Robotic Solutions

Smart Robotics Bridge the Labor Gap in Your DC

Blog
May, 2019

Today’s changing market offers many exciting opportunities for DCs that are able to keep pace. If you’re like most organizations in the business, however, a shortage of labor is probably one of the biggest challenges holding you back.
 
Demand for staff is currently outpacing the available labor pool by a rate of six to one. But even when you can find good people, they may not have the skills you need. What’s more, a lot of distribution center jobs are repetitive and injury prone. Because of this, operators are faced with low worker satisfaction, high turnover, and rising retraining costs. 

But what if you could use your limited labor pool more efficiently? 

Robots to the rescue!

While some people worry about robots taking their jobs, they really have nothing to fear; there are actually more vacant distribution center positions than there are people available to do them. Automating repetitive and physically demanding jobs creates a win for everyone. Robots can take on tasks that typically have high turnover, allowing you to shift people to more satisfying and higher-value jobs.

Distribution environments are chaotic places for robotics because everything is constantly moving and changing. They’ve traditionally been easier to implement in manufacturing environments, where robots work with a limited number of variables. But all of that is changing, thanks to several quantum leaps forward in smart robotics technology. 

Here are three new ways smart robotics can improve your DC operation:

The power of a common platform

Starting this year, all Honeywell Robotics solutions will begin using a universal control platform: the Honeywell Universal Robotics Controller (HURC). Developed in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, HURC combines the latest sensor technology with substantial processing power, state-of-the-art machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). The result: a cutting-edge robot “brain” that can see better, think smarter, and act faster than ever before.

HURC-enabled robots are designed specifically for distribution centers, which boosts your performance by allowing more tasks to be automated. You benefit by increasing your speed to market, enhancing robotic performance over time, and minimizing reprogramming when HURC-enabled robots share solutions to new challenges — all with less operator intervention. 

The universal design of HURC also enables it to power many different automation solutions, from robotic unloaders to sorter induction and more.

Mobile robotics

As part of our mission to provide complete solutions to DCs, Honeywell Robotics has established strategic relationships with leading automation startups. One of the latest advances this enables us to integrate is autonomous roving vehicles from Fetch Robotics, which are capable of moving loads up to 1,500 kilograms. 

These free-rolling bots use vision and mapping technologies to get around your DC without requiring any infrastructure changes. Different tops enable them to perform jobs like moving carts, conveying loads and RFID scanning. They’re also smart enough to avoid everything from people to fork truck tines.

Goods-to-robot picking

Through our collaboration with Soft Robotics, Honeywell Robotics can also augment your human workforce in each-picking applications with AI-powered autonomous robots. 

Able to grasp objects with dexterity comparable to the human hand, these robots automatically retrieve, sort and fulfill orders, and have already demonstrated the ability to perform more than 600 picks per robot per hour — from heterogenous or homogenous bins — with little or no human supervision. 

More than just robotic helpers

All of these solutions combine the latest research and technology with Honeywell Intelligrated’s established expertise in logistics, distribution and materials handling, ensuring that you can implement the newest advances in DC automation with minimal costs and technical risks. 

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