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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ProMat 2019 – Large Investments on Display

The ProMat show hall had an elephant in the room – Toyota Industries and its companies were front and center, as a display of its recent strategic acquisitions into the warehouse automation world. Piece picking robots, shuttle system enhancements, collaborative robots, and the software that makes these systems “intelligent” were the highlights of my attendance at ProMat 2019. The following exhibits were the most infomative to me.

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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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Autonomous “Cobots” Are Now Proven Warehouse Technologies

Collaborative autonomous robotics (cobots) in the warehouse have progressed considerably over the last few years. They have now proven their ability to significantly increase warehouse worker productivity by a factor of 2x-plus. The next hurdle is return on investment (ROI), which factors costs and time-to-value in with productivity improvements and other financial benefits. Port Logistics Group’s (PLG) analysis of its current Locus Robotics implementation project provides insights into the factors that make such a solution superior to other investment alternatives.

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Remember Webvan? They Weren’t Wrong – Just Early

It’s funny how some trends seem to go “full circle.” In 1999, everybody thought they could pick the next big thing. Then after the dot.com bubble burst, it seemed like everybody distanced themselves from their “visionary” pasts. I recall a brief discussion I had around 2002 with a self-described “internet guy.” He commented about the online grocery company Webvan’s business model with the statement “I don’t know what they were thinking – I mean, if you double-bag […]

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Voice – The Interface Between Supply Chain Tech and Humans

It’s the era of the new consumer. We must adapt supply chains rapidly to meet customer expectations. Trends like reverse logistics, same-day-delivery and mobility result in new business models, stressed logistics systems and deconsolidating networks. We’re also in the midst of a shrinking talent pool. Competing with rising wages and attractive employment alternatives for this generation is pivotal in landing the top talent. How do we handle this? By evolving our operations with the tools […]

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Warehouse Automation Global Market Update

ARC Advisory Group released its updated Warehouse Automation & Control (WAC) market study last week. This research is an evaluation of the market with detailed analysis of the 2017 base year and a five-year forecast through 2022. I would like to take this opportunity to communicate some of the prominent themes I observed during the research process. 2017 – A Stellar Year The market’s growth in 2017 was substantially greater than I had expected. In fact, I […]

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Orchestrating the Future of Order Fulfillment

It seems no matter where we look these days, robots and other uses of artificial intelligence are not hard to find. From our cars and smart appliances to Alexa and Siri, the rise of AI technology has permeated our daily lives and is changing the way we operate. Warehouses and distribution centers are no exception. In recent years we’ve seen a dramatic increase in intelligent automation across the supply chain, a necessity to keep up […]

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