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Warehouses feel the touch of automation

March 1, 2023
AMRs and AS/RS set the pace

Ryan Gariepy is CEO and co-founder of Otto Motors.

Which technologies have allowed warehouses to increase throughput rates while expanding product ranges and still maintaining accurate order fulfillment?

Ryan Gariepy, CEO and co-founder, Otto Motors: The continued evolution of vision-system performance and flexibility in sorting, picking and quality-control workflows has had significant impact when it comes to addressing the demands for ever-increasing fulfillment rates and ranges. Flexible manipulation is also starting to show early promise, but it has not yet been deployed at scale.

Also read: Warehouse automation with the human touch

Because of the warehouse’s physical nature, how much of the facility’s hardware can be replaced with software in order to facilitate easier upgrades, expansions and reconfigurations?

Ryan Gariepy, CEO and co-founder, Otto Motors: Facility hardware won't be replaced with software on a 1:1 basis. Physical goods need to be moved. But hardware itself is becoming more software-enabled. Possibly more important is the fact that users are more open to regular updates and data sharing, where in the past their systems had software frozen for years and supplier data access was forbidden.

How have automated storage and retrieval systems' roles changed over the past 10 years?

Ryan Gariepy, CEO and co-founder, Otto Motors: Ten years ago, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) were the more flexible part of a warehouse when it came to capital equipment and tended to feed less flexible solutions such as conveyors and sorters. Unfortunately, the minimum investment for an AS/RS was and remains significant. Now, we're seeing AS/RS interact with AMR-based systems, which are even more flexible and have an even lower minimum investment requirement.

Will autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) replace automated guided vehicles (AGVs) altogether, or is there room for both, based on the application or complementary functions?

Ryan Gariepy, CEO and co-founder, Otto Motors: In time, they will become one and the same. For example, our AMRs offer AGV-like functionality including full magnetic tape following. Likewise, we've seen growing indications that AGV suppliers are looking to increase the level of intelligence in their products.

How will ANSI/RIA R15.08 affect robotic solutions in warehouse environments?

Ryan Gariepy, CEO and co-founder, Otto Motors: ANSI/RIA R15.08 will affect robotic solutions in warehouse environments for the better. It'll help new entrants to the market build safer systems faster and help users and system integrators who aren't familiar with AMRs ask the right questions to ensure safety in their particular facilities.

Given the extraordinary percentage of manual operation in most distribution centers, will the 24/7 fully autonomous warehouse order-fulfillment center ever become commonplace?

Ryan Gariepy, CEO and co-founder, Otto Motors: In time, yes, a 24/7 fully autonomous warehouse order-fulfillment center can become commonplace. The reliability, robustness and flexibility of robot manipulators continues to increase, as does the willingness of warehouse operators to commit to larger investments in modern AS/RS and AMR deployments.
About the author: Mike Bacidore
About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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