Pre-requisites to be considered before implementing carton shuttle solution

Do we need to consider some prerequisites while implementing an automated system like a carton shuttle?

In Goods to person systems like carton shuttle shelving, orders are store, picked, and retrieved in a hodgepodge before delivering to the customer. This system has contributed to increasing the overall throughput of picking, allowing the businesses to meet their customer demands through improved order accuracy. However, to successfully deploy these systems, a few critical calculations such as process throughput, space capacity, product profile, operating plan, etc along with the technical requirement such as mentioned below need to be done carefully.

An Analysis before implementation

A thorough analysis and inspection of the warehouse, understanding the current throughput and operation is required to be done before even proposing the carton shuttle solution. It also requires a detailed report on the existing process with the average time of order fulfillment and concluding how the implementation of carton shuttles can improve the productivity and hence remove process bottlenecks like delayed order or improper inventory control.

How to compare & calculate carton shuttles productivity?

The throughput calculation considers the current SKU pace, average units fulfilled per order, and provides the expected process accuracy to be achieved by deploying these automatic systems. Interestingly, these systems are capable of picking orders of say 300 picks per hour whereas the traditional manual order picking may bid for utmost 100 picks per hour per operator. Also, these systems provide the flexibility to increase the throughput by adding more of such systems into the fulfillment center which then conflicts with the operating space available. So, space capacity is another such scrutiny that needs to be addressed before implementing the system. To get higher throughputs, increasing the height of the aisles to the maximum permissible height,i.e, 100 feet can harm the overall accuracy of the order fulfillment.

Number of SKUs –

Especially industries like E-commerce, retail, spare parts division, fulfillment centers where there are large no. of SKUs are there & product profile contributes plays a major role in determining which products need to be handled by these systems. Because these systems have technological limits on the dimensions of products and their weight, hence they need to be considered while designing automated goods to person systems.

Aisle depth:

To increase the scalability in the future, aisle length of this system can be expanded to a staggering 100 meters, depending on the volume and required throughputs, however, a deep study has to be done on the load flexibility of the single- or multi-deep storage of containers, trays, and cartons of various sizes.

A few more points to consider before installation are:

We shouldn’t ignore the mundane yet important technical requirements such as

  • Installing tracks,
  • Limit switches,
  • Network interfaces and,
  • Integration with industry’s resource management software (WCS or even WMS) with utmost focus on safety examinations.
  • Laying tracks with aligned electrical Busbar and a steady power necessity of 230 VAC, 50Hz and single-phase constitutes the primary installation desideratum after setting up the aisles, and, besides, it also necessitates the positioning of barcode labels. These barcode tapes are used by carton shuttles for distance measurements, and if the placement of these barcodes is not coordinated, they may result in poor distance measurements and in turn, affects the positioning correction by the system.
  • Along with track installation, the system also needs safety forethoughts such as placement of limit switches and external caging with automated door locking mechanism, usually, a magnetic coil-based door locks for aisles containing shuttles.
  • Software Solution – while considering the integration of WMS solutions with carton shuttles demand installation of network APs across the critical network drop locations with access to the shuttle’s server. Finally, the installation prerequisites narrow down to one last step of configuring the shuttle’s network devices and tuning the drive parameters.

An advance and scalable carton shuttle system enable accelerated picking, order sequencing and order fulfillment, driving the storage efficiency through the ceiling. With Addverb, being the first largest manufactures of carton shuttle in India, we bring a diverse and wide industry exposure in implementing a carton shuttle system. To know more reach us at automate@addverb.in

Covid-19: Hitting The Economic Reset

“Helicopter Money”, was coined by Milton Friedman in 1969 to explain the effect of monetary policy on inflation. Today, we are practically seeing helicopter money in front of our eyes as US Fed has pumped in trillions of dollars to combat the economic crisis caused due to the covid-19 pandemic. Other countries also seem to follow the suit. While printing currency and distributing to the people seems like an obvious and quick fix solution to tackle the crisis, the way this pandemic has emanated doesn’t guarantee any certainty. Though the virus is not very lethal, the recovery time is anywhere between 12-28 days depending on the severity of the case. This has led to the overwhelming of healthcare facilities even in some of the most developed countries with the best healthcare systems. Gradually, almost all the countries implemented a complete lockdown to flatten the curve and subsequently break the transmission chain of the virus. India also implemented a lockdown on 25th March 2020 which got extended till 3rd May 2020 and a decision to lift the lockdown is yet to be taken by the central government.

