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!!

Dense racking vis-à-vis Conventional Racking

A famous aerated beverage company got to land on lease for their warehousing requirement. The project team decided to utilize the height of the warehouse and went for great conventional racking storage for pallet racking. They were quite happy to have created additional space inside the limited land of the warehouse. They bought some good quality stackers and inaugurated the warehouse. The company scored big on their sales and with good marketing hacks, the demand grew manifold that within a year they felt that even the additional space was short, and they again started looking for land nearby. Sounds like a relatable story?

The most important question here to ask is, was all the storage space of the warehouse utilized properly? Are there any different ways of storing bulk goods? Can additional space be created with the storage pattern itself without expanding the existing structure? If you ask these questions to us, without any hesitation, we say “Dense Racking” and we would like to present our views on dense racking, alongside the popular conventional racking systems.

Dense racking uses a Pallet Shuttle which can go deep into the storage lane to retrieve, deposit and reshuffle pallets. It helps in achieving vertical utilization of space, wherein the height of the racking can be as tall as 40 meters. Also, as it doesn’t require an aisle between the racks for movement of forklifts, hence results in an increase of usable space by up to 75 percent. Distribution operations that require high volume order fulfillment or freezer and cooler applications are some examples of when a high-density pallet storage rack system would be required.

In fact, all types of pallet racking systems create some level of increased storage density in their own set of applications; also, carry certain advantages and disadvantages in terms of operational efficiency, flexibility, safety and speed of operation

Let us gaze into the intricacies of some of the popular bulk storage warehouse racking systems.

1. Selective Racks 

The most commonly used pallet system, selective racks provide access from an aisle. These warehouse racking systems are ideal for narrow aisle racking, standard systems, and deep-reach systems. Selective racks require special narrow lift trucks and accommodate a single pallet in depth. This system has the lowest storage capacity of pallet & also the lowest cost per pallet, however, it is not scalable & and will be expensive when the no. of pallet positions exceeds 3000. In contrast, with more no. of pallet positions & the product lines, dense racking structure would bring greater cost optimization anywhere between 20% to 50% in terms of reduced storage cost per pallet.

2. Drive-In and Drive-Through Racks 

 Conventionally, for high-density storage drive-in racks and drive-through racks have been in use. With one entrance and exit, drive-in racks have been commonly used where LIFO can fit the bill; and with access at both ends, drive-through racks have been used where the FIFO process is required. Constructed of steel in most cases, these warehouse racking systems have enough space for a forklift to move into their bay. However, these systems pose some serious limitations when it comes to the safety of forklift operators while handling the material inside these racks. Also, the systems won’t work quite well for storing small batches and more variety of products. Lastly, these racks will pose restrictions on the choice of forklifts.

3. Push Back Racking Systems 

Typically used for bulk storage, push back racking systems store products that span 2-5 pallets. When a pallet is loaded onto the system, it pushes the next pallet back, and when a pallet is unloaded, it is pushed to the front of the system. Push-back racking systems utilize the LIFO system and often feature inclined rails and sliding carts and double lanes. This racking system doesn’t require a forklift to go into the lanes unlike drive-in/drive-through & hence enhances the safety of the forklift operator. When it comes to the limiting factor of this system, it’s the depth of the reach with a maximum of 4-5 access lanes.

4. Flow Racks 

Also known as gravity racks, flow racks are also one of the commonly used storage systems for high-density storage up to 20+ pallets deep. With this type of warehouse racking system, items are loaded at the higher end and removed at the lower end using a FIFO system. The rotation of products becomes automatic as the racks flow with loading and unloading. Flow racks make use of gravity rollers that move in conjunction with the rack load and feature brakes or speed controllers to regulate item movement. One advantage of flow racks is they do not require electricity for operation because gravity powers them. High cost compared to all other conventional racking systems and poor accessibility to all the pallets are the attenuating factors for the choice of this racking system.

The challenge with today’s warehouse racking is to store an ever-increasing number of pallets, in a less storage space. The dense racking system saves both time and money on product management and storage, delivery and shipping, product transference, and labor cost.

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.

