How Humans and Robots Can Work Together for Better Warehouse Management

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How Humans and Robots Can Work Together for Better Warehouse Management

By Dan Khasis - 10/30/2019

When ordering a product from Amazon, the shopper will receive several automated messages about the shipment status the order. And, within 48 hours the order will arrive. Robots are the online giant’s secret sauce to make this happen.

Imagine a world where humans and robots work harmoniously together, with the human operators commanding the robots to pass a tool or lift a box with a hand gesture. The synergy of human intelligence and the robots’ strength will make our lives easier, warehouses safer, and businesses more productive.

Humans and Robots Together in the Warehouse: Potential Future?

Amazon operates a fleet of over 30,000 robots and uses them aggressively for order fulfillment. But these robots are not killing jobs. Instead, in 2017, an article in the Houston Chronicle stated that Amazon plans to hire 2,500 full-time employees to manage its massive warehouse. This number, according to the article, is more than double the number of jobs the online giant announced in the year 2016.

Amazon is not the only company trying to find common ground for robots and humans in its warehouses. DHL is also testing collaborative robots to support its staff in warehousing functions. Rather than pushing a cart, these robots are working alongside the DHL staff, helping them pick orders that need to be shipped quickly.

Human Collaboration + Robots = Cobots

Savvy companies are trying to orchestrate an environment where robots assist the workers. These robots, also known as collaborative robots or cobots, can help workers pick items or transport goods across the warehouse. This means that the machines are not replacing humans, rather complementing their capabilities and relieving them of strenuous tasks.

Furthermore, cobots are compact, comparatively low-priced, and are designed while keeping warehouses in mind, where orders are fulfilled manually by workers pushing carts and picking items across the warehouse. By assigning menial and arduous tasks to cobots, the workers can focus more on value-generating tasks.

According to a report, the global cobots’ market size is projected to grow at a CAGR of more than 44% between 2019 and 2025. The affordability is playing a big part in the adoption of this technology. Many cobots are available for less than $45,000, making them a workable solution in a wide range of applications for companies of all sizes.

These warehouse cobots do not even require an extensive network of automation systems or conveyor belts. They are equipped with hardware, software, and electronic components, such as controllers and sensors, to move around their surroundings. You can just use the routing software to plan the fastest route and monitor the cobots to make sure they perform the tasks as planned.

They increase productivity, improve safety, are easy to program, are inexpensive to install, and provide more accuracy in the work environment; these warehouse cobots are a game-changer for small- and mid-sized logistics companies looking to gain a competitive edge over their counterparts.

Conclusion

According to the Robotic Industries Association, cobots sales are expected to grow to 34% by 2025 when the global spending on robotics is projected to hit $13 billion.

Cobots can prove to be “the big equalizer” that will help smaller companies grow amid challenges to meet the customers' increasing demand, changes in tariff policies, and cutthroat competition.

As robotics continue to evolve and as more companies deploy cobots in their warehouses, your success will depend on how well you manage human and cobot interactions.

-Dan Khasis, founder of Route4Me, a unique route optimization software platform.