Though many expected a fiscal stimulus from the government, to bolster the staggering economy, the government has kept a close watch and has still not disclosed its post-lockdown revival strategy. Though throwing money from the helicopters could be an option, like in other countries, but it might not help the economy in the long run, especially given Covid-19 is here to stay for a time more than we expected. I firmly believe that printing money is not going to solve a problem that has stemmed from a virus that is forcing people to stay indoors. This is a good opportunity for India to put an innovative plan in place and reboot the economy for benefit of all with the following steps:

1) A Wage for Living

This lockdown has for the first time brought the plight of the migrant labor in the living room of India. With heart wrenching videos and photographs of people walking back to their homes with their kids and many unfortunate incidences of people passing away due to resulting exertions have shown the mirror to the Indian society. These migrant labors who have built the metro cities of India, have not been able to find a room for themselves in the same cities. The minimum wage in India starts from around 5000-6000 rupees a month and varies from state to state, it is high time that the government lives by the definition of the living wage which implies a wage which can help a family to pursue education for their kids, healthcare and insurance apart from the basic necessities of food, water and shelter. It will really take care of the people at the bottom of the pyramid and inject much required liquidity if the minimum wage ceiling is raised to rupees 21,000 per month as mentioned by the 7th Pay Commission. Doing this will also ensure that money flows through legally through industries and will reduce the instances of leakages. It is time we respect the hands that have built this nation, in the short term this might be a little painful as industries are reeling under losses, but it will have a positive ripple effect going ahead.

2) Invoke Gandhian Ideas

Gandhi Ji always advocated the idea of villages being self-sufficient. The Covid-19 pandemic, will stoke the flames of de-globalization and also till a vaccine or some sure shot medicine is found (could be herd immunity as well) the global markets are not going to function as they used to in pre-covid times. We have already seen US canceling immigration applications for the next two months. Also, with the outbreak happening in different parts of the globe, it will be wise to create alternatives and re-look at the global and spread out supply chains. Thankfully, India can self-sustain by producing and consuming the in-house goods due to its size and population. Based on the news and cases, it is safe to assume that rural India has been untouched by the Covid-19 pandemic till now. This is the time we start making village clusters self-sufficient by decentralizing small and medium size industries in the hinterland of India. The migrant labors have gone back to their native places and those who are stuck would like to go back to their native places. Equipped with this labor, high end technology and cheap capital made available by banks, the village clusters can house industries which can become the new engines of economy to take the country forward in a world post covid. India of today is vastly different from India of 30-40 years back as today road infrastructure, railway, internet and electricity has penetrated in many parts of the country. These industries will help in import substitution, push Make-In-India and can also be integrated with ‘Skill India’ to develop highly skilled workforce. With such industrial clusters the pressure on supply chain will also reduce and in times of lockdown or an outbreak, we will be able to self-sustain and will be able to generate high quality jobs in Rural India.

3) Robotics Push

We have always heard from different corners about the infrastructure push that is required in India. Though we need not advocate to remove the focus from infrastructure, but we need to be more forward looking if we are to revive the economy from the impact of Covid-19. Whenever we open our economy and let the factories and warehouses run, it cannot continue in its old form as people will have to maintain adequate social distancing. This will constraint the capacity utilization and will bring it down by 30-40%, coupled with other measures like sanitization etc. will impact the margins of the companies. We have also seen that it makes tremendous sense to reduce the number of touches and contact for products in the light of Covid-19. This is where Robotics and Automation can play a big role by helping industries operate their manufacturing facilities and warehouses at 100% capacity and fulfilling the demand without affecting the margins and productivity. Also, Robots can help in contact less deliveries in hospitals, helping the medical staff from unwanted exposures. May it be for surveillance or sending critical material through last mile delivery, or aiding material movement in hotels, airports or railway stations, Robots will aid humankind in this war against the virus and India should grab this opportunity with both hands. Incentivizing such investments in Robotics by including them in Priority Sector Lending or by providing tax benefits and exemption will help in quick adoption and not only make our supply chain exceptionally reliable and resilient to such shocks but also will generate high quality employment. Just like the Department of Atomic Energy, a separate department for Robotics should be made and kept directly under the Prime Minister Of India.

4) Utilize the Land Bank

With Dharavi becoming a hotspot for the outbreak in Mumbai, it has created a compelling case for decongesting our metro cities and providing affordable houses to the labors. The Public Sector Undertakings are sitting on huge stockpiles of land, with a renewed vigor, these land parcels should be quickly utilized for building affordable houses for Below Poverty Line families and provide them a good standard of living with all basic amenities. This can be done by the government itself or can be done in partnership with private firms. A clear and transparent process will ensure unnecessary delays in the form of injunctions and court cases are avoided. This will boost the infrastructure related sectors in the country. Also, since the traffic and other interruptions are low, the ongoing infrastructure projects like metro, railways, highways should be pushed hard by maintaining the social distancing and safe work norms. It will help us complete these critical projects earlier and save us critical opportunity costs and interest costs on capital.

5) Short Term Financial Balm

While the government has asked the industries to not lay off people, it is becoming increasingly difficult for industries to manage the payroll cost. While it is important to help the industries, it is also imperative to not let unscrupulous managements get away with bad decisions under the garb of Covid. More than 6.5 Lakh people have dug into their PF savings to compensate for the income loss due to Covid-19 lockdown. It would be wise to revisit the PF benefit provided by the government to industries announced on 26th March by covering the employer and employee contribution for all industries irrespective of size of the industry for all employees having taxable income up to 10 Lakhs for next three months. The ESIC contributions for next three months can also be borne by the government. This will help the organizations in reducing their payroll costs. Industries can be provided help in the form of deferment of taxes, electricity dues, lease and rentals for three months. Duration can be changed for specific industries depending on the impact from Covid-19. These incentives should be linked with the caveat to not reduce the employment during the pandemic. Industries can also discuss with employees and focus on taking pay-cuts rather than doing layoffs. Highly leveraged companies will still face liquidity problems and some companies will still fall short of their runway, short term interest free credit line can be granted to such companies through banks to cover their payroll and some fixed cost, provided they do not do mass lay-offs.

