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AI and its impact on Human kind

Envision a conversation between the Captain of a mission craft ship and a mission member called Saviour 1. It goes like this – “Wake up Captain, it is 24 hrs to go for landing and as per my protocols I need to wake you up and assist you for landing the Ship”, “How long the crew has been asleep Saviour 1?’ Asked Capt. Ashok. “8 Years, 2 months and 4 days sir” Replied Saviour 1. “We have been asleep too long, kindly brief the exploration mission to the crew again Saviour 1” Said Capt. Ashok, “Crew we will be landing on Proxima Centauri in 24 hrs Earth time. Our goal is to set up the communication back home to inform of our arrival followed by setting up the camp for the crew so that you can carry out the experiments to see the survival on the planet and finally set up the incubation center for the embryos to see their survival on our potential new home. Meanwhile work parallelly on growing food and inhabiting the planet, while the crew will be on the said tasks I will be simultaneously assisting on each tasks, compiling the reports and sending it to Earth for analysis”, briefs Saviour. Who do you think Saviour 1 is? It is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) program designed and developed to assist explorer mission to find new home for humans in the depth of space year 2424.

As depicted in movies across the world it is not necessarily that AI is the ‘self-aware’ program/robot trying to eliminate human race as shown in Terminator series nor it is a slave serving the sentinel beings as shown in Star Wars saga. According to Prof. Professor John McCarthy also known as ‘Father of AI’ “AI is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs.” Let us bear in mind that AI is “Artificial Intelligence” as opposed to natural or “Native Intelligence”. AI works on the principle of the computational part of the program that works to adapt itself to be a self-aware system and therefore performs the tasks that the system is designed to perform as if it is using native intelligence. AI has immense potential to contribute to the development of society. As with any technology and tool one could use it for beneficial as well as unsavoury uses. In the scenario envisioned at the beginning of this text where  Capt. Ashok and his crew of astronauts are on a mission in the future to explore an exoplanet and find a new home for mankind, AI could be used to perform manifold tasks in the mission. These tasks could be – a) Finding the best route and optimize the best path to follow in interstellar space, b)  acting as an alarm to the crew, c) performing calculation from the surroundings to find a perfect spot to land, d) setting up the habitat, e) rationing and managing the food supply, programmed to run an incubation center to raise human babies without a womb or a mother, and many others like compiling, screening and processing of data. AI also can transmit data and act as the much needed medical center for the crew so far from home, prepare them for contingencies and finally manage the whole exploration program.

Now let us talk about how AI can be used for our benefit in the real world of material handling here and now.  In our industry of material handling, an intelligent program can work seamlessly across all the stages of intra-warehouse movement of goods, right from inbound operation sequencing to assisting the suppliers to deliver in specific slots, to optimizing the storage location for the goods and, finally order slotting and execution of order picking in the least time with absolute accuracy along with the material movement in the warehouse. Besides doing all the above, AI can also provide real time asset monitoring, data collection from smart devices and provide predictive maintenance insights about devices to the maintenance teams.

With all the discussion and use cases we have still only explored the periphery of the potential and possibilities we can achieve with Artificial Intelligence. In times to come, we will see AI forming a critical element in the practice of safety of the plant, personnel, and systems.

In conclusion, AI has the potential to make Native intelligence also referred to as Human Intelligence to reach a level where it decodes human intelligence itself and reaches superintelligence. On a cautionary note, the goal of development of AI should be to always align with the goal of the human race itself without jeopardising the safety of human race and this planet for it to be a benefactor.

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.

Pallet Shuttle – A Warehouse Space Odyssey

In the next decade, as much as 85% of the businesses are projected to adopt a digital route around the globe thanks to Industry 4.0. With increased impetus on scalability across geographies, speedy deliveries and the demand for global products, continual innovation in the logistics & warehousing sector has emerged as the need of the hour for all businesses.

Be it e-commerce, food retail or manufacturing giants, the location of their warehousing facilities is one of the pivotal pillars for their operational excellence and supply chain planning. Ideally, warehouses need to be closer to the cities to reduce the transit time for goods. However, close-by lands often come with higher rentals. An optimal solution in such cases of higher rentals is to utilize the height of the warehouse in an efficient manner. Flying high does make sense if you intend to utilize the space of the warehouse efficiently. To utilize the height of the distribution centers and warehouses, it is essential that they equip themselves with Pallet Shuttle which assists in increasing the warehouse space through vertical stacking of the inventory.

What is Pallet Shuttle and how does it work?

Pallet Shuttle is a semi-automated compact storage solution that reduces operating costs while simultaneously improving the efficiency of the warehouse storage. Pallet Shuttle facilitates dense racking, which does not require aisles between storage racks, thereby efficiently utilizing the warehouse space.
In traditional storage systems, forklifts drive through each of the aisles and store pallets in the racks. However, in these systems, the depth of storage is compromised as a lot of space gets wasted to make room for forklift’s movement. Through dense racking, Pallet Shuttles have reduced this dependence on forklifts, thereby maximizing the space that can be used for storage. In a Semi-Automatic Dense Racking storage system, the operator only needs to drive the forklift that places the pallets on the channel’s entrance. Then the operator activates the pallet shuttle by sending a remote wi-fi signal. Thereafter, Pallet Shuttle moves the pallets horizontally until it finds an available location, where it deposits the pallet. Pallet Shuttle then returns to the entrance of the channel and repeats the process till the entire channel is filled. A similar process is used to retrieve the goods from racks as well.

