotics offers one of the most advanced Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR’s) on the market. Fetch robots are packed with sensors and on-board computers that help it understand its operating environment. Rather than being restricted to fixed routes like a traditional Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV), an AMR can navigate dynamically, planning its own paths to travel quickly and efficiently.

There are several models available, handling everything from cartons to pallets. All models are easily deployed and are managed by cloud-based control software. If you need to pick and drop pallets like a fork-truck, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Popular applications:
e-commerce distribution centers picking operations
Technology Pros:
easy install & set-up, autonomous driving
Technology Cons:
best deployed "at scale"; you'll need to commit to change
Company Headquarters:
San Jose, California, USA
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