Key factors to consider before implementing Pallet Shuttle (Cruiser)

Well begun is half done as the saying goes. The same is true while making a decision to implement a pallet shuttle in a warehouse storage setting. The decision to implement a Pallet Shuttle (Cruiser) makes the job half done, but how to implement it will lead to another important part of the question, which requires careful thinking. It is important that the solution should last long, sustain the rigor of operations, and achieve the required throughput along with achieving the highest safety standards. For all this, there are some important check-points to be verified before implementing the system and we would like to ponder over them.

Planning is Everything: The basic floor plan needs to consider such things as location of receiving and shipping docks, where the staging areas are, the racking vendor and layout, pallet shuttle, budget, and timelines for the whole project… etc While allocating budget during investment decision, it is very important to work out a cost-benefit analysis. One should keep in view that the best solution need not be the cheapest solution. An investment made should be able to justify by working for a long period without having to make frequent changes to adapt to increasing demands of storage and throughput.

In the case of a greenfield project, it is recommended that the height of the structure needs to be built keeping in mind the scalability and future requirements.

Let’s divide the pre-requisites into 3 major components:
1. Pallet Racking System: Pallet Shuttle (Cruiser) runs in specially designed rails supported by pallet racking frames fitted with special support beams. Clearance above load and opening are kept in such a manner so that space can be utilized fully. Entry width can be adjusted to suit various kinds of loads. Before installing the racks, it is important to ensure that industrial flooring with appropriate specifications, finish and grade is laid out.
Key points to inspect are:
– Floor Levelling: Civil construction anomalies cause leveling differences on the floor anywhere between 2mm to 10mm. This surface unevenness can lead to excessive vibration on lift trucks while moving, gaps at the joints of the rail/track which leads to early wear and tear of the shaft and wheels of pallet shuttle. In fact, these leveling differences make the whole system unstable. So, it is essential to carry out a compliance check of floor leveling as per FEM 9.831 standard. Within the permissible limits, we use “simplets” to make the flooring even, thereby ensuring the entire racking structure would be sturdy.

– Floor Capacity: The second most important thing to be considered is the floor capacity, which plays a key role in deciding the number of levels a warehouse can accommodate. In a dense racking system using a Pallet Shuttle (Cruiser), the height of the racking can go up to as high as 15 meters. So, to decide the number of levels the criteria of point load or per square meter load must be measured accurately.

– Seismic Zone: While building the entire system, seismicity of the zone needs to be considered and accordingly the design of racking structural members, dimensions & supporting systems must be carried out. In a seismic zone of 4 and 5 classifications, the thickness of the upright, width, supporting systems like bracing structure, densely inter-twined side beams.. etc will essentially play a major role in finalizing the layout and design.

– Channel end Stopper: At the beginning and end of the rail channel, stoppers have to be installed to prevent the shuttle overriding from its end stop position.

– Sprinkler System: The roof / In-rack sprinkler system needs to be implemented as a best practice to prevent the chance of fire mishaps within the storage system.

– Forklift fenders: Guards for the racking system to prevent bumping of a forklift on to the racking system.

2. Pallet Shuttle: Pallet Shuttle (Cruiser) facilitates movement & storage of pallets in the dense racking system. Simple instruction will be sent to the shuttle by the operator using the remote-control unit. The shuttle checks the dimension of the pallet load and aligns itself at the assigned point before lifting and moving the load. After placing a pallet in the channel at the predetermined position, usually the last empty position in the channel, the shuttle will automatically return to the front face to receive the next load. The same is applicable in case of retrieval assignment, where the shuttle finds the first pallet in the rail & brings it to the front of the channel to feed the forklift. Absolute LIFO/FIFO options could be configured.

– Supply Chain Integration: Any automation solution needs to be integrated with the existing systems for seamless functionality. In the case of a pallet shuttle, it is important to establish a communication protocol with the right parameters among all the inter-connected systems like Pallet Shuttle PLC system, WCS, WMS/ERP system.

– Peripheral Equipment: VMT (Vehicle Mounted Terminal) may need to be implemented with the ERP system to make the operating process smooth, efficient and paperless.

– Reach Truck selection: Reach trucks come with various features like advanced auto-level settings, sound alarms, vision systems. etc. Throughput, number of levels, and the overall project budget are to be kept in mind and accordingly suitable reach trucks need to be finalized.

