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Machine Learning inside the four walls of your warehouse

Machine Learning (ML) can be defined as the scientific study of algorithms that a computer uses to complete predefined tasks without human intervention. Machine Learning relies on patterns, movements, and inferences of the objects in its provided tasks. While we already see the use of machine learning in our day-to-day activities like face detection, speech recognition, trading algorithms, and online streaming recommendations, etc., this technology can be used in modern-day warehouses to elevate automation and increase productivity as well. Machine learning not only helps in improving the efficiency of a warehouse but also in organizing as bulk work gets diverted to artificial intelligence, warehouse staff can focus their energy on product quality and customer experience. Let’s take a look at how machine learning can revolutionize the modern-day warehouse experience.

Practical applications in the core areas

In warehouse management, machine learning can help alternate traditional planning and optimization tools which rely on certain process modelling or engineering. For instance, consider labour management systems that are based on engineered laboured standards. An Electronic Line Shafting (ELS) based system is explicitly programmed to calculate the expected work completion times for a given task using a pre-defined set of numbers and variables. ELS requires a huge upfront investment and measurements to come up with values used in the model. Machine learning, on the other hand, can help simplify this task by analysing streams of minute operational data, without the need for upfront engineering and numbers. The data can arrive through a number of sources such as mobile devices and automation systems, even WCS.

Receiving a new product in a warehouse can also be simplified with the help of machine learning. Machine learning can help analyse the current location of items in a warehouse, and when new shipments arrive, can match them to the correct location. This reduces the time consumption, reduces mistakes, and increase the efficiency of operations. ML can also help direct manual workers to the shortest route to reach a specific point in the warehouse, thereby saving time. Picking, another task is the highest visibility task in a warehouse, and machine learning can optimize it in a number of ways. As per a report by Adaptalift, order picking forms as much as 55% of operating costs within a warehouse, as compared to shipping and storage, and even has a direct impact on customer satisfaction levels. ML can help reduce the number of steps in the picking process, thus reducing the margin of error and damages. Whilst picking multiple orders, ML can help analyse the orders in the system and arrange the direct path, while simultaneously separating orders.

Inventory management is another aspect of the modern warehouse which needs a careful tendering to achieve efficiencies in supply chain. A lot of time and investment goes into improving the optimization techniques to make this process as smooth as possible. Machine learning can step in at this point and help improve inventory optimization, especially companies with multiple warehouses. ML can take into account multiple independent variables that could cause errors or delays in managing inventory, and provide appropriate suggestions and solutions to manage stock efficiently.

Another important factor that can contribute to making a warehouse more efficient is the use of the Internet of Things inside a warehouse. Implementation of sensors, RFID tags, device-to-device communication, and other forms of connectivity can help manage daily tasks easily. Machine learning can run the data collected by the IoT sensors and can help increase the life of machinery such as conveyor belts, shuttles, navigation-driven mobile robots, and even understand wear-and-tear by AGVs and other smaller delivery bots.

As a final word…

While in a current warehouse, we might see robots working alongside humans, machine learning can help propel the importance of the accuracy of robots and completely eliminate the need for human presence. A future warehouse, powered by machine learning, will be fully-automated, and an error-free space which will complete all its tasks and projects on-time with a one hundred percent accuracy.

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.

Technology trends in industrial automation for 2018

When Moore observed the fact that the number of transistors in an IC doubles approximately after every two years, it was believed to be the basic principle for the survival of any technology. Later, Moore’s observation was loosely stated as any technology doubles its productive capacity in 18 months. This laid the foundation for all technological developments. Further today we observe that even this 18 months period has been shortened and technological leaps happen within a year. Manufacturing typically is the most impacted field due to any technological advancement. Here we look at the five technological trends that will disrupt the manufacturing sector in the next 12 months in India:

1.Adoption Of Voice: For quite long, scanning as technology has dominated the warehousing industry. Barcodes have been seen as the most effective solution for picking & put away. With AI-based Voice engines becoming more mature, reliable and their availability in regional languages, there shall be increasing use of Voice in warehouses for picking and put-away process. Due ease of use, increased productivity and robustness, voice-based solutions are poised to replace scanning in warehouses in India.