Advantages of using Pallet Shuttles

• High Storage Space: Through Pallet Shuttle, aisles can be eliminated in warehouses as forklifts are not required for end-to-end loading and unloading. In dense racking, you can store 2.84 Pallet /m. sq. as compared to 1 Pallet / m. sq.
• High Throughput: Since operators aren’t required to drive the forklift in the aisles, loading and unloading time reduces considerably
• Scalability: You can easily customize the dense racking systems according to your requirements. More shuttles can be easily employed as the per production requirements. Also, Pallet Shuttles can work in both FIFO and LIFO mode.
• Safety: Pallet Shuttle is equipped with safety sensors and an automatic braking system to avoid any collision and accident.
• Ease of Operation: The system is quite easy to install, maintain and run.
• Maintenance: Owing to the way the structure has been built, chances of damage to the metallic racks are minimum. Also, the shuttles require minimum maintenance

Application of Pallet Shuttles

• Although Pallet Shuttles are quite customizable, when we consider economies of scale or special circumstances then the following industries will benefit the most from it: –
• Warehouses that require higher throughput. This translates to a high number of pallet storage locations(More than 5000).
• Seasonal Products: Pallet Shuttle system comes in handy when items are stored all throughout the year, but the withdrawal of the products happens extremely fast based on the season.
• Captive Distribution Centers: Pallet Shuttle based dense racking system is very beneficial for large captive DCs that are attached to factories in the FMCG sector
• Cold Storage: Attaining cold temperature becomes increasingly difficult and expensive upon expanding the size of the warehouse. Here, Pallet Shuttles can provide immense relief by utilizing the existing space efficiently.
• Beverage Industry: It is ideal for operations where the number of Stock Keeping Units is less, and the inventory turnover is high.

Pallet Shuttle – Cruiser: What Lies Within

Warehouses in India have witnessed a transition from manual operations to fast and reliable automated processes. One of the key changes as highlighted in our earlier piece, “Warehouse Odyssey” has been the transition from “Traditional Racking” and forklift-based operations to “Dense Racking” and Pallet Shuttle based operations. Pallet Shuttle enables organizations to gain a competitive advantage and increase the storage and throughput capacity of their warehouses.
Consequently, Pallet Shuttles are one of the most adopted technologies across the globe and Cruiser, pallet shuttle manufactured by Addverb is one of the largest deployed Pallet Shuttle in India. It’s imperative to understand what enables Cruiser to gain such an edge, how does it function, how does it ensure a SAFE operation. To understand all these aspects, let us explore the nitty-gritty of what makes Cruiser, our Pallet Shuttle, one of the most coveted and popular Pallet Shuttles in India.

PLC Control system:
The heart of the entire Cruiser system is a ‘PLC-based control system’. This PLC control system takes the input commands given through a tablet on an android platform & processes them based on a customized program & takes decision-related to storage and delivery operations. This PLC control system ensures accurate control of the Cruiser movement on the rails of the dense racks.

Sensors & Customized Bumpers:
They form another part of the crucial components that help in achieving the safety feature, for both humans & shuttle. The sensors detect the obstacle and alert the shuttle to slow its speed & stop at a defined distance with respect to the obstacle. The bumper is a protective device installed on the front of Cruiser to protect its front from collisions with material/human. It avoids potential trapping or crushing risks. The customized bumper fitted with bumper guards on both sides in the direction of movement protects Cruiser against any damage while it is operating.
For the pallet shuttle system, the important hardware components are Tab for Connectivity, Shuttle Unit, Battery & the Battery Charger.

Pallet bumper

Tablet/ Shuttle Controller:
The entire operation of the shuttle can be controlled through a wireless tablet. With a very simple configuration, and easy to use features, the system doesn’t require much installation time once the racking set up is done. The tablet is connected to a wifi-network & acts as a communication medium between the operator and the shuttle. The operator provides input through the tab on an easy to use interface and gives commands to the shuttle to either drop a load or pick a load from the aisles. In the case of Cruiser, it can be operated in 2 modes; manual & automatic.

Pallet shuttle tablet

Shuttle Unit:
It’s a battery-operated trolley, with an ability to carry the pallet loads swiftly along the rails. In a semi-automatic system, an operator places the shuttle (with the help of a forklift) at the beginning of the rail where the storage/ retrieval/reshuffle operation needs to be performed, upon which depending on the input command, shuttle performs the operation. After successful completion of the operation, the shuttle comes back & rests at the source position.

Battery System:
Battery management is often overlooked when it comes to industrial equipment, and good battery management is still an exception rather than something obvious. With small improvements to the equipment & the processes, most of the time, we can achieve the best results. Cruiser battery is also designed on similar lines; with easy to change the system, and various features like advanced technology, heat management, smart charging & emergency power handling mechanism, Cruiser offers up to 16 hours of battery life, hence can be used for two whole shifts without any intervention.

A unique feature of this battery pack is the absence of a “memory effect”, so it is possible, in an emergency, to recharge for less than the optimum time for charging.

Battery Charger:

The battery charger is designed to ensure safety and reliable performance. With a smart charging feature, the charger automatically stops charging when the battery level reaches 100%.In our next blog, we will be writing on ‘Top 5 reasons to have a Pallet Shuttle in your warehouse’. Watch this space!!

Addverb Technologies is incorporated in 2016 with an aim to help Indian companies to embrace Industry 4.0 in all walks of their supply chain operations. If you have any automation related requirements, do write to us at our email id automate@addverb.in.