Retailers across the world are diving deep into what it means to have robot powered warehouses and distribution centers.
A brand we know well, Ocado, has customer fulfillment centers all over, but one specifically in East London that is one of the most sophisticated and automated on the planet handling many tens of thousands of orders per week. [i] For those who aren’t familiar with the brand Ocado, they are a British online grocer that is on the brink of innovation when it comes to automated robots in their warehouse. [i]
Here’s the rundown of how these robots work: each robot follows an individual route gliding across a vast steel and aluminum grid. The robots’ grid is a very strategically created three-dimensional lattice setup. Each robot has a specific job to essentially use its “claws” to attain the orders needed for fulfilment and carry it across from grid to grid shuffling along items to into the “pick tunnel” where workers pick items out of the crates to fill customers’ orders, which are then loaded onto trucks for delivery. [i]
This specific example is only one of the many innovative creations in the world of AI. If you are unfamiliar with Ocado and just not quite impressed, how about we flip the table to a brand that, well if you don’t know, you are quite frankly living under a rock… Amazon. Amazon is leading a robotics race that will impact the warehouse industry for the rest of time. Not only is the prospect of increasing use of AI and automation a thrilling and innovative endeavor, it’s also quite terrifying for one simple reasons: robots can do exactly what human hands do but with one exception, little to no error. What does that mean for big brands like Amazon? They are desperate to find the solution to full functioning AI.
“Today, Amazon has more than 200,000 mobile robots working inside its warehouse network, alongside hundreds of thousands of human workers. This robot army has helped the company fulfill its ever-increasing promises of speedy deliveries to Amazon Prime customers.” [ii]
With Amazon setting the stage and expectations for fast delivery at little cost to their customers, other retailers can’t help but hop on the train or else they’re getting left behind. With that being said: commence the robotics race! The rise of these AI robots means there’s likely a day coming when these warehouse robots will be capable of replacing just about every human task, and human worker. [ii]
So why haven’t robots won the game yet? Well, according to Martin Ford, author of The Rise of Robots, is that they can’t solve problems like humans can. [ii] “Machine learning and related technologies are for the first-time allowing machines to do that and to compete with that capability. That’s really kind of a game-changer.” [ii]
When it comes down to it, what does this mean for the warehousing industry? For the future of technology? For warehouse workers, for retailers around the world? As researchers and engineers work tirelessly every day to find solutions to these answers, we have only one answer for you: as the warehousing industry grows, AI robots and machinery become the new norm. Technology is being installed for retailer’s distribution centers all across the globe and power is what stands between a full, fulfilling DC and an empty warehouse. With a large repertoire of projects for distribution centers and fulfilment centers, Rogers can power, install, or upgrade any and all equipment in these large sq. ft. facilities. Head on over to our work to see all of the work we’ve been doing across the country!
[i] https://fortune.com/longform/coronavirus-pandemic-ocado-robots-warehouses-online-grocery/[ii] https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/12/11/20982652/robots-amazon-warehouse-jobs-automation[iii] https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/29/21083313/robot-picking-warehouses-logistics-ai-covariant-stealth