2.Bluetooth Based Asset Tracking: With the logistics startups disrupting the transportation sector and incoming of GST reducing the Truck Turn-Around Time during transportation, companies would be focusing on optimizing their internal workflow and keeping operational costs low. As such cost-effective asset tracking solutions shall be the talk of the town. Being Robust with longer battery lives, encryption-based security and very high accuracy, “Bluetooth Low Energy” beacons based RTLS solutions and asset tracking will replace the existing RFID based asset tracking systems.

3.Smart Factories: For quite some-time now we have been hearing and talking about smart factories. Smart factories are all about connected machines. Competitive pressures and onslaught of technology such as cloud, augmented reality, etc. will prompt manufacturers to look to Industrial IoT solutions to connect the different processes to drive operational gains and to drive agility and scalability. Areas like remote diagnostics, predictive maintenance, fire hydrant management shall be the first areas for disruption and prove to be successful use cases for IoT solutions.

4.Entry Of Mobile Robots: With the automated driving market heating up with a multitude of startups competing to take the lead, resulting in the maturity of technology, this year will see the adoption of automated guided vehicles in the manufacturing and warehousing sector in India. The industry will migrate to more advanced navigation technologies such as LIDAR, RADAR & Cameras from the existing basic magnetic tape solutions.

5. Data Speaks Up: Big Data has been in vogue for quite some time and manufacturing has already been having a big chunk of data to operate on. This year we will see a business using AI-enabled software platforms to make complex decisions on predicting the breakdowns in machines and avoid downtimes. Products that can help in predicting breakdown patterns and improve productivity shall be the mainstay in manufacturing this year.

Does Your Forklifts Take The Road Less Taken ? Try Smart move

Today forklifts are the most common sight in a warehouse. They are heavy vehicles with a pronged device for moving goods from the unloading areas to shelves and taking them for the dispatch area. They carry bulk weights and facilitate easy movement of the inventory. These are very costly equipment, so they have to be utilized to the best of their capacity in order to realize an effective ROI on them.

In fact, the trickle-down effect of forklift efficiency flows down to the bottom line not only by reducing warehouse operating costs but also by improving safety & maximizing warehouse space utilization. However, the reality is otherwise, an Industry survey shows that 94% of material handling businesses do not have an accurate record of their forklift fleet!!

With IoT finding its way into warehouse management systems, smart forklifts can act as change agents to realize better efficiency through forklift management. So, now let us discuss how smart forklifts Improve Efficiency?

1.Tracking Forklift Movement: When a warehouse is operating heavy machinery like Forklifts for material handling, it’s important to know how the forklifts are moving, and where they are moving, because each movement of a forklift has the insight to be looked into & work upon.!
Is the forklift carrying optimal weight per kilometer of its travel?
How many kilometers per day it is traveling with null weight (Empty movement) & how to reduce it?
Which forklift driver is consistently performing well? Which forklift driver is below the expectation? and the list goes on.
Smart forklifts equipped with indoor RTLS systems enable 100% visibility of forklifts and forklift drivers. We can track every movement of forklift including speed and direction.

2.Safety: The man-machine interface is one of the key parameters to evaluate the safety of operations. This interface should be minimum to ensure smooth and safe operations. In this context, it’s inarguable that forklift movements have to be continuously monitored for safety of the drivers, forklifts & inventory.
With the ever-rising complex structures of the warehouses & volume of operations, the safety managers should take decisions about safety routes & loads on the basis of the most reliable data. Smart forklifts can give recommendations on less congested routes by analyzing the data on forklift density over a path in real-time. It also provides the speed profile of forklift operators on a monthly basis, which helps the safety managers to plan training sessions & safety guidelines at blind spots.

3.Warehouse Space Utilization through Analytics: With changing customer requirements and the production of a multitude of new items every day, warehouse slotting cannot afford to be static anymore. The Bin selection logic should be such that the right items are placed at the right places and the design of optimal paths should facilitate optimal forklift movement.
With smart forklifts, the software plots historical forklift movement on the warehouse layout. It gives insights on routing patterns and also identifies locations – that are hidden but eating on the productive time of the warehouse. The heat map analysis gives insights into any changes of A class, B class & C class items and subsequently their storage pattern. It suggests optimal routes on a real-time basis, which improves performance as well as safety.

