A Guide to Warehouse Robots

Warehouse robotics refer to the use of robots and automation technology to improve efficiency and productivity in warehouse operations. As e-commerce continues to grow exponentially, warehouses face increasing demands to fulfill more orders accurately and quickly. Warehouse robots enable warehouses to meet these demands through automating repetitive and physically demanding tasks such as picking, packing, palletizing, inventory tracking etc.

There are several types of warehouse robots that perform different functions. Before picking the right warehouse robot, you should have a clear idea about the best option available. This article will provide an overview of the major categories of warehouse robots, how they work and their key benefits. Understanding the capabilities of different warehouse robots can help warehouse managers determine which solutions are best suited to their operations’ needs and challenges.

A guide to warehouse robotics - manly

What Is Meant By Warehouse Robots?

Warehouse robots have become an essential aspect in warehouse operations and fulfillment centers. It is possible to use a warehouse robot and improve efficiency, accuracy, and productivity. Warehouse robots can be defined as intelligent machines capable of moving inventory and performing repetitive tasks within warehouses without direct human intervention.

The primary driver for deploying warehouse robots is the exponential growth of e-commerce which has placed increasing demands on warehouses for faster order processing and fulfillment. Warehouse robots enable operations to scale to meet rising order volumes by automating highly repetitive and physically intensive tasks that often result in injuries and high turnover of human warehouse workers.

Warehouse robots are designed to handle the core functions within a warehouse including transportation, storage and retrieval, packaging, palletizing and more. There are various types of warehouse robots suited to different applications within the warehouse, such as mobile robots that move inventory on the floor, robotic arms that pick and pack items from shelves to be shipped, automated storage and retrieval systems that store and retrieve items at high speeds and heights etc.

Key benefits of warehouse robotics include:

  • Improved productivity, throughput and order accuracy
  • 24/7 operation with consistent performance
  • Reduced operating costs and better utilization of warehouse space
  • Safer working conditions by eliminating injuries from repetitive tasks
  • Better inventory tracking and warehouse optimization

As the technology continues to advance with innovations in sensors, computer vision and gripping capabilities, warehouse robots are getting more sophisticated and capable of adapting to complex warehouse environments and changes in real-time. This makes them a promising long-term investment for modern fulfillment centers looking to minimize costs while meeting growing demand.

How Do Warehouse Robots Work?

Warehouse robots leverage technologies like sensors, lasers, autonomous navigation algorithms and gripper mechanisms to reliably perform warehousing tasks without needing human control.

Most warehouse robots create digital maps of the warehouse floor using LiDAR sensors and cameras. The maps allow them to identify objects and navigate autonomously to target locations while avoiding obstacles. Intricate path planning algorithms plot optimal routes to inventory locations or stations.

Robots use end effectors like mechanical grippers or vacuum suction cups to securely lift, transport and place inventory items. Grippers adjust pressure and motion dynamically to handle products of varied shapes and textures from delicate objects to 50-pound boxes.

To track inventory location in real-time, warehouse robots integrate with warehouse management systems through WiFi, Bluetooth and other wireless communication protocols. This allows them to update their paths and tasks dynamically based on the latest inventory data.

Additional sensors like sonars, 2D cameras and depth sensors enable capabilities like last-mile positioning, loading and unloading at precise locations, and integration with picking stations or conveyor systems. Technology like computer vision further improves robots’ object recognition and quality assurance abilities.

To maximize safety, warehouse robots have emergency stop buttons and feature collision avoidance systems. Their speed, fields-of-view and object detection regions are designed to protect workers. Most advanced models can automatically slow down or alter paths when human movements are detected nearby.

By combining data-driven optimization logic with physical capabilities that far exceed humans, warehouse robots can drive order fulfillment to new levels of accuracy, flexibility and throughput at lower operating costs.

Types of Warehouse Robots

While looking for a warehouse robot, you will notice that there are quite a few options to consider. Let’s look at the most prominent types in detail. Then you can decide what the most appropriate warehouse robot available for you to consider is.

1. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)

Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) were one of the first types of warehouse robots deployed. As the name suggests, AGVs are self-driving vehicles that navigate along marked paths on the warehouse floor using lasers, sensors and vision systems. They are programmed with fixed routes and stop at predetermined locations – like stations or shelves – to drop-off or pick up inventory loads.