Covid-19 has brought the glaring gaps in our healthcare system to the forefront. Needless to say, we must improve the basic healthcare facilities at our government hospitals across the country. This should not be looked at in the terms of economic profit or loss as our Prime Minister has said, “Jaan hai toh Jahaan hai”. We have come out of earlier crises and I am sure we will overcome this crisis as well in time. The economy will restart with a button and a simple push. It will for sure take a lot of effort and perseverance to bring it back on its feet. But one thing I am sure, sooner or later all will be well, and the human spirit will overcome this challenge as well.

Are cobots the next wave of warehouse automation?

Robots are being used in the space of automation since a decade back and have undergone several updates during this period.

Collaborative robots or Cobots, are currently facing its boom period leveraging its easy configuration and app-based controls. Invented in 1996, cobots have just started making impact on various industries across the globe. These robots unlock the way to automation for almost every size of business. It is renowned as one of the cost-effective automation solutions which will work alongside humans, enhancing their capacities and simultaneously building their skills.

What is inside?

Cobots have built in safety mechanism including power and force limiting technologies which make them safe to collaborate with human operators. Cobots are fashioned with inherent safety features like force feedback and collision detection. Hence, they are more precise, powerful and collaborative and take lesser time to deploy as compared to their conventional and bulky counterparts. For companies with seasonal demands, dynamic product lines or multiple process can opt for cobots which can also be moved between different tasks.

They are equipped with sensors, smart technologies and systems which are linked with IOT and specific systems. For the purpose of distance sensing, cobots are in-built with vision or radar sensors. This helps them to implement speed and separation monitoring. Non-ergonomic workstations can be greatly improved with the help of robots. Cobots are enabled with verbal command functions and incorporate voice interpretation.

Market speaks

As per BIS Research, by 2021, the collaborative-robot market is expected to grow to approximately $2 billion and 150,000 units. Several other industries are also looking towards cobots as a way of introducing the new automation future.

How do they add value?

Many businesses which are at their nascent stage of automation can see cobots as their tool to take their next step towards automation. One of the major benefits of cobots is its built with easy programming that allows even an inexperienced user to learn the process by simply moving the robotic arm to the desired waypoint and using a touchscreen to set the required actions. It involves a user-friendly software and mobile applications for the cobot to learn new actions on the go by leveraging the capabilities of artificial intelligence. By using a cobot, the programming can be performed on one unit and can be copied to others, making it quickly redeployable to different processes. This also include a much lesser cost than the traditional robots and generate a better ROI. As already mentioned, it provides safe collaboration to work alongside humans, providing the worker with an extra set of hands. Unlike cobots, the guarding and safety mechanism of traditional robots is bulky and expensive. Cobots are lightweight and easily movable to different places as well as different tasks. They are more consistent and accurate than humans and hence the errors are minimized in the operations.

Cobots play a big role in the development of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things. These days cobots area being used for various tasks such as pick and place, finishing tasks, Process Tasks (which requires a tool to interact with a workpiece), packaging and palletizing, quality inspection etc. Right now, we’re at a tipping point whereby there aren’t too many hurdles anymore to leverage this technology. We may count it as the day 0, when cobots will transform the trends in the automation sphere and will realize the implementations of Industry 4.0.

Robonomics : The science of Robotic Automation

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm

A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law

A robot must protect its own existence if such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law

Isaac Asimov, a science fiction author and professor at Boston University postulated the “Three Laws Of Robotics” in his 1942 popular short story “Run-around”. Though these laws appeared fictional at the time of writing, the advent of technology has made humans and Robots work together and these laws more or less, form the crux of the operation in such workplaces. While countries like Germany, Italy, Sweden, France, S. Korea, China, Spain, the US, UK have taken to the use of Robots in a big way subsequently driving up productivity and scale, India has somewhat lagged in the adoption of Robots on the shop floor. As the Government pushes on the idea of “Make in India”, it becomes imperative for Indian manufacturers to adopt Robots at the workplace.

With increased adoption globally, standard robot models are now mass-produced, and this presents a perfect opportunity for small and medium-sized companies to deploy Robotic Automation in their manufacturing and drive the next wave of value unlocking. A holistic view of the costs involved shall allow them to make the decision to adopt the Robotic Automation. At Addverb, we recommend the “FOLDUP” approach to customers to calculate the ROI for Robotic Automation.

Flexibility: Robotic Automation is future-ready automation, by just reprogramming the robot and changing the end tools, the entire production process can be tweaked. This is in stark contrast with the special purpose machines which generally have hard tools that cannot be tweaked. In the case of a manual process, the human workforce clubbed with archaic labor laws makes the production process very inflexible.

