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Nine applications of robots in materials handling

Article by Megan Gee


When it comes to warehouse automation, modern robotics, and industry 4.0 in general, most businesses find themselves with plenty of questions. Long before getting into things like technical details, costing models, or support systems, much simpler questions need to be answered. Questions like “what do the robots do?”

Both the word “robots” and the phrase “materials handling” cover a wide range of technology, processes, and other elements in between. To help you make clear sense of exactly how robotic automation works in a warehouse setting, Wise Robotics has assembled this list. A list of nine examples of the application of robots in materials handling.

1. Goods-in to general storage

Moving stock from goods-in to your warehouse’s general storage areas is an excellent example of the advantages of a robotic materials handling solution. This task could normally consume a great many staff hours in a manually managed warehouse. With robots, the process can be automated and your goods can be stationed in your warehouse quickly, accurately, and at a consistent speed.

2. Goods-to-person

Goods-to-person is possibly the single most direct application of robots in materials handling. Handling the process of taking ordered goods out from general storage, and bringing them to pickers. At that stage, one-touch-fulfilment kicks in, and the entire process of getting your goods to customers becomes much more streamlined and sophisticated. An excellent application of robots in materials handling.

3. Picking to despatch

Once your company’s orders have been picked and packed, they need to make their way to the despatch point. Either to be collected by couriers or loaded onto your own waiting company vehicles. Robots perform this kind of materials handling process with exceptional ease. These systems can be faster and more consistently reliable than manually operated loading methods or forklifts.

4. Production intralogistics

When we think of automation in the production line, we tend to imagine just that. A network of robots orchestrating each process of assembly and manufacture. What we might not imagine is a key application of robots in materials handling – component resupply. Using modern automation technology, you can ensure that every stage on the production line is always fully stocked with all the parts and materials needed to complete their task. The most sophisticated automated screwdriver arm is useless if it’s not always loaded with screws.

5. Warehouse optimising

One place where robots offer something important and useful to materials handling processes is overall warehouse optimisation. Ensuring every process can happen as smoothly and quickly as possible. Warehouse automation makes this much easier. Robots have access to far more data in much more depth than could ever be manually processed. They can quickly see how a storage set-up can be re-arranged on the fly. This then ensures the most in-demand products are put in prime placement for maximum efficiency.

6. Counter-contamination processes

COVID-19 has revealed a valuable element of automated materials handling – counter-contamination and contagion security. Robots can make it easier to organise your warehouse to curtail the spreading of any number of debilitating diseases. By deploying an automated system into your warehouse, you minimise human direct contact with all your stock. This helps keep contamination down to the barest minimum, making your overall warehouse contagion safe. Additionally, if you use freestanding storage combined with autonomous mobile robots, it becomes much easier to set aside part of your warehouse as a quarantine zone.

7. Sensitive materials movement

Fragile, delicate, and sensitive materials are the kinds of items many warehouses need to deal with on an hourly basis. Robots play a key role here in making sure that the movement of these items is done with mechanical levels of care and accuracy. Often these are materials where manual error simply cannot be tolerated. Avoiding manual input is an absolute necessity.

8. Large load rapid movement

Moving heavier and more bulky loads at a rapid pace is something many warehouses have to do all the time. But this kind of operation usually takes a great deal of well-trained manual operatives, often with forklifts or other specialised equipment. Automated forklifts and robots with higher carrying capacity can deliver much faster and more accurate movement of even the heaviest of loads.

9. Small SKU sorting

Dealing with dozens upon dozens of individual boxes and cartons of things like screws, washers, bolts, or other small items, can be a highly time-consuming process for manual warehouse operatives. A vital application of robots in materials handling is the use of CTUs – container transport units. Robots that can move through the warehouse and place individual boxes of specific items exactly on the shelves / in the spaces where they are both needed and expected to be.

Discover the application of robots in materials handling

You can read more about how robotics can be applied in materials handling by reading our latest white paper on the subject. Discover there more about how to maximise your materials handling through automation.

Reading though is just the beginning. To see the true scope of the application of robots in materials handling, why not visit Wise Robotics in person? As the owner and operator of Europe’s first warehouse automation demonstration centre, we understand what business leaders want to see from this next-generation technology. Discover for yourself why more and more businesses are realising that the robotic revolution isn’t coming soon. It’s already here.

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