4. Improve Drivers’ Productivity: By making forklift operators aware of their driving pattern, indicating strengths, weaknesses, peak & low-performance hours, it’s possible to give individual feedback and training sessions.

The Smart Move solution from Addverb comes as a power pack with all the above features. It is also capable of providing insights at a deeper level like the impact of driver’s fatigue level on the productivity, easy integration with any WMS, preventive maintenance module, Forklift Battery Management system and many more, all of which helps in improving the performance of the drivers, easy supervising for managers, and ultimately to realize the best operational efficiency in safe environment.

Why your warehouse needs a Pallet Shuttle??

One of the fundamental questions that concern a warehouse manager is the efficient usage of space. Conventionally, pallets have been stored through various storage methods like floor space stacking, over time newer methods like selective racking, drive-in racking, drive-through racking. Etc. have been put to use – Each of these methods has evolved as an improvement over the earlier ones. However, they failed to provide the benefits that a dense racking system with pallet shuttle can provide, in terms of space utilization, material handling safety, speed & ease of operation.

We will now delve into various reasons on why a warehouse needs a pallet shuttle:

1. Your Business is expanding – Growth is the new mantra of survival: Today’s businesses have to be agile in identifying the newer opportunities not only in existing business segments but also to fight battles in newer business segments & product categories. So, the entire supply chain needs to be responsive to accommodate these growing aspirations. With real estate prices surging up, warehousing is a major cost element today. Businesses opt either a leasing model or to build new warehousing capacity. Both options require detailed evaluation, as, within a period of 5 years, the rental costs have increased from Rs 10 per sqft to Rs 18 Sqft & the cost of warehouse construction is at Rs 1500 per sqft from an earlier figure of Rs 800 sqft. So, every penny saved on an sqft is a penny earned on it.

This underscores why optimizing the existing space is the most sought-after operational objective and dense racking with pallet shuttle is the perfect fit solution as it gives 2 to 3 times storage efficiency in the same space by utilizing the height of the warehouse.

2. The bulk of the inventory lies in a few SKUs: Storage of the inventory must ensure the smooth and quick functioning of the last leg of warehouse activities i.e picking, packing & shipping. Carefully designed warehouse slotting can be a key to achieve this by ensuring inventories of similar characteristics stay at one location. As an example, in a paint industry, where the bulk of the inventory lies in approx. 200 SKUs out of the existing 1000s of SKUs, it is important to store the bulk of SKUs in one place for easy accessibility. This also applies to other industries where the SKU count can be up to 4000-6000 and, about 80% of the inventory lies in a few selective SKUs.

The very structure of dense racking with pallet shuttle allows placing one single SKU in a row for quick access using FIFO/LIFO. Vertical utilization of height enables the bulk inventory to fit in 50% or less space than it consumes otherwise. So, the bulk inventory SKUs can be accommodated using dense racking& all other SKUs can be stored through selective racking. The same logic can be applied to industries/businesses where there is a limited number of SKUs, like Beverages, Textiles or when the businesses are medium to large scale. Pallet Shuttle would be an ideal candidate that helps to leverage its features to archive significant enhancement of storage capacity without any additional investments in warehouse real estate.

3. Absolute FIFO/LIFO is required: When inventory needs to be shipped based on its in warding order, like First in First Out or Last In First Out in an absolute manner, dense racking with pallet shuttle will aptly fit the bill. By giving access to both sides of the dense racking structure, a FIFO system can be implemented; wherein one Forklift & Shuttle can be deployed for another forklift & shuttle at the other end can be used for retrieving the pallets. In storage and retrieval operations of products like Food, and Medicines- where the expiry of the product is of utmost importance, shipping must happen in FIFO fashion. In the case of the LIFO picking system, only one end of the dense racking system will be available for access. The same shuttle can be used for both fetchings & storing the pallets. So dense racking systems can provide extremely organized & accurate inventory storage, unlike all the other pallet strong methods.

4. While storing seasonal inventory: Businesses that operate in seasonal produce earn the lion’s share of their revenues during on-season and will be typically serving demand requirements up to 3 or 4 times of their off-season demand. However, increasing disposable incomes of people due to developing economies is turning new nations into higher consumption economies, In such a scenario it is, quite common that the demand surges can be 7 to 8 times the original demand forecast.

