Modernizing Your Warehousing Operation with Order Picking Robots
Warehousing operations are a necessary component for almost all manufacturers. Both short-term and long-term storage requires products to be picked before shipping. Traditionally, manufacturers perform this operation manually. Human warehouse workers pick products from dozens of aisles of shelving to fulfill orders for customers, but is this the best way?
The search for better optimization in modern manufacturing often drives leading companies to automate repetitive processes. Order picking is an ever more common example of modern innovation in manufacturing automation. Possibilities like cost reductions and more efficient operations offer great benefits for companies willing to explore even partially automating their warehouses. This article explores what order picking robots are, the different types available, and how you can get started with this exciting technology.
What are Order Picking Robots?
Broadly, order picking robots are machines that perform the order picking task in an automated and programmatic way. This means they follow instructions and algorithms and can pick orders unsupervised. This unsupervised operation opens up many possibilities for businesses. Labor can be reallocated to more complex tasks, and the overall process can run more efficiently.
Order picking robots take many forms. Examples can be as simple as traditional robots mounted on mobile robots to fully automated storage and retrieval systems. The different options available offer flexibility to manufacturers. This flexibility gives you multiple options to choose from. This makes it likely that a solution is available for you.
Common Industries for Order Picking Robots
Order picking robots are found in nearly every industry. Thanks to the ubiquity of warehousing operations in manufacturing, there are plenty of opportunities for automation. Automated solutions make more sense as warehousing operations become larger, more complex, and more expensive. Industries where you often find order picking robots include:
- Industrial components
- Food and beverage
- 3rd party logistics operations
Types of Order Picking Robots
The wide variety of order picking robotic solutions is a testament to the broad range of requirements in the space. You find simple, flexible solutions to complex, bespoke machinery designed and built for a specific order picking application. You should explore all the different options available to you when considering an order picking robot, as there could be a solution optimized specifically for your application.
AS/AR systems are a broad collection of automated storage and retrieval robots. There are many different subtypes here. Examples of AS/AR systems include:
- AutoStore Systems
- Overhead AS/AR
- Mini-load AS/AR
- Automated forklifts
AS/AR systems are often large solutions for automated order picking. They include heavy machinery and offer little room for hybrid work with people. These systems are highly scalable. They can often be built to specifications depending on customer requirements. AS/AR systems offer manufacturers a high level of customizability with demanding applications.
Mobile Picking Robots
Other mobile picking robots include variations of robot arms mounted on mobile robots. Mobile robots traverse the warehouse floor to the pick location, where the robot arm will then pick the product from the bin or shelf.
The two major mobile robot types are autonomous mobile robots and automated guided vehicles. Automated guided vehicles are an older generation of technology that uses optical or magnetic guides to safely move about the environment. Autonomous mobile robots are a newer technology and getting more common in the industry. These machines use cutting-edge technology such as lidar guidance systems and artificial intelligence (AI).
Mobile picking robots almost always use a six-axis robot to do the picking. This can be a traditional six-axis industrial robot, which must work without humans in its work envelope, or a collaborative robot, known as a “cobot,’ which is designed to work in very close proximity to people.
A significant benefit of mobile picking robots is their rapid deployment rate. Their simplicity makes integration fast and relatively low cost. Comparatively, large AS/AR systems could take several weeks or months to fully integrate.
Getting Started with Order Picking Robots
Selecting and integrating an order picking robot is a serious undertaking. There are many steps in this process, and it helps to be prepared for some critical points along the way. Being aware of what it takes to complete a project from start to finish can help you avoid some major headaches.
If you’re ever unsure about your automation journey, we’re here to help. HowToRobot assists customers worldwide from the beginning of their investigation into automating their facilities. You can use our automation discovery tools to determine your most profitable potential automation investments today.
Define Your Needs
First, clearly understand and define your needs. What process are you trying to automate? What goals would you like to accomplish? Is return-on-investment (ROI) the most important metric, or is there a timeline you need to reach? Other key metrics about your application could include:
- Pick speed
- Product weight
- Product shape and texture
- Required throughput
- The budget allocated to the project
These metrics will help you understand which types of order picking robots are optimal for your application. How will human workers interact with the automated system? How can you reallocate human capital that might be displaced? Is there additional safety equipment required? These are only a few of the many elements that should be considered to ensure a successful implementation.
Search for Suppliers
Now you are ready to reach out to potential suppliers. Manufacturers and Automation Integrators will be critical contacts that will provide a wide range of services. Be sure to provide as much detail as possible about the application to give them the best opportunity to provide a working solution. It’s a wise decision to request quotes from multiple suppliers because they will offer differing viewpoints and different types of solutions.
Searching for suppliers is one of the most challenging steps during the automation journey because finding the right partner to work with your company is one of the most important aspects of sourcing a solution. How can one decide which suppliers are relevant to their needs? HowToRobot’s network of over 16,000 suppliers helps focus your search on the partners that can help your project. Find suppliers and start receiving quotes today.
From here, you’re ready to decide on a solution. Remember, this decision should be based on what makes the most significant impact on your company, as defined by the metrics you identified at the beginning of this process.
Order picking robots offer an exciting opportunity for all warehousing operations. The benefits of increased efficiency, better reliability, and unrivaled scalability unlock new productivity levels for modern manufacturers. Companies that find ways to modernize and optimize warehousing operations will find themselves with a solid competitive edge compared to their competitors.