Emerging Technology Profile: SOKUL Automation

Posted on March 14, 2021 by John Ripple

SOKUL Automation has developed a mobile-robot based automated storage and retrieval system for goods-to-person picking, based on off-the-shelf components. They have a novel approach to equipment design that prioritizes simplicity. SOKUL has designed the system using standard shelves, totes, extractors, and carriers, at a price-point that defies (destroys) industry norms. If you are in the market for a flexible goods-to-person picking system, SOKUL deserves consideration.

This article covers the 5 W’s:

Who? Company and Founder.
What? Solution and Target Market.
Where? Product Development Life Cycle.
When? Solution Ready for Market.
Why/How? Problem to be Solved. How Much.

If you are interested in detailed solution information, contact SOKUL directly. If you simply want to keep pace with the latest warehouse automation technology developments --- information not yet available anywhere else on the World Wide Web, then read on!

Who? Company and Founder.

The founder of SOKUL Automation is Paul Ekas. This is not Paul’s first foray into the world of robotics. He currently owns SAKE Robotics, a robotic gripper company based in San Francisco. Paul’s vision is to productize mobile robotics using standard off-the-shelf components, delivering a solution that is reliable, robust, and simple.

SOKUL is in the product development phase with a working prototype and on-track to deliver the first pilot project in Q4 2021. They intend to offer their solution “as a service” with a performance-based pricing model. System capability (storage and performance) is intended to be scaled as customer requirements increase. Offering the system “as a service” provides a low-risk, no-capital entry point for early adopters and experienced users alike.

SOKUL is looking for additional investors/funding and are actively seeking additional pilot customers. Ideal early customers will have the ability to start with a small system and scale up. An ideal pilot system will have 1,000 to 2,000 tote locations and support 200 – 300 picks per hour. Customers should be comfortable supporting software integration between customer warehouse control systems and SOKUL control systems. Previous experience with automation is ideal, but not required.

What? Solution and Target Market.

SOKUL provides tote-based automated storage and retrieval systems. The system is designed around standard racking/shelving and totes. A typical system has 4 – 5 levels of tote storage, but the system may be stacked on mezzanines to increase density, included racking/shelving supported mezzanines. The automation systems comprise 4 main components:

  1. Bin Manipulation Robot (BMR) – this robot stores and retrieves totes from the rack system. It generally stays captive in the aisles, though can transfer from aisle to aisle.
  2. Transport Robot (TR) – this robot transports totes from the Bin Manipulation Robots (BMR) in the aisles to pick stations. Any BMR can place/retrieve totes from the top of any TR.
  3. Pick stations – goods-to-person pick stations --- totes with product delivered to stations via the Transport Robots. Future versions may include robotic picking at dedicated stations.
  4. Software – robot control system. Inventory control remains with the customer WMS.

Systems generally include one BMR per aisle and multiple TR robots per BMR. The robots are designed to operate at ambient warehouse temperatures above freezing.

The ideal customer has a wide variety of products stored in totes with pick volumes that currently require 10 or more people to complete pick activities based on person-to-goods. The solution enables changing to a goods-to-person picking model, delivering expected improvements in picking productivity.

Potential applications include automotive small parts, industrial small parts (including kitting for production line), and warehousing/distribution/e-commerce fulfillment operations.

Where? Product Development Life Cycle.

SOKUL has a working prototype and is on track to deliver the first pilot in a production environment in Q4 2021. SOKUL has not yet developed a substantial fleet of Transport Robots that allows them to test queuing and traffic control in a live environment. The Robot Control and Transport Control software is ready for 1st generation deployment, testing, and refinement.

Major components and suppliers have been defined and sourced. The solution is designed around widely available off-the-shelf components. This assures rapid ability to scale production, when required.

When? Solution Ready for Market.

SOKUL is looking for two additional pilot customers or locations now that can support deployments in Q4 2021 or Q1 2022. The go-to-market strategy is based around an “as-a-service” model based on performance levels.

Why/How? Problem to be Solved. How Much.

SOKUL aims to deliver a tote-based goods-to-person picking and fulfillment solution at a substantially reduced cost and complexity compared to solutions currently on the market today. Their goal is to disrupt the existing industry cost models based on substantial reductions in complexity and designing a solution around widely available standardized components.

Existing solutions on the market that are goods-to-person use mobile robots that range from $25,000 to $50,000 each, with fixed deployment costs. SOKUL has developed a solution that is a fraction the typical investment. When deployed “as a service” on a performance basis, the return on investment begins on day one. Simplicity of design and componentry enables customers not deeply experienced with automated solutions to be self-sufficient.

If you would like more information about SOKUL, contact Paul Ekas at: paul.ekas@sokulautomation.com


This article was originally published on www.esotericstaffing.com

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