So, to accommodate this higher inventory surges, a dense racking system with a pallet shuttle can be adopted. In the same available off-season storage space, even on-season stock storing can be achieved through maximized height utilization.

5. For improved warehouse ergonomics: Ensuring high levels of safety for operating staff, material, and equipment like racking structure, forklift. etc is of prime importance. By reducing the number of touchpoints, one can achieve this while handling the material. In the case of drive-in or drive-through pallet racking, the operator’s safety is at great risk as they need to be extremely cautious while driving into the racks to access the pallets. In the case of floor stacking method, the material is susceptible to a great amount of damage as often the lightweight items suffer damage by buckling under the weight of other heavier pallets.

In a dense racking structure with pallet shuttle, the number of pallet positions can go as deep as 40 & shuttle can be deployed to access them without any trouble. This ensures a reduced footprint while increasing the number of pallet positions. The safety bumper and sensors provided on the shuttle prevents collision inside the racks with any person/machine/another shuttle.

6. To increase the Speed of operations: In case of floor stacking/drive-in storage system, the speed is very low as they must remove the pallets below or on top before picking the designated pallet. In case of drive-In racks, only 5- to 10-pallet load spaces are accessible like in double-deep racking. All this results in an extremely slow operation. Similarly, in case of extreme temperatures like cold storage areas, the average lift trucks operating in a cooler of freezer lose up to 50% of battery charge and life cycle due to extreme temperatures.

Pallet shuttle can be the best fit for use as it offers a carrying speed of up to 1.5 meters/sec. Besides this pallet shuttle operates effectively in a wider temperature band. Along with this, the simplicity of operation through remote control & the safety features through bumpers, and sensors provide smooth and safe operation.

So, all in all, the never-ending quest of companies for operational efficiencies, aggressive business targets, and increasing regulations for safety demand flexible & safe warehousing space.

Having Pallet Shuttle in your material handling armor would drastically improve warehouse functioning either in a semi-automatic mode through forklift or in advanced applications like mother-child shuttle/complete AS/RS system.

Watch this space to know more insights on why your warehouse needs a pallet shuttle or how it helps in achieving your business targets!!

Has Pick by voice become The New Black in the space of automation?

If you are still wondering about why over half a million people are talking about Voice-based picking, then keep on reading. Speech recognition has become dramatically popular in our daily lives and subsequently finds tremendous potential in the space of warehouse automation. Due to the advance NLP platform, it’s time for pick by voice technology to flourish as a technology since it has become sound and pronunciation agnostic. Each year thousands of users are adopting this new technology for the purpose of executing the warehousing operations and distribution center task management. The voice-based technology is more intuitive and improves the configurability and flexibility required for the smooth functioning of workflow processes. It improves the operating efficiency and results in profitability for the business leading to more bang for the buck.

Voice Vs HHT? Game Over For HHT
While the handheld terminal technology burdens the worker with a device in a hand, due to which the actual picking operation can be performed by only one hand or the HHT has to be tucked in for every pick operation, leading to higher time for picking. Furthermore, scanning takes more time resulting in lesser efficiency. This also takes higher training time than voice-based picking solutions. HHT creates obstacles in hand which when free can carry out multiple tasks increasing the picking per minute and hence the productivity is multiplied many times.

Order Picking With Voice – How it works?
With Pick by voice technology, the operator is given a smartphone-enabled with the voice-based app, powered by Natural Language Processing platform linked with a headset which helps them to accept audio instructions and deliver voice confirmations. The picklist is pushed to the system and the picker is directed to a specific location in the aisle where he is to perform the picking operation. Once the picker is an incorrect aisle, he confirms that he is at the correct bin location by reading out the check digit. After this, the system will deliver the required quantity to be picked and the picker confirms this process after picking that required quantity of units. Confirming this will lead him to the next picking location for the next picking operation. The voice-based system will also optimize the pick path so as to ensure that the operator has to cover the minimum distance. Walking alone takes between 45-60% of the total time of a picker’s operation and optimization helps to bring thigs unproductive activity to 15-35%. This ensures the efficiency of the workforce as they do the picking operation throughout the day.

