|Robot Picking for E-Commerce (© Hand Plus Robotics 2020)
A recent DHL Insights & Innovation article has highlighted three use cases of robotics for the logistics supply chain:
1) Container unloading
2) Outdoor goods movement within a warehouse compound
3) Sorting - although perhaps robot arm manipulators may not be suitable for this kind of work due to the high throughput
I would like to add a few more to this list:
4) Item random packing (after picking and before shipping)
5) Box kitting
7) Tight item packing
Based on what I have witnessed in warehouses, packing lends itself to robotic automation because at this stage, items from an order basket are simply transferred to a poly mailer bag or carton box before shipping. At this stage waybill is verified by scanning the items before they are packed.
Box kitting is a more challenging form of packing since products are placed in tight configuration (usually in some sort of a mold) inside a box. This kind of robotic motion requires higher precision motion and even force control.
For e-commerce fulfillment centers reshelving is as tedious as picking. Reshelving is not simply replenishment of the shelves. In reshelving, items have to be placed properly on a shelf. While a picking robot may be suitable to be used for reshelving, the need for pre-picking tasks such as the opening of carton boxes could make this problem even more difficult than kitting.
And the most challenging problem of all -- tight item packing. When a group of items of varying shapes, sizes, and properties are to be packed tightly in a box or bag, ordered placing becomes paramount. Items cannot just be dropped into the box, they have to be laid down carefully, ensuring that the rest of the ordered would fit in and that the whole box is packed such that it will survive transport handling.
My company, Hand Plus Robotics, specializes in making picking easy for robots. If you'd like to see how we solve the use cases shared above, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.