With so many logistics companies looking for just about any edge they can get to boost efficiency, it's no surprise the industry is becoming more aggressive about adopting the latest technology. One area in particular where warehouses seem eager to invest these days is in artificial intelligence and robotics that can seamlessly integrate with their current operations and warehouse management software. These cutting-edge technologies can help companies put their best foot forward to keep up with an evolving field.
Many of the industry's biggest names – from brick-and-mortar retailers with massive warehouses to e-commerce giants – see significant value in AI and robotics because these tools make their human workforces more effective, according to a report from Multichannel Merchant. While AI in particular has been used in warehouses for some time, the proliferation of relatively affordable robots that can assist with everything from picking to packaging is the logical next step. Robots can act on the data the AI collects and make the entire logistics process more efficient.
Already taking the next step
Even as companies today work with robots that help them operate more efficiently when it comes to picking or perhaps even a physical inventory count that no longer requires human eyes and hands to complete, developers are already hard at work on next-gen models. They say they can make the logistics process go ever so slightly faster, according to the MIT Technology Review. The latest robot, developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, is specifically designed to pick up, grasp and manipulate objects older robots couldn't.
The robot's practical applications in logistics are easy enough to understand: Whereas previous robotics systems designed to pick up and grasp items did so effectively only about half the time, the new Berkeley systems give next-gen, more nimble machines a successful lift rate of about 99 percent.
Because of current limitations, most logistics companies typically use robots for moving around heavy objects in their warehouses, but that could soon change as new models can assist or even take over picking jobs.
Safety is key
It's further worth noting that developers are also working to make robots integrate more seamlessly and safely into warehouse environments, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. One such effort involves using radio frequency identification badges and readers, something many logistics firms already work with anyway. RFID tags incoproated into these newer systems help in mobile data collection and makes robots more aware of obstacles both inanimate and human. By equipping workers with vests or other equipment with embedded RFID tags, they instantly become more visible to even older robots, which reduces the risk of workplace accidents.
With all these coming changes in mind, the best strategy for any logistics executives is to carefully evaluate whether their company has the need and means to incorporate robots into their current or future operations. An overarching look at how these devices can help with increasing physical inventory efficiency, picking and packaging in the long run may help companies make the best possible decisions about future investments.