– Vision System: In cases where the racking system is beyond certain limits of height, forklifts with integrated vision systems are employed. This vision system facilitates ease to forklift operators to see the racking and load beyond normal eye level for better placement of shuttle/load.

– Storage Pattern: The higher one goes the longer the operation cycle time. Hence fast-moving items should be kept at the entry of the aisle which facilitates quick retrieval and not sacrifices retrieval time.

3. Safety:– Cautionary signs, safety notices and fire suppression/first aid equipment must be placed in work areas prone to accidents, thus preventing mishaps by sensitizing peoples working in and around the system. These MUST also be in accordance with the applicable codes of the city, county, and federal regulations. It is always a good practice to have these caution and signboards in local spoken/read the language to increase acceptance. – Limit switches: They ensure the movement of shuttle cars within battery limits. – Persistent Speed Monitoring System: This will ensure that the shuttle runs constantly at the programmed speed, this feature will help the shuttle work satisfactorily as per design norms.

An automated Pallet Shuttle naturally places high expectations on account of throughput and efficiency. An extensive analysis of your inventory characteristics, storage pattern, safety requirements & local regulations will provide many views on the automation prerequisites, thereby helping to achieve enhanced operational parameters. A competent and experienced team of experts will aid in achieving better project planning, design, procurement of all systems and execution of a Pallet Shuttle project.

Being the largest selling pallet shuttle company in India, we bring a diverse and wide industry exposure in implementing a pallet shuttle system. To know more reach us at automate@addverb.in

LIFO/FIFO applications of Pallet Shuttle

Movement of stock within a warehouse is very critical as the warehouse is the backbone of logistics and supply chain management. The movement is based on how the goods inward happen, where the stock is stored and how the outbound flows. The storage logic should be based on maximum space utilization with no stock damage and the movement logic should always ensure quick and easy movement of goods. Along with product characteristics, the movement of stored goods in LIFO/FIFO fashion depends on the layout of the warehouse, storage space available, costing and sometimes the method of accounting. etc.

Pallet Shuttle is a compact semi-automated pallet storage solution that operates independently to move the pallets inside the racking system. Remote-controlled pallet shuttle is a highly efficient alternative to live storage and drive-in racking and can be used in both LIFO/FIFO alternatives.

Optimization of space with FIFO / LIFO
Pallets can be stored and retrieved either as FIFO or as LIFO. A FIFO system requires two access aisles- one to load the pallets and the other to unload them. Whereas LIFO can have just one access aisle.

FIFO (First In First Out)
Using the first in first out method ensures that the first stock that comes into your warehouse is the first to go out. It is possible for two shuttles to be operated in the same lane. These are controlled from both entry points and a no collision model is available. This FIFO system is relative, or by batch, recommended for the complete loading, or unloading of a level.

Application – FIFO ensures perfect fast-moving rotation with maximum space efficiency, high turnover of material. FIFO operation is best suited where perishable goods like Food, Medicine, Cosmetic or Products with limited shelf-life and seasonal stock.

LIFO pallet racking systems are ideal for any warehouse that needs to maximize storage and, products have no expiration or obsolescence, so the first pallet stored is not necessarily the first one to be retrieved. This is because LIFO racking works by positioning the most recently stored inventory to be picked first and enabling dense storage density. Pallet shuttle – automated storage is the perfect solution in this storage method because it allows automatic storing and retrieving from the same side of the racking system.

Application – LIFO operations are best adopted in situations such as cold storage where operating personnel have to endure cold temperatures for a long duration and it becomes difficult and expensive to expand storage area in any warehouse. In such cases, a Pallet shuttle can provide better utilization of existing space. Examples of industries that could adopt LIFO: Beverages– where the SKUs are less and the turnover is high; Textiles – where the SKUs are less and the expiration is not of concern.

Benefits of using Dense Storage System through Pallet Shuttle

– Maximizing Storage density
– Increase productivity by reducing the amount of time taken to travel between storage locations
– Easy to handle material with the large volume of SKUs on shop floor/warehouse
– Maximum exploitation of the stock volume
We can enhance performance efficiency in any warehouse by deploying an adequate number of shuttles. We guarantee the highest possible storage density for any application to deploy our pallet shuttle. We have the highest market share in India for pallet shuttles. Find the perfect fit pallet racking storage solution for your requirement @ADDVERB!!

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.