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New Goods-to-Robot Systems Take E-Fulfillment to the Next Level

Matt Kohler | 21 September 2022

Over two decades ago, the internet made its way into households, retail, and manufacturing environments, providing a foundation for commerce to occur in a more rapid and convenient fashion. Since then, ecommerce has undoubtedly become the platform of choice for procuring everything from household products to industrial equipment.

In the early 2000s, ecommerce continued to grow into just about every type of vertical and market, shining a light on the value of speed, accuracy, and order customization. Excelling at those factors drives success.

In the past decade, order fulfillment lead times have become increasingly aggressive with suppliers promising as quick as 1-hour delivery or in-store pickup of goods. As customers load their virtual shopping carts with an array of different items, optimizing the order fulfillment process is a priority for many organizations looking to be one step (or click) ahead of their competitors.

To meet the need for shorter time between order and delivery, packaging and material handling technology has rapidly evolved. 

While present strategies such as warehouse execution systems, sortation, rainbow palletizing, and GTP (goods to person) systems have certainly helped meet these aggressive order fulfillment pursuits, a new robotic solution is proliferating the material handling industry that can further improve operations and customer satisfaction.

Order Fulfillment Optimization

Robotic AS/RS Integration

By integrating piece picking industrial robots to the back end of a AS/RS, experienced integrators can turn a GTP system into a highly efficient GTR (goods to robot) solution. This fully automated solution can help improve the speed and flexibility of custom order fulfillment while simultaneously reducing the amount of labor associated with order picking. In today’s environment this allows end users to allocate their workforce to more value added services, and likely improve job satisfaction and retention. Bin picking robots can autonomously pick items from donor bins  with over 99.9% accuracy and place the ordered items into adjacent shipping cartons or downstream material handling equipment, such as unit sortation systems.  

Robotic bin picking applications generally involve the following components:

  • 6-axis robotic arm
  • Custom robot EoAT (end of arm tool)
  • AI powered machine vision
  • Integration with the WES (warehouse execution system

A Comprehensive, Intelligent Solution

Unlike traditional industrial robotic applications, these bin picking robots aren’t trained to do a singular task with set inputs and outputs. Thanks to AI vision, the robots can problem solve for an infinite amount of new and complex situations, like new SKU integration, with no training required. When an inventory bin is presented to the  AI powered vision system, a photo is taken to map out the objects’ orientations. Within a split second, AI vision identifies the “most pickable” object and releases the robot to pick it. Robotic controls manipulate the arm and EoAT inside the tote while using suction or a gripping technology to pick the targeted object without encroaching on other objects or the tote walls. The robot then retracts from the bin and places the object in a secondary shipping carton and is ready for another pick-and-place sequence.

With nearly infinite variability in SKU geometry, orientation, graphics, etc. the AI vision system learns and improves on every single cycle. To multiply that affect, all robots that are connected to the AI platform benefit from the learnings of the other robots.  Therefore, as the fleet of robots increase in size, the learnings and performance of the AI and the robots accelerate, giving the end user a higher return for their investment.

AI Powered Robotic Applications

AI enabled robots have applications reaching far beyond just order fulfillment. The ability to autonomously pick and place can help improve operations in some of the following areas:

  • Singulation of product to be placed on to an item sorter or a simple take away conveyor
  • Robotic sortation (robotic put wall)
  • Robotic depalletization of single SKU and completely mixed pallets

More Than Just Robots, A Solution Partner

Putting yourself on the leading edge of fully automated order fulfillment requires more than simply adding robots to your warehouse. A one-size-fits all approach to integration can lead to slow and ineffective systems. As a stand-alone solution, these each picking robots can add value to your order picking process. However, further integration into the WES, like Bastian’s Exacta® software solution, will allow you to maximize the value of the robotic automation by directing individual products to the areas that process them in the most efficient manner.

As an independent integrator, Bastian Solutions has the experience needed to seamlessly integrate AI-powered robotic systems with your current equipment and software to ensure optimal results. Contact our experts today to learn how you can implement a goods-to-robot system and improve the operations in your facility.

Author: Matt Kohler

Matt Kohler, Bastian Solutions Director of Applications has been with Bastian Solutions since 2005, after receiving his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri - Columbia. The applications team at Bastian Solutions prides themselves on thoroughly understanding their customer’s unique needs and then tailors a solution that gives those customers a competitive edge in their business.  

Comments

Roger Wilke says:
8/28/2018 10:09 AM

Nice work Greg! It's amazing how much and quickly all of this technology has changed.

15 Popular Posts from 2015: Material Handling Tech Trends | The Material Handling Blog says:
8/28/2018 10:09 AM

[…] Read: New Goods-to-Robot Systems Take E-Fulfillment to the Next Level […]

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