Robots and the future of warehousing

The concerns that robots were putting people out of work are now in the past. In addition to current lows in unemployment, it seems they’ve found their niche, particularly in jobs where companies find it difficult to find long-term staffing. The advancing technology has made robots smarter and more versatile, which has contributed to product prices dropping.

Navigation

In terms of logistics and warehousing, robots can pay for their own cost in less than a year, making a difference to the bottom line quickly. Their increasing capabilities enabling them to navigate their way around buildings means that they can take on more varied and comprehensive roles in the warehouse.

A range of different types of robots are working in warehouses, moving and distributing pallets of goods, performing tasks such as loading and unloading, picking and sorting, moving and storing, delivery and even audits. There is a surprisingly wide variety of methods of navigation available. Some of them run on rails, while others are guided by wires. Lasers, geoguidance, magnetic tape lasers and actual on-board vision are other examples of tools robots use for navigation.

Picking and sorting

With the rise of e-commerce, automated picking and sorting has become essential. Large online retailers rely on it, using more sophisticated robots to pick and move items ready for delivery. The Verge’s coverage of Ocado’s “Hive” reveals a fully automated warehouse where at first glance, the warehouse looks like a huge machine populated only with robots, which are all controlled by one central computer.

Although this is a working vision of the warehouses of the future, most businesses still rely on racking systems that accommodate manual, partial or fully automated picking at a simpler level. For pallet racking Ireland has a good choice of retailers to choose from, such as www.rackzone.ie/pallet-racking/.

Human jobs

Robotic automation has clearly proved how it can increase efficiency at a lower cost, However, the risk to human jobs, at least in terms of warehouse logistics, remains low. It will be a long time before robots can replicate human dexterity, for example, and it will always require humans to develop, manage and maintain the robots themselves. Repairs and engineering in robotics are careers of the future, so instead of having jobs taken from them, humans’ roles will simply change.

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