As countries extend their quarantine measures due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, warehouses, and factories worldwide keep facing overwhelming challenges. Social distancing has become common in many workplaces, and online shopping continues to rise globally, just in the US and Canada, there has been a 129% year-on-year growth as of April 21. Understandably, companies are trying to adapt their strategies, and some look at automation solutions to increase throughput while decreasing labor.
There is no doubt that warehouse automation makes warehouse processes more efficient. In fact, automation can address many operational pain points. And now robotics technology has also evolved into well-developed, autonomous, and ready-to-deploy automation solutions. But are robot-based solutions the right and most cost-effective type of automation for your business?
Autonomous Case-handling Robots (ACR) are autonomous robots that can take part in the goods-to-person (G2P) automation model in a warehouse. They are a hybrid between AMRs and grown moving vehicles with a shuttle-type retrieval function to handle totes from static shelving.
According to Goods to Person Solutions 2020 report by STIQ, ACRs offer a high-performance yet affordable solution compared to other warehouse technologies.
Source: Goods to Person Solutions 2020, published by STIQ (download free report)
Within warehouse operations, the picking processes represent as much as 55% of the total operational expense. Therefore, optimizing these processes allow companies to reduce costs significantly and increasing warehouse efficiency.
With their ability to increase productivity, accuracy, and operational efficiency, ACRs offer several benefits, as explained below.
ACRs are powered by intelligent software that allows the robots to accurately pick the right item faster compared to manual picking, significantly improving picking accuracy up to 99.9%.
With a carrying capacity of up to 9 totes and advanced path planning algorithms, ACRs can achieve unprecedented high efficiency of 3-4 times (per worker) higher than manual labor.
The operators do not need to spend time on finding the right totes. The robots bring only the required totes, and if possible, scheduling is arranged so that each tote can fulfill multiple orders.
One advantage of ACRs is the superior inventory density. Comparable robot technologies offer storage heights of <2m. ACRs enable storage heights of up to 4.5m, optimizing the storage space in a warehouse up to 2.3 times compared to a manual warehouse, providing more space for more items.
Typically, project implementation can be realized within a week, and commissioning within one month (depending on the project size). Different warehouse automation solutions such as AS/RS take over one month to deploy and almost one year for commissioning.
Global Warehouse Automation Products Comparison
Source: HAI ROBOTICS
One significant advantage of ACR systems is that it can be easily removed to another location. Construction and tuning of a traditional automation system take one to three years, and it is nearly impossible to move to another warehouse once built. The flexibility of ACR systems makes it easier to deploy and transform.
Additionally, ACR systems offer an easy-to-adapt solution applicable to new types of goods. Suppose a warehouse is changing the nature of goods it deals with, drastic changes like this may not be possible with AS/RS system without involving elaborate redesign, time-consuming removal & reinstallation, and elevated costs.
Since robots participate in the picking process, workers can focus on other essential tasks. ACRs allow workers to stay at the workstations while the (correct) goods are automatically presented just in time for each outbound order. Typically, each workstation requires only one worker. Besides, ACRs support multiple interactions with other equipment. A completely automated logistics solution can be realized when the robots interact with robotic arms or conveyor.
According to LogisticsIQ, there are substantial growth opportunities in the warehouse automation equipment space owing to several structural trends in consumer demand within e-commerce, retailing, and 3PL logistics. The Warehouse Automation Market was valued at USD 13 billion in 2018 and is expected to be worth USD 27 billion by 2025.
A growing number of warehousing and logistics companies are incorporating robots to obtain the benefits of speed, efficiency, and increased profits to remain competitive in a market-driven in large part by consumers that demand rapid fulfillment. According to a report from Tractica, global sales for logistics robots will rise from 194,000 units in 2018 to nearly a million (938,000 units) in 2022.
Warehouse automation is a growing trend, and it’s becoming the natural way of boosting competitiveness in the complex warehouse business scenario. Investing in the right warehouse automation solution is a smart decision that will allow you to reduce operational costs and increase productivity exponentially, thus, meeting customer’s requirements faster. Autonomous Case-handling Robots offer a cost-effective and high-efficient solution that has been proved in recent years.
Learn more about ACR case studies at HAI ROBOTICS
Sources used in this article:
 Goods to Person Solutions 2020, published by STIQ (download free report)