Overheads: Once the upfront investment has been made in Robotic Automation, the cost of running the entire system is very less as compared to a manual system. Robotic Automation ensures low or no maintenance and administrative costs, which are quite high while managing a manual workforce. These costs are often not included in the ROI calculation, also the administrative costs (Overheads) generally tend to increase as the number of years of operation increases. Taking this into account results in a very low-cost of total ownership for Robotic Automation.

Labour: At present, the majority of the jobs that absorb most of the labor are repetitive in nature, these kinds of jobs do not add any skill to the people who are employed. This, in turn, results in stagnation of labor which creates a hostile industrial relations scenario. With Robotic Automation, the labor that is required to maintain the robots is highly skilled and as such this provides better employment opportunity, resulting in harmonious industrial relations. Quite a few jobs in manufacturing take place in an environment that is hostile to the human body, using robots for such processes is a great investment that also ensures harmonious Industrial Relations.

Dependability: The manual process often results in variability and quality defects. Robotic Automation is highly dependable, and robots often prove to be superior to humans in terms of quality of the work for most of the production processes. Robotic Automation can drastically reduce the number of defects and improve the quality of the inspection. As Robotic Automation displays zero deviation from the production process, the resulting quality of the finished products is quite good. This cost often gets overlooked as a manual process usually results in high-quality defects, affecting the overall brand of the company as well.

Usage: This is the most important criterion that must be factored in while implementing Robotic Automation. Robots allow three-shift operations, 7 days a week and 365 days a year without any interruption and stoppage. While comparing with a manual process, this must be compared to an equivalent workforce that shall be required to manage such operations at this scale. It ensures continuous production without any stoppages due to administrative issues.

Productivity: Apart from non-stop usage, one of the most neglected aspect of Robotic Automation is the increase in Productivity. Having a Robot is like having a highly skilled resource available, round the clock. Unlike Robots, the human body is susceptible to short-term fatigue, injury and disability. Many jobs in manufacturing typically either because of the hostile environment or being repetitive in nature result in low productivity after some time. This is not the case with Robotic Automation, which ensures constant productivity throughout.

Even with all this, the most important factor that determines the success of Robotic Automation in a factory is an “Integrator”- a company which completely understands the nuances of Robotic Automation and can design complete solution that will maximize the output by selecting the right robot, designing the layout, integrating the vision system, etc.

Robotic Automation offers a very reliable and efficient production process, robots typically can be refurbished and used again after a period of 10-12 years with ease. All these factors make the ROI on Robotic Automation attractive, a good rule of thumb is to target a minimum of three years for calculating the ROI. After these three years, typically Robotic Automation results in positive cash flow for the company with minimum variability and high-efficiency. That’s the stage when actual value unlocking happens for the organization. It becomes imperative for small and medium enterprises, who aim to grow, to look beyond the near future to truly ascertain the gains obtained from Robotic Automation.

Which factors to keep in mind before implementing a Goods to Person Automation Solution to your warehouse?

Have you ever imagined what caused the implementation of Goods to person automation solutions in the warehouses? For decades, warehouses used person to goods solutions to fulfill the supply chain requirements. But with the growth in e-commerce and change in market dynamics, Goods to person automation solutions are gaining popularity as the panacea to solve the present-day demands. Though Goods to person picking solutions have recently gained a lot of traction, their existence dates back as decades old. However, new technology and software advancements have resulted in its efficient functionality and optimum productivity.

On one hand, companies are exploring options like Material handling robots and shuttle robots to increase throughput with the increasing number of SKUs. On the other hand, companies with a low number of SKUs but high-volume storage requirements are also opting for goods to person automation. So, let’s understand what are some of the situations that make you think of giving serious consideration for Goods to Person automation.

• Does your warehouse require significantly high picking throughputs than through manual picking methods?
• Do you plan to utilize the vertical space of your warehouse and get an additional storage area?
• Does your warehouse host a huge number of SKUs and with high velocities?
• Does your inventory prone to external circumstances and hence require special safety?
• Recently it has been found that 87% of the theft occurs in warehouses and freight yards. Does your warehouse also report increased pilferage?
• Are you facing increased picking travel and reduced throughputs?
• Do you require complete accuracy in your retrieval and storage operations?
• Do you require an ergonomic way for the movements in your warehouse?
Goods to person automation should be seen from the lens of process automation, as there is no single solution that can solve your problem in its entirety. Hence, a plug and play approach to combine the solutions which suit best to your operation will result in the successful deployment of automation. There is rarely a single G2P solution that suits every distribution center and its SKU storage demands.

Depending on the operation, pickers in many G2P environments can achieve 500-plus lines per-hour (LPH). This is comparatively much higher than what is achieved in a P2G environment. Inventory profiling through ABC classification of goods is one of the pre-requisites before deciding to go with P2G or G2P automation.
Companies like Kiva, Dematic, Swisslog, GreyOrange, Autostore are working towards introducing innovative technologies and are evolved to deal with the rapid and accurate throughput for a growing number of SKUs and low volume orders. Addverb as a global robotics company has evolved to disrupt the Goods to person automation sphere providing process automation to your current operating facility. Its wide range of portfolios includes shuttle robots and mobile robots which enable end to end G2P automation in your warehouse system. Right now, 3PL’s are increasingly looking at G2P automation capabilities but it may take a few more years for them to completely go with G2P.