Benefits of Voice-based picking
This paperless and hands-free technology drives a worker towards better efficiency by minimizing errors and improving picking accuracy. It increases the accuracy of operations by 35% reducing the chance of picking the wrong item due to lack of concentration. It creates a dialogue between the final required operation and the worker through the simplest means of conversation i.e. your own voice in your own language. By leveraging the services provided by today’s Internet of things, voice-based picking leads to better inventory positioning and fulfillment operations. Along with providing free hands to carry out various operations on the go, it also includes reporting tools that improve the functioning of your already existing WMS. This provides better scope for the management to anticipate workforce situations and make an informed decision later on. Most importantly, it keeps the worker focused enough while doing the picking operation resulting in better efficiency and far better accuracy. The headphones used in this process are mostly enabled with noise cancellation so that the worker would not get distracted from the assigned task. The constant confirmation through voice ensures that the process is running in a highly accurate and productive manner. Since the eyes of the picker are also free, there is increased safety as compared to the paper-based system where the picker has to keep his eyes stuck on the paper to ensure the right item is picked in the right quantity. It requires a training time of an average 15 minutes which reduces the conventional training time by 67%.

Finally, this whole process results in better employee satisfaction resulting in decreased labor turnover. Various studies have concluded that after implementing this technology the employee turnover has decreased by 50%. There is various Pick by voice providers in the market today which enables your picking solution to result in more efficiency and productivity. For Indian conditions, Addverb’s Voice-Based Picking is 3 times more efficient then HHT based picking.

Have you met this duo yet, to transform your storage space?

Mother-child shuttle system aka mini-load ASRS has been having a bit of a moment from the last few years due to its extensive adoption in warehouses and order fulfillment operations. This technology utilizes the capacity of the warehouses in cubic feet over the earlier means where it used to utilize its capacity in square feet. It is designed to optimize the space used within the warehouses in order to obtain a higher level of productivity and efficiency. This system integrates the automated hardware with the software for the accurate picking and replenishment process. This results in a reduction of inventory level and material handling inconveniences while increasing the productivity and accuracy of the warehouse as compared to the manual storage systems. But why we are calling it Mother-child specifically and how is it different from the already known ASRS of your dictionary? Let’s delve deeper into its functioning to unravel all these mysteries.

How does it function?
The mother-child shuttle system is a fully automated and equally versatile storage and retrieval mechanism for multi deep pallet storage. It consists of a Mother shuttle powered by bus bar, which runs on a track perpendicular to the pallet storage in the racking system. It has a pallet shuttle aka child in it which performs the function of storage and retrieval. This system is integrated with vertical lifts that carry the load to its destined position. Once the vertical lift reaches its designated position, the mother shuttle reaches there along with the child. The child takes the load and gets inside the Mother shuttle to again move on the track in order to reach the next destination. Retrieval of loads also happens through the same process.

Benefits
Industry 4.0, individualization and digitalization are making such storage technology more important than ever, especially in retail, e-commerce, and multi-channel. The mother-child shuttle system is suitable for multi-deep storage and provides high throughput & facilitates storage up to 10 pallets per square meter. You can avail the benefits mentioned below by adopting Mother-child shuttle system in your warehouse:

• Every loading level has one mother and one child aka pallet shuttle which can go up to 15 levels high.
• In this system, the Mother shuttle offers a carrying speed of up to 3 m/s, and the child gives a speed of 0.8 to 1.1 m/s with an acceleration of 1.5 meters per second squared. The Lift offers a throughput of 60 to70 pallets /hour.
• It has a high load-carrying capacity. The whole system can carry a load up to 1500kgs.
• With a fast battery charger, it can get charged in 30 minutes and lead a cycle of 10 hours.
• It involves advanced safety and accuracy features that provide 100% accuracy in the positioning of the load and the pallet.
By incorporating the mother-child shuttle system into your warehouse operation, you can achieve a significant boost in efficiency, cost-savings, and productivity. Today automation is the key and is being adopted by many industries where storage is one giant task. There are various Automated Storage and Retrieval systems in the market and which technology ultimately makes the most sense for you to include in your operation depends on a number of factors including rate, your typical order, the type of product that you handle, and more. If you are also looking for an efficient storage and retrieval mechanism for your warehouse, then Addverb technologies are one such stop.