Robots, Robots, Robots
Robots generated much of the excitement and glory at MHI’s recent ProMat exhibition in Chicago, especially the ones that walked on two feet. Bipedal humanoid robots are sexy and you can’t blame logistics pros for being intrigued by the possibilities.
But robots with no legs are still doing most, if not all, of the real automated warehouse work. It takes more than buzz to move boxes.
Warehouse labor costs have been trending down recently thanks to automation, even as hourly wages rise. That has been somewhat reversed with the additional touches required to handle the explosion in ecommerce deliveries and smaller shipments. So: hourly wages go up + touches increase + labor scarcity = more robots, robots, robots.
And, as exhibits—or rather exhibots—like ProMat indicate, more companies will invest in and adopt robot automation. Prices will eventually go down, while options and evolving applications will go up.
Here are just a few of the workhorse robots featured at ProMat 2023.
Vecna Robotics. The low-cost Vecna co-bot pallet jack brings human-assisted robotics to warehouses with labor-intensive workflows and tight space constraints.
Pickle Robots. Ever empty a mixed-load LTL trailer? I did; it was one of my first jobs. This Boston Dynamics robot does it better and faster than my 19-year-old self ever could.
Vaux. Got pallets in trailers instead? From ArcBest, this pallet unloading system has connecting configurable conveyors.
Otto Forklifts. A self-driving forklift and master of the loading dock.
Universal Robots. The UR20 case packing and palletizing cobot system has it all wrapped up.
Brightpick Robotics. Got groceries? Ecommerce? This robot picks and consolidates for shipment as it glides through warehouse aisles.
InVia. Bins empty? Need to replenish inventory picking stations with reserve stock? InVia’s solution does that.
RIOS. Need robot solutions without annoying capital investment? RIOS pioneered Robots as a Service (RaaS) for packaging and factory automation.
Thira Robotics. Mobile warehouse robots from Korea that can navigate 10% inclines and rough warehouse terrain. Wow.
Tompkins Robotics PickPal. Need picking, counting, replenishment, or sorting tasks to empower your team? PickPal is their friend.
Many more robots are doing the work of today as we wait for the two-legged ones to gain mainstream acceptance. Based on the investment, excitement, brainpower, and popularity, it won’t be long before those two-legged robots, robots, robots will walk with you.