The major types of AGVs include unit load carriers, pallet trucks, forklift AGVs, assembly line vehicles and towing vehicles. Unit load carriers and pallet trucks transport finished goods, boxes and heavy palletized loads weighing thousands of pounds across warehouses safely and efficiently. Forklift AGVs offers an automated alternative to manual forklift driving, improving safety and productivity. Towing vehicles can haul multiple carts or trailers simultaneously.

Benefits of AGVs include reduced product damage compared to forklifts, the ability to operate 24/7 and optimal use of warehouse space by eliminating aisle space needed for manual navigation. However, AGVs do rely on fixed routes and lack the advanced dynamic navigation of next-generation warehouse robots.

2. Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR)

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) represent the latest generation of warehouse transportation robots. In comparison to AGVs, they navigate warehouse floors dynamically without being restricted to specific paths, programmed routes or magnetic tape/wires beneath floor surfaces.

Using simultaneous localization and mapping technology (SLAM), AMRs can autonomously navigate while using LiDAR sensors and advanced path planning algorithms to identify optimal routes between different locations dynamically. Unlike AGVs, they can map out warehouse floors and operate immediately without infrastructure changes. Their autonomous adaptability enables easy redeployment across floors as needed.

In addition to horizontal transportation, AMRs can integrate robotic arms for lifting loads. They can interface with elevators to coordinate inter-floor transfers and integrate with software-execution systems using REST APIs. Top AMR models offer high load capacities over 3 tons along with precision docking and positioning capabilities under 1 cm.

3. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also called drones, are an emerging technology for warehouse automation that provide a bird’s eye view of inventory and operations not possible with grounded warehouse robots. Equipped with cameras and sensors, drones autonomously navigate the airspace within warehouses to capture real-time inventory data, track assets and perform inspections difficult to complete on foot.

Warehouse drones offer rapid and frequent scanning of shelves, racks, pallets and etiquettes to analyze inventory levels across all warehouse locations accurately. By providing granular, up-to-date inventory visibility, drones enable faster order picking, improved cycle counting and more dynamic slotting and space utilization policies to optimize warehouse layouts. Their aerial mobility also enables hard-to-access assets to be inspected thoroughly for repair needs.

Drones within warehouses raise fewer safety risks since they operate away from workers in limited controlled environments compared to public spaces. Top providers offer specialized warehouse drones featuring collision avoidance, battery redundancy and emergency landing protocols to minimize operational risks. However, clear airspace management policies and geo-fencing procedures are still essential to manage these fast moving UAVs. Interested in learning more about UAVs? Click here to dive into the details!

4. Automated Guided Carts (AGCs)

Automated guided carts (AGCs) serve a niche role targeted at lightweight transportation applications within warehouses or production areas. They are best suited for assembly supply or kitting operations rather than distribution center material handling.

Essentially wheeled robots, AGCs come with a shelf or platform to hold inventory objects that do not require heavy lifting or stacking capabilities. Controlled remotely or through pre-planned routes, they can transport small parts, kits, containers and assembly components to production lines flexibly on-demand. Their specialized trays and holders keep transported items secure.

Offering more mobility than conveyor belts, AGCs enable dynamic movement of lighter goods across closer distances within warehouses. They optimize material flows and availability of components to streamline manufacturing while reducing wasted steps for workers. Most AGVs support modular platforms and shelves that can be swapped out to handle varied kit sizes.

5. Sorting Robots

Sorting robots automate the sorting of incoming inventory and packages in warehouses to accurate storage locations or order groupings to expedite order fulfillment. They are equipped with gripper arms and suction lift mechanisms to reliably grab differently sized products from moving conveyor systems and place them into appropriate bins, orders or pallet groupings as pre-programmed.

Vision sensors and scanning algorithms enable sorting robots to quickly scan incoming products while in motion to identify them and determine ideal grip positions. Top models promise over 99% order accuracy through the combination of robust grasping and object recognition. This ensures optimal sortation and inventory grouping that maximizes warehouse workflows.

Sorting automation is essential for fast-moving consumer goods warehouses and e-commerce fulfillment centers that process tens of thousands of daily orders requiring efficient grouping. Sorting robots enable high-speed order fulfillment and non-stop overnight processing capabilities while removing tedious manual sorting tasks. Curious to dive deeper into the world of robotics? Click right here!

6. Picking Robots

Picking robots automate the warehousing function of accurately identifying, grabbing and moving inventory from storage onto conveyors and packaging stations for shipments. Using LiDAR and computer vision, these mobile warehouse robots can navigate optimize paths to pick locations, grab prioritized items, and avoid collisions.

