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Robert.Jervis_43227 May 14

5 ways autonomous mobile robots could improve your warehouse efficiency

5 ways autonomous mobile robots could improve your warehouse efficiency image
Here, Ed Napier-Fenning from the supply chain software specialists Balloon One looks at whether incorporating autonomous mobile robots into your warehouse operation could help to save you time and money
Due to the UK's coronavirus lockdown, people have been shopping online more and more, which has pushed supply chains and delivery services to their limits. If your warehouse has been feeling the strain of this increase in demand, you might be looking for ways to improve your efficiency going forward.
 
One of the ways in which a lot of companies are choosing to boost their productivity is through the introduction of robotic technology. In fact, approximately 16% of the UK's warehouses and distribution hubs already use robotics in their work, while 15% are seriously considering incorporating this technology into their operations (Logistics Manager). And, in order to stay competitive, it's likely more and more businesses will start considering it as an option as times goes on.
 
Autonomous mobile robots are leading the charge when it comes to boosting warehouse productivity. I'm going to talk you through exactly what they are and how they could benefit your business.
 
What are autonomous mobile robots?
 
Autonomous mobile robots — or AMRs — are designed to pick up and move stock from one location to another completely independently. They're similar to automated guided vehicles (AGVs) in this regard, but they're more versatile thanks to their especially sophisticated sensors, maps, and processing systems, which allow them to plan their routes and make decisions in real time.
 
Another big difference is that AGVs require certain modification to be made to your warehouse — for example, you would need to install magnetic floor tape to guide them around your workspace. However, autonomous mobile robots are able to adapt to their surroundings without any extra infrastructure being put in place. This means they can be introduced to your operation without you having to spend a lot of time or money on getting your warehouse ready.
 
Some AMRs are even equipped with their own RFID scanners, which can help you to keep track of stock levels in real time and ensure that the right items are always being transported.
 
Here are five ways that AMRs could benefit your warehouse.
1. They'll increase your productivity 

There are a number of ways in which introducing AMRs to your warehouse will boost your productivity. Firstly, it will greatly reduce the need for your staff to transport stock from one location to another. Your pickers will simply have to locate the items that are needed and place them on a robot, which will take your products to the packing bench, for example. AMRs can also be tasked with bulk stock movements.

As your staff will have to spend less time moving your stock long distances, they will be able to focus more on the complicated aspects of picking and packing, which can't be done by a robot. This means they should be able to get through more orders in a shorter space of time.
 
It's also worth noting that AMR units can run for upwards of 12 hours on a single charge, and they can then dock themselves when their batteries are running low. As a result, they can work for an entire shift without any breaks.

These robots are also very low maintenance, and they'll mostly work just fine without any human intervention. So, you won't even have to worry about their introduction adding more tasks to your staff's workloads.

2. They can help to improve health and safety in your warehouse 

Unfortunately, almost 500,000 UK workers suffer from musculoskeletal disorders every year, and manual handling is a huge cause of this, according to the Health and Safety Executive. As an employer, it's important that you take all reasonable steps to reduce how much stock your workers are having to lift and transport during their shifts, and AMRs can really help with this. Because they're able to pick up and move stock without any help from your staff, they're very likely to reduce the risk of injury in your workplace.
 
As well as you having a duty to look out for your workers' wellbeing as much as possible, reducing their risk of injury will also slash the number of sick days your staff have to take. This will help to keep your productivity levels up and keep your warehouse working as efficiently as possible.
 
3. There'll be less room for human error
 
You'll know that warehouse staff working long shifts can sometimes make errors, which might result in stock getting damaged or the wrong products being distributed every once in a while. Using AMRs can greatly reduce the risk of this happening.
 
While your workers might be prone to making the odd mistake while carrying out a monotonous task due to a lapse in concentration, AMR units are equipped with sensors or scanners to ensure they don't make any mistakes. This means they can be very helpful — and more reliable — when it comes to jobs such as stock counting.
 
AMRs are also made to be very stable, so they can transport stock from one location to another both quickly and safely. As a result, the risk of stock getting damaged during the process will be greatly reduced, too.
 
4. They're safe to use
 
Warehouses are very busy environments, where there will constantly be people and forklifts moving around the space, so you might be worried that there could be some risks associated with letting robots loose on your warehouse floor. But AMRs are equipped with a whole host of safety features that will greatly reduce the risk of accidents.
 
Many have 360⁰ laser scanning systems that will assess their surroundings at all times, so they're able to avoid collisions in real time. Most won't move faster than walking speed, either, so you don't have to worry about them zipping around your space and catching people off-guard. It'll just be like having a few extra staff members, but ones that are less prone to error.
 
5. They offer a good ROI
 
Because AMRs can help to increase productivity, limit the risk of errors, and prevent stock from getting damaged, they typically offer a great return on investment. Of course, they do require an initial outlay but, because your existing infrastructure won't need to be modified, they can be a more affordable option compared to the likes of AGVs. And you can be confident that they'll help you to recoup the cost quite quickly, so you can invest more in other tools that will boost your efficiency even further!

If your warehouse is struggling to keep up with the increased demand at the moment, it's well worth considering whether AMRs would make a great addition to your warehouse. They're safe, efficient, and reliable, which means they could make a great addition to your team

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