In the history of the supply chain, the earliest robots were in manufacturing. The first robot could only move material for at least a dozen feet. General Motors were the first to install a robot in their plant in 1962. For the longest time, robots were only suitable for working in industrial manufacturing plants because they were unsafe for people while in use. These robots were large arms that were programmed to move. The robots initially did the dangerous or risky jobs such as welding and lifting of heavy items or machinery.
Why Automation in Warehousing is on the Rise
Over the past several decades, robotic engineers have strived to integrate technological developments such as IoT (Internet of Things) or AI (Artificial Intelligence) with robotic technology. Companies with warehouses can attest to the benefits of automation. Three things that allow a robot to operate autonomously in a warehouse are:
- Machine learning and AI
- More advanced sensors and response capability
- Management software
Advantages of Palletizing Robots
A palletizing robot is a robot that automates the stacking of products or goods onto pallets. If human workers attempt to palletize manually, they may injure their backs and necks as they are lifting, bending and twisting their bodies several times an hour. This results in more labor costs for the employer and a danger to the employee.
1. Smaller Scale
Robotic palletizers do not take up a lot of space compared to the traditional conveyor belt system. This allows these robots to be put to use on a smaller scale in facilities where there is little space. You can easily retrofit a facility using automated palletizing.
2. Modular in Design
A robotic palletizer is more modular than the conventional forms of automated palletizing. Robotic arms are almost fully self-contained, and they fit in small areas. The multiple robotic arms operate simultaneously on one or more product lines. The arms easily switch between programming for various products and pallet plans, which allows them some flexibility. This enables warehouse workflows and layouts to adapt to changes the daily operations, business model and in the supply chain.
Due to the robotic palletizer’s modular design, warehouses can scale up palletizing to meet the product demand. When there is a drop in demand, robotic palletizers can be halted until the demand rises.
The integration of robotic palletizers into an existing space and production flow is possible as the units are self-contained. Robotic palletizers and AGV (Autonomous Guided Vehicles) can serve new, small-scale production lines as well as a large-scale and automated palletizer. This allows you to test new products without disruption of the other operations quickly. A company can embark on the launching and testing of new packaging, supply chain models and products while the existing lines continue with production.
5. Fewer Damages
In such repetitive tasks like palletizing, robots are far more accurate and precise than humans. They move as programmed and do not deviate or get distracted. This means products are not dropped or wrongly stacked. A palletizing robot can be equipped with end of arm tools (EOAs) which are capable of handling pails, bags, cardboard boxes. The robots use adaptive grip technology with a combination of other technologies such as vacuums and clamps. You can program these technologies to apply the right pressure for lifting a product without damaging it.
6. Improved Production
Robots are more reliable and faster than human beings are, with a more predictable and reliable output. A robot with 20 cycles a minute can run for 24-hours with no breaks in between, unlike human workers. This means you can predict how long it takes to layer one pallet or trailer loads of pallets.
Automation in warehouses is becoming more popular for several reasons. Human beings are limited in their capacity, and robots are capable of doing more work, thus more production. Human beings are vulnerable and liable to getting injured, but palletizing robots are not, and can do the work thrice in half the time without taking breaks.