So, after breaking the pallets the individual cartons have to be stored efficiently and have to be retrieved quickly for order packing. Hence quick throughputs for the material handling are important, to achieve the same was invented the carton shuttle system as a mini-form of the Pallet Shuttle.

Smart Factories and future of robotics

Technology has always disrupted manufacturing, the first industrial revolution is driven by the steam engine led to the development of large factories symbolized by textile mills. Henry Ford, inspired by Mutton Shops, brought in Assembly line (Immortalized by Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times). In the 1970s, Computer automated manufacturing and provided scales and volumes never seen before. Now, in 2016 we are at the cusp of another industrial revolution which the experts are calling “Industry 4.0”. It consists of cybernetic systems incorporating Internet Of Things, Augmented Reality, Big Data, 3-D Printing, Simulation, and Robotics and is powered by Cloud computing. This revolution will convert the “Static Factories” into “Dynamic” and “Smart” factories driving productivity, enhancing efficiency and will ultimately alter the makeup of the workforce forever. The impact of these technologies on the workplace, job and on employees will be profound and it becomes imperative for us to understand this change in manufacturing and its subsequent impact on talent management and engagement.

Impact of Robotics

1. Industrial Relations

HR Professionals take a lot of pride in managing Industrial Relations and the “Norm Based Settlement” with the union is the flagship product of harmonious Industrial Relations. With the “Smart factories”, many manual jobs at the shop floor level on the production line will cease to exist in the way we know them today. An operator will not be restricted to managing only a production line or process but equipped with IoT, Data Analysis and cobots will actually manage the entire shift or floor, this will result in a meaningful and engaging job for the operator, which will enhance his employability as well. This in-turn will encourage flexibility in timings, rationing of manpower, redundancy of supervisory roles eventually leading to self-managed teams across factories. The workforce in manufacturing will resemble that of IT companies with more focus on jobs related to Data Analytics. In such a scenario unions will have to reinvent themselves to remain meaningful. The traditional system of norm-based settlement determining productivity and wages does not have a bright future and would have to be replaced by an individualistic and dynamic wage determination model that might not incorporate productivity as production will depend much more on technology than humans.

2. Manpower Planning

The method of recruitment has primarily been interviews with different formats such as stress interviews, behavioral event interviews, etc. Interviews typically score high on inherent biases, clubbed with inflated resumes, the reliability of the process is always questionable. This is poised for a change as Real-Time simulation created by data points from the resume and past experience of the candidate will replace the interviews. The dexterity and ability to decode dynamic instructions for completion of tasks shall be judged more reliably through Augmented Reality. These tools will be more reliable and suited to quick sourcing of candidates. Companies are already making use of these technologies to induct the employee and make his onboarding a smooth experience.

Till now organizations have been following the approach of building detailed structured Job Descriptions and Work Instruction for the employees to follow. With technologies such as augmented reality and IoT, experts sitting at remote locations would be able to guide production & maintenance professionals at different sites. Instead of hiring full-time employees, organizations would look to hire experts exclusively for particular projects. These experts will guide the resources deployed at the factories through Augmented Reality, as compared to the frequent visits that they have to make to the sites to solve problems, this will improve the efficiency by leaps and bounds. The resources to be deployed at factories would need to display high learning ability to decode dynamic instructions, as he would communicate with different experts to solve a wide range of problems on a host of diverse technologies. Along with Monster & Naukri, platforms that provide lifetime employments, platforms such as Amazon’s Mturk (Gives IT Projects today) will come into vogue for manufacturing as well. In India, start-ups such as “Flexing-It” are already providing professionals to corporate for particular projects, with Industry 4.0 insight, they will play a key role in helping companies manage talent. HR will play a key role in designing the projects and deciding which jobs are to be sourced out and which jobs need permanent deployment in the organization. The jobs of production and maintenance which would require only operational expertise of these technologies could be provided on a permanent basis and the experts would be required only for implementing and designing a project. This will require a thorough understanding of Industry 4.0 technology and will drive competitive advantage for organizations. To manage such a diverse workforce will require a different approach which we shall discuss later in “Talent Engagement”.

3. Learning & Development

Presently, due to a large number of employees and nature of production process in factories, training programs are typically organized in lean months and one size fits all training modules are generally delivered, either through classroom sessions or through regular e-learning modules. Organizations spend a lot of time justifying the impact of these training and since the impact of these sessions is not tangible, line managers seldom take interest in these training sessions. Industry 4.0 shall overhaul the entire Talent Development methodology. Training needs identification shall again be driven by data obtained from the operations and through augmented reality and simulations training shall be decentralized and customized according to individual needs. Since the data before and after training shall be available, the impact of training could easily be quantified.
Decentralized Blended Learning i.e. training each individual according to his/her own need, time and place shall be the path forward. With a high focus on learning ability and dexterity, organizations that will have a dynamic Learning & Development program shall conquer the problem of attrition as they would have tools that will make person dependency in future extinct. This will have a big impact on the compensation strategy of the organization, as they would not need to disturb the internal parity by accommodating outliers because of their skills.

