Mujin, a Tokyo-based company, has developed and deployed the first fully automated, humanless warehouse robot systems, reports CNBC.
Unfortunately, the idea of humanless warehousing continues to be plagued by significant challenges, but the benefits of automation and robotics cannot be discounted.
Supply chain leaders need to understand these facts and follow some tips to prepare for a robotic future.
Challenges of unmanned warehousing
Implementing unmanned warehouse processes can seem like an ideal way to avoid unnecessary costs and increase warehouse productivity. Unfortunately, as Steve Banker explained via Forbes, major hurdles to uncrowded warehousing remain.
The functionality of today’s robotic systems is simply not compatible with the variety and requirements in a typical warehouse. At the same time, the implementation of a robotic system requires significant capital and could do more harm than good in short-term forecasts, depending on the level and degree of automation.
In other words, the upfront costs result in long payback periods (ROI), and robotic systems are limited in their ability to provide meaningful interactions with customers. Even in the face of these challenges, the idea remains. The problems don’t necessarily outweigh the benefits of unmanned warehousing.
The benefits of unmanned warehousing
Unmanned warehousing means eliminating all human touchpoints and interactions within a facility. Such interactions are replaced by fully automated and robotic controls and activities. As a result, the errors associated with human-driven processes, such as Errors in picking orders, damage from mishandling, delays from poor labor management and other factors are pushed to the background.
The results of unmanned warehousing are having a major impact on warehouses that need more efficiency. Robots don’t have to worry about inconsistencies, free-time demands, welfare costs, and other essential aspects of human workers. This increases productivity. More orders are fulfilled faster and order accuracy increases, providing customers with a positive experience. Nevertheless, there will always be cases where human hands are still required, for example in the maintenance of robotic systems.
In addition, developments in recent years have led to the development of adaptive robots, says inVia Robotics. In other words, these adaptive robots don’t need to be consistently and constantly reprogrammed to make informed decisions and act on information. Achieving such a capability requires an advanced level of integration and consideration of all potential issues that may arise within a warehouse. However, the result is the same; Warehouses achieve unmatched productivity and efficiency.
Best practices to prepare for future robotic warehousing
One thing is clear; The future of warehouse management is robotic and humanless. Unfortunately, that future is still out of reach for many of today’s supply chains. Rather than trying to gain a competitive edge by digging a deeper investment hole, supply chain leaders should take some steps to prepare for a robotic future, even if it means not investing in robotic systems today. These steps include:
- Identifying which areas can be automated by affordable, simple robotic systems that exist in today’s world.
- Collaborate with team members to ensure a smooth transition to automated processes and reduce fears of the “robot apocalypse”.
- Integrate systems for sharing and applying data.
- Understanding customer expectations for customer service, including interactions with real people, not just automated systems.
Plan for success with robust inventory management and strategy
The application of robotics will be a step forward for humanless warehousing, allowing supply chain executives to recoup costs and avoid many of the problems associated with efficient labor management.
However, this is only possible for companies that understand the limitations of today’s robotic systems and how to create a smooth transition to the unmanned warehouse, even if only certain parts of the operation can be fully automated.