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Blue sky thinking

26 May 2020

In the warehouse of the future, the vision will be to combine robotic technologies to achieve efficiencies which are beyond the current imagination of the industry.

Emerging robotics have the potential to create a multi-function material handling system in which every function is fully automated from end to end.

The extent to which robotic technology will transform material handling processes in a warehouse has not yet been fully explored by the industry. For warehouses which are looking for a new edge, robotics will reshape and refine automation so that higher levels of efficiency will be released at lower operating costs.

The developments which Beumer Group has already introduced to the industry include the sortation system which achieves the highest level of energy efficiency and the increased use of data analytics. The development of robotics will transform the manual processes used for bulk unloading, singulation and induction as well as parts of the manual processes used in batch picking and packing. The handling of returns will also see a dramatic change with a new intelligent pouch buffer system.

Inbound

Increasing automation in the inbound area will provide the potential for robots to handle bulk items from trucks or roller cages. After unloading, the robots will automatically singulate the items by aligning and evenly spacing each item on the in-bound conveyor belt. This single flow of items will enable the warehouse to replace the manual process prior to semi-automatic induction with a process which provides 100% automatic induction.

This change will eliminate the need for the warehouse to source or train skilled labour for these tasks and allow existing operators to move to other functions.

Picking & packing 

A significant increase in the operational efficiency of pick towers will be achieved by adding automation to the batch picking and packing process in combination with a ‘put wall’.

In the manual batch picking process, the operator must pick a high number of items in each batch to optimise the walking distance. A high number of destination chutes is also essential to allow operators to pack items at the end of each chute.

A simple solution to increasing the batch size in a 2-step order picking system can be realised by implementing a ‘put wall’ for simultaneous handling of a number of orders at each destination chute. 

Adding robotic automation will transform the packing process by replacing the manual end-of-chute packing with automated packing. A transfer carrier, designed by Beumer Group, will move the totes with a completed order to a packing area where robots will automatically pack the items into cartons.

Pouch

A new intelligent pouch sorter will offer warehouses the opportunity to streamline the cost and complexity of handling returned items.

After returned items have been manually checked and approved for sale, the operator will place high-frequency items into pouches in the pouch buffer system. Carrying one item per pouch, the system will buffer these items for up to 3 days and assign the items for packing once a new order is received. This will support single-touch processing for each item and eliminate the need to transport high-frequency items back to the rack shelves.

Each module in the pouch system will provide a sorting capacity of 10000 items and give the flexibility to be adapted to meet changing capacity. For low-capacity warehouses, the pouch system will also be used to deliver transport and sorting in addition to buffering and storage.

Sortation

Integrating multiple automated processes into a single system will enable the warehouse of the future to deliver end-to-end optimisation. Each of the storage, sorting, conveying, packing and shipping functions within the system are controlled by Beumer Group’s warehouse control system BG Flow. This centralised control ensures optimum routing and provides a clear overview of all items and processes.

Conclusion

Beumer Group believes that robotic technology holds the key to creating the warehouse of the future. The seamless integration of robotic technologies offers the potential to automate and optimise nearly all warehouse processes.

The trend towards integrating more advanced robotics is part of the long-term innovation seen in the warehouse industry. The new technologies will help warehouses to move to the next generation of handling and to define new benchmarks in internal efficiency.

For the warehouse of the future, the scope of robotic technologies will be limited only by the innovations which are being driven by the widening imagination of the industry.

 
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