Technologies that were previously considered futuristic, overly complex, and unable to be financially justified are becoming mainstream. This is no longer “emerging technology”, it is here, it works, and is now being implemented, changing the supply chain. Warehouses, distribution centers, and fulfillment centers (DC/FC) are accelerating their adoption of newer technology solutions. It is time for executives to reevaluate their initial assumptions across material handling and technology solutions.
The pace of digital disruption continues to accelerate in warehouses, distribution centers, and fulfillment centers (DC/FC), the magnitude of the disruptions are keeping pace. Implementing digital business strategies can provide significant improvements in process simplification, operational agility and flexibility, increasing productivity, and meeting rising customer expectations. The commoditization of what used to be viewed as emerging technologies, have been, and are now being implemented by many businesses and provide evidence of their increasing value.
Leaders of business operations that include at least one DC/FC and/or warehouse should involve their technical counterparts and focus in the areas that provide the best prospects for more effective management of their facilities and ultimately, their supply chain and customers. Adoption of the “top-trending” technologies may fit your business strategy, but you must base your decision to adopt through due diligence, to ensure that the structure follows the strategy.
Reducing travel time and walking distance is still the primary driver for justifying this type of automation, but having a flexible and scalable operation with less dependence and risk related to labor availability is becoming more highly weighted in material handling evaluations.
Most commonly deployed for picking and goods-to-man materials movement, newer robotics vendor offerings now provide for unit sortation of batch-picks to packing stations (or directly into shipping cartons). Imagine a tilt-tray sorter where the individual trays are not connected to a single, fixed path, but can be dynamically directed to go anywhere they are needed. Check out Tompkins Robotics.
Robotics solutions can also now be used for carton or parcel sortation to outbound shipping lanes or pallet containers.
Internet of Things (IoT) Platforms
The commoditization of sensor technology, that can be attached to nearly every electrical and mechanical device in your DC or FC, either in a fixed position or in motion, provides a tremendous opportunity to gain knowledge and insight to improve your operations.
By leveraging an IoT platform to connect these sensors across your network, and using supply chain specific analytics tools that can take advantage of this data, you are able to move from historical reporting, past real-time information, and into the realm of predictive and prescriptive analytics.
Typical applications can include monitoring motors for heat and load to predict faults and failures, prescribing the right light and temperature levels that could result in greater employee productivity at different times of the day, and managing work and material flow while providing alert notifications to proactively reroute the workflow before bottlenecks occur. These are only a few examples, but the potential is tremendous when you consider the vast array of sensors deployed in a typical DC/FC. Check out SensorThink.
In 2018, warehouses and DC/FC need to provide for even more flexibility and scalability at a lower cost than facilities with traditional designs and less than optimal business processes. The benefits of deploying robotic solutions over an extended IoT platform are real. Executives who “wait and see” may be weighting the risk of implementation too heavily versus the risk of not implementing. The real business risk is in delaying the adoption of these technologies.
In response to COVID-19 and limiting travel, Tompkins Robotics is now offering interactive virtual tours using a variety of stationary and roaming cameras throughout the facility. We have the capability to demonstrate five t-Sort systems with various configurations, robots and functionalities. The main demonstration system includes three different induction types: manual, robotic and A-frame. Our systems are capable of e-commerce order fulfillment, store replenishment, backroom and parcel / postal sortation. We can demonstrate the original t-Sort robotic system in multiple dual level configurations and an elevator system to move robots between the levels. Our larger t-Sort Plus robots run on single level systems with both tilt tray and crossbelt options. In the very near future we will demonstrate the new t-Sort Mini in an additional system. We have a wide variety of inventory to demonstrate products including general merchandise, apparel, grocery, fragile goods, odd sizes and shapes and a wide range of product weights. You will also have a chance to learn about the technologies that are integrated into our system such as automated induction, automated charging, integrated weight and dimension capture, our proprietary wireless network and Warehouse Execution System (WES), new innovations such as our automated sorter exit solution and more. And if mobility and flexibility are important to you, we can demonstrate how easy it is to reconfigure a system, remove or add a sort table, and even fold a table into a smaller footprint for move or transport.