4. Talent Engagement

As is evident, many tasks of HR professionals in factories which take up a lot of time like settlement negotiations, training administration, recruitment shall change and as such this will require the HR professionals to tweak their priorities and adjust their skills. The future professionals shall have to be a mix of geek and people manager. Apart from HR analytics which will give decision points, HR Managers shall have a lot of time to engage employees. People connect shall be very important and the conventional wisdom of “Meaningful Conversations” shall be very critical. Especially with a large diverse workforce that would be working on key projects but would not be “Employees” in the traditional sense, conversations and connect shall become extremely important. Through these conversations, HR professionals shall have to ensure that they maintain their people connect and address the grievance of employees (in all forms) and get to know the employees as individuals. The ability to have these meaningful conversations shall be an important criterion on which the performance of HR will be judged. With high-quality jobs and ample time at their disposal, employees shall become more vocal and expressive, HR shall have to offer different creative avenues for employees to channel their energy. More creative ideas to engage employees shall surface in the factories as was the case in Silicon Valley companies two decades back, which changed the game of engagement.

Many experts have termed the growth that will be driven by Industry 4.0 as “Jobless Growth”. It is not going to be the case, with more technology, the manual meaningless jobs shall cease to exist and high-end engaging jobs shall be created in the manufacturing sector. In the last 30 years, organizations have incorporated practices such as Overtime, Use of Apprentices & Contract Workmen for regular jobs and many more such “Innovations” to drive up efficiency, this has created what the government calls “Bad Jobs” without any future and security. With the advent of industry 4,0 resulting in traditional jobs becoming redundant, organizations shall have the opportunity to reinvent themselves to add value to the jobs in the factories in this era. Building on the conventional wisdom of Trust and Fairness, employers shall need to harness the technology to create a vibrant workplace and an innovative workforce.

Industrial Applications of Mobile Robots

The onset of the Industrial Revolution augmented the Mobile Robots Application across different industrial functions, however, the latest developments and the pace of business operations made it almost a mandate for many companies to adopt these bots into their everyday operations. Mobile robots, descendants of driverless vehicles that were taken birth in the grocery warehouse of Mac Barret found their place not only within the four walls of the industrial warehouse but across different applications like military, security, healthcare, domestic, surveillance, and entertainment industries.

Despite their ubiquitous presence across the spectrum, we will discuss the most popular Mobile Robots Application & the associated structures here.

Intra-Logistics – Warehouse Logistics

Shelf Units – Semi-automated installation (manual intervention) – To transport semi-finished or finished goods between productions, between production and warehouse and/or in warehouse logistics. This is especially useful for automobile or electronics industries where the manufacturing of main products involves the assembly of thousands of spare parts.

Conveyor band/belts– This is one of the popular applications of mobile robotics with a conveyor top module attached to it. It is used majorly to transport material between fixed conveyor band/belts- it could be between a robotic depalletization unit to shelving unit, or from a palletizing unit to dispatch unit or between production lines or from the production line to delivery. These are usually fully automated solutions.

Robotic Arm – A mobile robot mounted with a bin-picking robot, popularly used for automatic picking solutions. This solution ensures high picking accuracy and is used for picking fast-moving goods with small order sizes and high volumes. This solution coupled with pick to light makes it a popular Paper Industry

Paper roll handling was one of the important jobs to be performed given the sensitivity of the material. It’s quite common that conventional manual handling of the paper rolls leads to damage of the outer layers of the roll, and that is as much as up to 10cm of the diameter of the roll!
This leads to the adoption of automated guided vehicles for material handling & transportation of paper rolls and pallets of sheeted paper as early as the 1970s. With the evolution of Mobile robots & flexibility, they have numerous applications.
In the paper industry, vertical paper roll warehousing and horizontal delivery of paper rolls to printing machines are very typical. To facilitate this, mobile robots are integrated with the down ender system.
Hospitals: Another interesting area of application of mobile robotics is Hospitals, where they are used for carrying surgical/medical supplies, linens, medicines, needle trays, and other generic items. Their ability to interact with one another, collision avoidance capabilities with other mobile robots, humans, obstacles like doors, walls… etc make them very flexible to use in multi-specialty hospitals where nurses and other helping staff do walk for kilometers every day carrying the essential items.

Electronics Industry:  It is characterized by the highest quality and product design. It also consists of several serial components of high quality. During the manufacturing & shipping, it is of paramount importance that these spare parts need to be dealt with extreme cleanliness and orderliness. The weights to be transported are usually of standard boxes of size 600mm*400mm. Majorly, in these production sites, flexibility is key– both the layout and the processes often change over the course of ongoing optimization. Mobile robots with their reliability and flexibility of operation, exactly fit into the demands of this industry and have been playing a vital role in material transportation for quite some time & the trend is only uprising.

