Archive for Warehouse Automation

The “Soft” Side of Automation Holds the Key to ROI

Material handling equipment (MHE) has been around a long time. But, it’s never been more popular. Companies look to automation now (more than ever) to improve throughput while bridging the labor gaps affecting so many warehouses and industries. Fixed automation such as conveyors, sortation, and storage systems are proven solutions within their respective wheelhouses. Warehouse robotics hold great promise for more complex and variable operational needs. These technologies continue to grow in popularity, broaden their […]

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Google – Your Next Generation Warehouse Control System Provider?

My search for warehouse automation patents uncovered an unlikely assignee, Google. It turns out that Google was awarded a patent in May 2019 for “Dynamically Maintaining a Map of a Fleet of Robotic Devices in an Environment to Facilitate Robotics Action.” The contents of the patent were geared toward use in the warehouse and features the ability to predict future locations of members of a robotics fleet to optimize collaborative tasks.

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The Warehouse Automation Market’s Shifting Competitive Landscape

The warehouse automation market currently exhibits many characteristics that lead me to believe the competitive landscape is on the verge of rapid change. This isn’t typically the case with a mature market. But e-commerce growth, robotics advancements, and international competition have set the stage for an acceleration of change. Market participants that remain complacent are likely to suffer as a result.

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Digital Innovation in the Modern Warehouse

Digital Innovation in the Modern Warehouse was the topic at this session of the 3PL and Supply Chain Summit. Executives from HighJump, SSI Schaefer, and Pepperl+Fuchs provided valuable insights on sensor types and their applications, the synthesis of this data into meaningful, actionable information, and the use of digital technology to drive productivity improvements.

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Status Update: Warehouse Automation Market

The 2018 growth of the global warehouse automation market was a full 2 percent greater than my prior year’s forecast had projected. There weren’t any “big bang” acquisitions (like KION’s acquisition of Dematic in 2016), but there were a number of transactions that expanded the acquirer’s solution set or geographic presence.

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Warehousing in China Displays Distinct Dynamics

The industry dynamics of warehousing in China differ substantially from those in North America and Europe. My discussion with professor Xiande Zhao of CEIBS and his panel at a digital innovation forum organized by CEIBS and Z-Park provided me with the pulse of warehousing in China. The Suning.com insights were particularly informative.

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An Autonomous Mobile Robot Customer Speaks of Instantaneous Payback

At HighJump’s Elevate show in March, one of their customers – Hollar – spoke about implementing an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) solution and getting an almost instantaneous payback. I have been covering supply chain solutions for a long time and I’ve never heard that claim made.  Really excellent payback can occur in six months, a two-year payback is about average, and some heavy forms of material handling pay back in four or five years. The […]

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The Warehouse Labor Gap is Unsustainable

US warehousing and storage industry (3PL) employment grew from 779 million in January 2015 to 1.2 billion in December 2018, a CAGR of 11% from 2015 through 2018. At the same time, US unemployment is at historic lows. This suggests that the warehousing and storage industry must hire workers from other industries. Stories about individual warehouses paints a picture of high demand for labor, low availability, and high turnover rates. Something has to “give”.

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Is 2019 the Year of Robotic Piece Picking?

The overall structure and content of the MHI Promat and Modex events evolves very slowly from year to year. However, a prevalent theme seems to arise each year that differentiates one event from years prior. I’m told that robotic piece picking was the stand-out theme at LogiMAT last month and that theme will surely cross the pond to ProMat next month. I plan to spend a large portion of my time in Chicago at the […]

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Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) Come of Age

The key for AMRs is that they enable workers to be more productive due to constant collaboration. During Steve Banker’s panel discussion on AMRs at ARC Advisory Group’s Forum last week, the four panelists made two key points about AMRs. First, robots are not replacing human workers, but rather, are assisting them. Second, warehouse labor is becoming harder to find and more expensive to train and retain. These two reasons are why there will be an increase in AMRs in the warehouse.

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