Once items are picked, intelligent grippers adapted based on object data ensure secure hold without damaging items during transfers. Integration with warehouse management software allows real-time order updates to be received so robots can continuously prioritize the most critical picks across inventory zones dynamically. Connectivity with conveyors and smart stations enable seamless handovers.

Picking robots provide consistent and accurate picks at high frequencies non-stop for over 15 hours resulting in greater throughput and productivity. By handling repetitive walking and lifting tasks in warehouses, they significantly reduce injury risks and turnover for warehouse operators. Powered by machine learning, their capabilities continue to improve through experience without fatigue. Ready to dive into the world of picking robots? Click here to learn more!

What Are The Benefits of Warehouse Robotics?

Warehouse robotics offer transformative benefits that enable modern supply chains and e-commerce operations to reach new levels of speed, accuracy, flexibility and efficiency. By automating highly repetitive and labor-intensive processes, robots allow warehouses to scale rapidly at lower operational costs. The key benefits provided by warehouse automation and robotics solutions include:

1. Increased Throughput and Productivity

By automating repetitive tasks like picking, sorting, retrieval and palletizing, warehouse robots can consistently operate at faster speeds with higher accuracy compared to human workers. Robots equipped with optimized routing algorithms and advanced sensing capabilities can fulfill orders at two to three times the rates of traditional warehouse workflows. This is one of the main reasons why industries decide to invest on a warehouse robot.

In distribution centers and 3PL warehouses operating 24/7, automation enables overnight throughput to double based on typical volume profiles. Robots also optimize storage density, inventory tracking and slotting efficiency to maximize warehouse capacity and output.

2. Enhanced Order and Inventory Accuracy

Leveraging barcode scanners, sensors, voice-direction systems and location tracking infrastructure, robots achieve order fulfillment accuracy greater than 99.9% in experiments – far superior to the accuracy of manual picking which averages around 65%. This leads to lower error rates in order processing and inventory counts along with fewer customer returns or compliance issues.

3. Injury Prevention and Improved Working Conditions

Warehouse robots eliminate the most physically intense and repetitive tasks that are most likely to cause injuries for human associates such as lifting of heavy objects, walking miles per day and performing thousands of picks daily. This improves health and safety as well as engagement levels by allowing staff to focus on more value-added work.

4. 24/7 Operation with Minimal Downtime

Warehouse robots perform reliably 24/7 when needed to meet overnight timelines and customer demands. They achieve over 98% uptime based on advanced sensing, protocols and redundancy while operating tirelessly once programmed. This results in greater flexibility and responsiveness than manual labor solutions.

5. Optimized Warehouse Layouts and Processes

Robots optimize material flows, storage density, inventory slotting, and order batching within warehouses based on advanced algorithms and predictive data. Instead of fixed infrastructure, mobile robots flexibly adapt to layout changes. Their data insights combined with modular automation building blocks allow warehouses to cost-effectively reconfigure processes.

6. Rapid ROI and Lower Operating Costs

Given the rising labor challenges and costs facing warehouses currently, intelligent automation solutions offer some of the fastest returns on investment among supply chain technologies – often under two years. By reducing reliance on manual labor and lifting significant cost burdens, warehouse robotics provide high value.

From lowering building footprint needs by 30-50% via optimized storage to improving inventory visibility and waste reduction, warehouse automation enables dramatic operational savings. Technologies like computer vision and aerial data analytics will further optimize costs as capabilities advance.

In summary, warehouse robots will be pivotal in revolutionizing fulfillment and distribution for the growing digital economy through transformative gains in key metrics like speed, accuracy, scalability and flexibility while lowering operating costs. With innovations in gripping, vision, battery life and machine learning on the horizon, these intelligent machines will continue enhancing warehouse productivity and throughput into the future. The automation transformation is truly just getting started.

Industries Employing Warehouse Robots

Warehouse automation and robotics solutions have become essential technologies for organizations across nearly every industry dealing with physical products – from retailers, ecommerce companies, and consumer packaged goods to electronics, pharmaceuticals, and third-party logistics providers.

Any operation looking to enhance productivity, gain a competitive edge with faster fulfillment, and flexibly scale to demand spikes utilizes warehouse robots in their facilities. Specifically, high growth industries investing most heavily into intelligent automation include:

1. Ecommerce & Online Retail

Ecommerce players like Amazon rely extensively on armies of warehouse robots across fulfillment centers worldwide to meet explosive order volumes with speed and accuracy. Ambitious 1-day and 2-hour delivery pledges require optimizing every link of their supply chain, especially the last mile.