Food & Beverage Industry Globally, this industry is booming at a skyrocketing growth rate with numerous players, multiple SKUs and extending every nook & corner. This continuous growth of the sector leads to a great utilization of available space plus the very nature of the products demand quick supply chain operations. Especially the beverage industry is subjected to enormous price pressure worldwide. Hence there is an acute need for operational cost savings and even the very marginal price differences can define the fate of the business. This is how automation and mobile robots came into the picture. Popularly piggyback model of mobile robots can be used to perform pallet transportation. These mobile robots are equipped with conveyors to manage pallet pick up and drop off laterally onto stationary conveyor equipment. These robots do offer a high amount of operational flexibility.

Way forward
Currently, mobile robots are in heavy or unusual payload applications, however, flexibility is at the core of their functionality, they are fast penetrating into new industries with each passing day. Mobile Robots Application will soon become the harbingers for the realization of ‘Lean Manufacturing’ that connects islands of automation across different business functions. Dynamo, an indigenously developed mobile robot from Addverb can handle multiple payloads from 50Kg to 1500Kg. Based on Natural navigation and advanced control systems this is one of the best in industry.

Read on to know more about it here: Automated solutions in fashion warehouse

Robotic Bin Picking

Order fulfillment has always been one of the core activities of the entire supply chain operations and is becoming more and more intensive thanks to the proliferation of SKUs, order volume and operational density. A typical pharma company that deals with thousands of specific, small but high volume of SKUs demand an extremely high precision order fulfillment operation. The manual process for order fulfillment here not only reduces throughput but also leads to process inefficiencies and inaccuracies. Adopting robotic bin picking solutions that deliver robotic picking of objects with the aid of computer-based vision systems and sensors delivers the right solution for picking objects that are dumped in an unstructured way.

Robotic bin picking is extremely useful while dealing with heavy, sharp, hazardous materials and to replace labor-intensive order fulfillment through picking, and bulk parts sortation. It ensures high levels of picking accuracy, throughput, high uptime with MTBF of up to 75000 hours.

Why is it a hard nut to crack?

Despite the best of its benefits, bin picking is still at nascent stages and is yet to realize full potential due to the sheer complexities involved.

Localization: A bin-picking robot has to identify the position and orientation of the object placed in the bin. This is an extremely unstructured environment where the positions and orientations of the objects keep on changing every time an object is picked from the bin by the robot. This requires training the system with thousands of orientations for each object or SKU, and, in an industry like E-commerce, where the business deals with lakhs of SKUs, it’s a daunting task.

System Integration: Robotic picking solution demands a good balance to coordinate the functionalities of vision systems, software, computing power and data crunching all in real-time. Ultimately the performance is delivered to grip the objects from a bin.
In fact, so far, a good amount of success rate has been achieved on geometrically symmetrical objects, which are with plain features, are not too heavy, and have some sort of sufficient planar surface in all of their random orientations, that makes it easy for the robots to pick and easy to grip feature.

How many types of bin picking?

There are a variety of subsets of bin picking systems that are already existing:
Structured Bin Picking: Where the robotic bin picking happens on structurally organized objects which are easy to identify and pick. Using 2D Vision, imaging, and analysis it can be done to a fair degree of success.

Semi-Structured Bin Picking: Where the objects are positioned with a fair degree of organization and predictability to aid in picking

Random Bin Picking: Where the objects are placed in completely random positions, can be overlapping, and have multiple orientations, making this the most complicated version. Advanced technologies consisting of 3D imaging and 3D analysis will have to be created to tackle the most challenging parts yet – the shingled, packaged, or deformable parts – that are difficult to capture with machine vision. This system is called Randomized Bin Picking because the robot doesn’t know what object to pick, it will pick the objects randomly from the bin based on an algorithm that provides information of position coordinates of the object to be picked.

The way forward: Bin picking normally is referred to as ‘random bin picking’ and is the holy grail of the entire research on bin picking. With the rise of the e-commerce industry, where millions of SKUs and orders need to be processed, the most challenging part of the system is that the gripper of the robot should be able to hold a square shape soap and a conical structure of a liquid container. The same applies with other industries where bin picking can yield higher efficiencies.

What makes up a Mobile Robot, the Critical Components

With the manufacturing industry taking a shift from mass production to mid-volume and mid-variety, flexible manufacturing systems are increasingly in use. They require not only machine flexibility but also flexible material handling, storage & retrieval systems. Being the most versatile material movement system, Mobile Robots got the most deserved attention over time. To understand in-depth about the deep technical aspects of a mobile robotic system lets delve more into what constitutes this & what are the important robot components of this whole robotic system.

A mobile robot is more than just a single vehicle; it’s a system with the integration of several robot components that form the building blocks. As observed earlier, the navigation system & the control systems are at the heart of the robot elements that act as the guiding force for these vehicles. Other principal robot elements include the safety system, traffic management system, battery charging system, and hardware components like the body of a mobile robot, payload..etc.

Broadly we can divide the robot components of the mobile robot into 2 parts; software & hardware.

The critical software components that run the mobile robot are:

Navigation System

The navigation system, one of the most important robot components guides the path of autonomous vehicles and it can be a closed path or an open path. Closed path systems are used in case of automated guided vehicles, where a predetermined path plan will be there, and the path is laid by physical objects like wired navigation technology or guided tape system.

