Top Benefits of Robots in Warehouses

What is a Warehouse Robot?
Benefits of Robots in Warehousing
Types of Warehouse Robots
Why is Robot Adoption Surging in Warehouses?
How to Implement Warehouse Robots Into Your Operations

Because speed and efficiency are essential, warehouse operators are always looking for ways to work faster and smarter. Automation has been a game-changer in this regard, with one tool in particular making a major difference — warehouse robots.

Industrial robots are not a new concept, in fact, assembly line robots were being used at General Motors as far back as 1961. Robots in the warehouse, however, is a much newer concept that has benefited countless companies in a variety of ways. Here are some insights into warehouse robots, and the 6 top benefits of adding them to any operation.

What is a Warehouse Robotics?

Warehouse robotics is a comprehensive term that refers to the many automated machines and systems that can operate in a warehouse to improve speed, efficiency and accuracy. A more specific and detailed definition describes warehouse robotics as, “the use of automated systems, robots and specialized software to transport materials, perform various tasks and streamline/automate warehouse processes.”

In terms of job or task applications, there are warehouse robots today that perform these most common warehouse jobs:

  • Pallet movers
  • Pallet builders
  • Pickers
  • Floor cleaners
  • Barcode scanners
  • Inventory data
  • Back-office functions

6 Benefits of Robots in Warehousing

  1. Improve safety: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5.1 out of every 100 warehouse and storage workers experience injuries or work-related illnesses each year, and the most common injuries they suffer are muscular and joint injuries from strenuous, repetitive tasks. With warehouse robots handling the backbreaking, monotonous tasks, human workers can reduce injury risk and work on more value-added assignments.
  2. Increase efficiency: Automated warehouse robots increase order efficiency and accuracy. According to Conveyco, when operations upgrade their picking and inventory systems to an automated and integrated order processing system, they see on average a 25% gain in overall productivity, a 10-20% gain in space use and 15-30% more efficient use of stock.
  3. Improve order accuracy: Even the best warehouse workers are apt to make a mistake every now and then, it’s human nature. But with a warehouse robotics system, order and pick accuracy can be greatly improved. Statistics from a leading materials handling industry organization, MHI, estimates that warehouse robots such as automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) have the potential to increase order accuracy levels to above 99.99%.
  4. Close the labor shortage gap: Warehouses always seem to have a “Help Wanted” sign up, and for good reason. The national average for job turnover is 42%, but in a warehouse setting that number jumps up to 64%. If companies decide to add robots to the warehouse, that shortage can be made up for, and workflows can actually improve, with automated processes that are faster and more accurate.
  5. Save on workforce costs: There is a well-documented workforce shortage in the warehouse industry, making attracting and retaining quality employees very difficult. With warehouse robots, companies can save greatly on workforce costs, allowing them to invest in the skilled employees they do have. With the average cost of a human employee breaking $5,000 a month, while the average cost of a robot is just $2,000 per month, warehouses could save upwards of $36,000 per employee every year.
  6. Employees can perform value-added tasks: One of the biggest time sucks in a warehouse is the picking process. Estimates show that some warehouse workers spend 50% of their day walking through the warehouse tracking down product. With warehouse robots, those tasks can now be automated, and the workforce can work on value-added tasks or skillful work that is more fulfilling for them and the company.

Types of Warehouse Robots

There are many different warehouse robots that handle the countless different tasks required in day-to-day operations. But, all of these tools usually fall into one of the four primary warehouse robot categories.

  • Cobotics: When a robot and a human work cooperatively to complete a process. Or, when multiple, different robots on different platforms and a human work together to complete tasks. This is unique in that you are using two robots on two differing technical platforms that are still able to engage and work with each other.
  • AGVs: An Automated Guided Vehicle, or AGV, is an industrial vehicle that can be pre-programmed to transport goods in a warehouse or manufacturing environment. Their navigation depends on fixed markers or wiring on the warehouse floor, and AGVs can only follow those designated paths.
  • AMRs: An Autonomous Mobile Robot, or AMR, is a vehicle that uses on-board sensors and processors to autonomously navigate in any setting without the need for physical guides or marks. An AMR can learn its environment, understand its location, and dynamically plans its own path from one waypoint (a location or destination within the environment) to another.
  • Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems: Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) are a technology that brings inventory in and out of storage. It’s typically paired with warehouse management software that directs the operations.

Why is Robot Adoption Surging in Warehouses?

There are a number of factors driving the widespread and increased use of robots in the warehouse. First, is consumer demand – Amazon’s two-day and sometimes same-day order fulfillment promises means that warehouses have had to make major upgrades to their infrastructure to maximize output. This led to increased reliance on robots and automation.

The second and probably most important change is the ease of use and accessibility of warehouse robots. Robotics technology has made great strides over the last 20 years, and warehouses no longer need to hire roboticists to install complicated, expensive systems and technologies. Today, new software and hardware systems are built to be used by the average worker, and autonomous warehouse robots can be deployed by a far greater share of the industry. A few of those innovations that are driving widespread warehouse robot adoption include:

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning
  2. Better sensors and response capability
  3. Warehouse management software

So just how much are warehouse robots being used? According to analysis by ABI Research, more than 4 million commercial robots will be installed in more than 50,000 warehouses by 2025, when there were only 4,000 warehouses utilizing robotics technology back in 2018.

How to Implement Warehouse Robots into Your Operation

Implementing warehouse robots into your operation, whether you’re starting with just one machine or a whole fleet, is a delicate process that should be trusted to the experts. No matter who you work with, try to stick to the following steps to ensure a successful outcome:

  1. Contact a warehouse robot integrator specialist for a consultation about your needs, expectations, and budget.
  2. The integrator will visit your site and do a process assessment of the operation and determine the best operational areas to optimize through automation and robotics.
  3. Using that assessment, they will give you a comprehensive list of specific robotics solutions that would be ideal for your facility.
  4. The integrator will then install and fully train all end users on the given robot/robotics solutions.
  5. Once the robots are installed and working, that integrator specialist should service and support all operating robots for the life of the agreement.

When you begin your search for an experienced warehouse robot integrator, consider partnering with NITCO. Our team of warehouse, automation, and robotics experts will work with you to determine the optimal solutions for your needs and goals. And, we will be with you every step of the way. Contact us today to start a conversation about how your business can benefit from warehouse robotics.

The Future is Now: A Comprehensive Guide to Warehouse Automation

The Future is Now: A Comprehensive Guide to Warehouse Automation

In this free eBook, we’ll walk you through the process of automating your warehouse from start to finish so you can feel confident in your knowledge about automation.

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The Future is Now: A Comprehensive Guide to Warehouse Automation

The Future is Now: A Comprehensive Guide to Warehouse Automation

In this free eBook, we’ll walk you through the process of automating your warehouse from start to finish so you can feel confident in your knowledge about automation.