Everything from autonomous mobile robots transporting inventory 24/7 and robotic pickers fulfilling thousands of items per hour to automated packaging and sorting enable non-stop operations at peak efficiency. Drones also facilitate large warehouses inspection and analytics.

2. Consumer Packaged Goods

From processed foods to home care products, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) require reliable order fulfillment given their household importance for consumers. Automating repetitive processes allows scaling rapidly to population demand shifts both in-store and for omnichannel delivery.

Sorting and picking robots enable high-speed processing of bulk palleted goods headed to retail locations as well unit handling of direct-to-consumer packages. Compliance labeling and inventory accuracy also improves.

3. Logistics & 3PL

Third party logistics firms and distribution centers prioritize warehouse automation adoption given the thin margins of their high-volume shipment operations spanning B2B and B2C markets. Intelligent automation allows 3PLs to reliably meet dynamic freight forwarding needs and fulfillment spikes across distributed facilities faster with minimized costs.

In 3PL warehouses, AMRs optimize loads across routes and mobile shelving while picking robots handle thousands of SKUs per facility. Automated storage and retrieval systems provide dense, secure buffer inventory storage to balance flows.

4. Electronics

Electronics leaders serving massive consumer demand have deployed tens of thousands of warehouse robots supporting lights out operations given the fragile nature of handling gadgets. From pick and place robots equipped with specialized suction and grippers to limit product scratches to mobile carts transporting carefully stacked finished pallets, automated assurance improves customer satisfaction.

5. Pharmaceuticals

Given mandated accuracy, traceability and compliance in pharmaceutical supply chains, automated picking, monitoring and storage enables reliable and regulated movement of therapeutic drugs and healthcare products. Robots also minimize risks of spoilage and errors during cold storage or clean room handling through sensors, data and AI optimization of environmental conditions like humidity.

Across these industries racing to meet customer expectations with warehouse automation, L4+ level autonomy mobile robots, AI-powered computer vision solutions and aerial data drones will drive the next level of advancement. With capabilities doubling every year, warehouses are sure to take continued advantage of these game-changing technologies.

MANLY: Premium LiFePO4 Batteries for Warehouse Robots

As warehouses accelerate the deployment of robotics and automation to meet exploding ecommerce demand, having reliable high-performance power solutions is pivotal. MANLY Battery offers cutting-edge lithium-ion batteries optimized to unlock the full potential of intelligent warehouse robots safely and efficiently. Here are three of the MANLY battery options available for a warehouse robot.

24V 30Ah LiFePO4 Battery

MANLY’s 24V 30Ah LiFePO4 battery offers robust, long-lasting power for warehouse robots. It features a proprietary battery management system for optimized performance and 10-year warranty for peace of mind.

With quick recharge capabilities to minimize downtime and advanced sensors to prevent overcharging, this 30Ah power cell drives AGVs safely over long distances transporting heavy loads. Multiple mounting options provide deployment flexibility while compliance certifications enable global use-cases.

24V 50Ah LiFePO4 Battery

To meet expanding operational demands, MANLY supplies a high capacity 24V 50Ah LiFePO4 battery for non-stop warehouse productivity. Its bespoke modular architecture packs 50Ah efficiently to extend robot run times beyond 16 hours.

Integrated chip protection, cell balancing and temperature/voltage monitors guarantee both worker safety and maximum battery lifecycle. Rapid customization allows tailoring to specialized voltage, sizing, connectors and enclosure needs of next-gen robots.

24V 60Ah LiFePo4 Battery

For cutting-edge autonomous mobile robots and aerial drones tackling complex warehouse environments, MANLY offers an ultra-high performance 24V 60Ah LiPO4 battery.

Delivering intense 60Ah power bursts when needed, it empowers advanced movement plus lifting of over 50lbs loads. Over 6000 deep discharge life cycles coupled with IP65 weatherproofing push automation boundaries.

Final Words

You are using a warehouse robot to experience all the outstanding benefits that come along with it. This is why you must make sure that you are getting maximum efficiency and productivity out of it. To ensure that, you need to install the correct battery in your warehouse robot. Look no further than the MANLY batteries for your warehouse robot. It will be able to cater for all the needs you have. You will absolutely love the performance you can get as well.