Mobile robots rather operate on an open-path system, which is laser sensor navigation system, or lidar-based natural navigation where the best path will be decided in real-time according to the changes in the environment. These are advanced systems over closed path systems and offer much flexibility. The type of navigation system can be chosen depending on the requirement of the operations & the environment in which it operates.

Control System

The control system integrates mobile robots with the Fleet (other mobile robots), WMS/WCS and also the user interface. This is a centralized system that drives the entire functionality of mobile robots by interacting with WMS/WCS/ERP for job initiation, managing the movement by calculating the optimal path, uploading and discharging of the payload as per the given commands. In the case of advanced navigation systems, like natural navigation or laser-based navigation, it stores the map of the entire warehouse and directs the mobile bot based on the input commands.

Safety System

The Safety system consists of a set of sensors and bumpers in the interior architecture of the mobile robot. These sensors take care of localization of the mobile robot, and collision avoidance. They offer 2 level safety system, one for the slowdown of bot upon detection of avoidance & the other for stopping the mobile robot to prevent a collision. These sensors help in positioning the mobile bot w.r.t the surrounding system.

Fleet Management System

Fleet management system organizes and manages the movement of AGVs in the given area such that no collisions will happen among the vehicles and with people or other objects. More importantly, it facilitates the proper integration of AGVs among themselves & external equipment such as forklifts, conveyors, shuttles ..etc.

The critical hardware components that run the mobile robot are:

Energy Supply

Energy supply to mobile robot takes care of: Vehicle guidance control, electrical, electronic and sensory systems, mechanical moving components and load transfer equipment.

Basic methods used for energy supply to mobile robots include:

  • Traction batteries (electric vehicle batteries, or EVBs) (lead or NiCd batteries)
  • Non-contacting energy transfer
  • Hybrid Systems: Non-contacting energy transfer plus a small auxiliary battery

All these technologies have their justifications in terms of cost, battery lifetime, the time needed for a full cycle charging, type of operations, power density..etc, hence depending on the requirement one can choose the system.


Payload is the maximum weight carried by the mobile robot, and it depends on the mechanical structure, motor specifications. Depending on the requirement, it can be scalable to any external MHE like a fork, conveyor, lift deck and tow trucks.

Safety System

On the hardware part, the safety system of the mobile robot will have different alert mechanisms like buzzer sounds, optical warning lights and acoustic warning signals, which include blinkers to indicate a change of direction as with automobiles, but with acoustic support.

These individual robot components make up one whole system that provides flexible material movement from one point to another without the need for any fixed conveyor networks or any laid paths on the floor or ceiling. To know more about how superior these systems are over its older counterparts, watch this space.

How mobile robots are influencing the RAAS trend?

Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation. This is the era of innovation. Emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality, Big Data, Cloud Computing, 3D printing, etc are making the manufacturers to rethink their production & manufacturing processes. The entire value chain of activities is undergoing a paradigm shift due to the intervention of these technologies and businesses are investing a huge sum in implementing and adapting them. Material handling is one of the core aspects of intra-logistics and inter-logistics operations technology up-gradation is essential to achieve the complete efficiency in the value chain. Introduction of automation for various movements inside the four walls of the warehouse to ensure safe, accurate and speedy handling of material is gaining popular attention. One of the most efficient and widely used automation solutions for intra-logistics operations to carry out these movements more efficiently is Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs).

AMRs can be easily integrated into any warehouse without any major change in the existing layout of the facility. These bots run on artificial intelligence and coordinate with a cloud-based system where it assigns tasks according to the operational requirement. They are also environment-friendly and can perform the task in any type of physical condition whether there is a low ceiling, poor lightening or inadequate HVAC. These mobile robots do not need any training to perform their operations, unlike the manual system where it involves huge training costs. Generally, the payback period for mobile robots is 3 years.

The growth of e-commerce in the current period has catalyzed the use of mobile robots in the warehouse and instigated R&D for continuous improvement. In order to optimize the complete value chain, companies specifically in this industry are interested to invest more in their core business and outsource the rest. Hence RaaS (Robotics as a Service) as a practice is coming up in conversations in recent days.

According to ABI research, there will be more than 1.3 million RAAS deployments worldwide by 2026. Because of its flexibility, high throughput and scalability organizations are finding RAAS as a more effective way to adopt in warehouses. It helps small, large and medium businesses to meet the growing demand and overcome major challenges faced while performing warehouse operations. Companies such as Fetch Robotics, Omron, Milvus, Ottomotors, Geekplus, MIR, Locus Robotics are some of the well-known names in the sphere of mobile robots. Meanwhile, Addverb Technologies has Dynamo in its kitty which is an autonomous mobile robot having a high payload capacity. It can be flexibly integrated into any warehouse organization and can be used for Goods-to-person picking of materials. Its natural navigation makes it possible to navigate it in the existing environment.

With Industry 4.0 on the forefront, the integration of advanced techniques and technologies with the movement across the warehouse will transform the conventional manufacturing processes and bring along great opportunities for manufacturers and end-users in the mobile robot market.