Is there something like intelligent machines? In case of robots for the warehouse management we do not have to answer this question in detail. We just have to teach our metal colleague how to communicate with all process-participating systems as well as humans and how to carry out requested operations flexibly according to the situation. Which by itself is pretty complex.
Robotics = flexible, automated handling technology
Automated handling technology has already been established within the logistics sector for quite some time, however the attribute „flexible“ is still missing. Classically, we are talking about „automated conveyance“ and are actually talking about transportations by means of roller conveyors, sorting machines or ordinary pallet-filling robots.
Today there are robots that are both flexible and intelligent in addition:
- This means, on the mechanical level, robots feature plenty degrees of freedom. So they move their arms over numerous axes and are able to imitate a movement similar to those of human arms. A regular storage and retrieval conveyance only features three axes and much more limited movement options.
- On the logistics level, „intelligence“ means, the robot is able to react reasonably and independently.
- The range of application is therefore versatile and well scalable. Robots are „all-rounders“, while classic automatization-helpers can only carry out clearly defined tasks.
What are the benefits of warehouse managing robots?
Operating intelligent robots requires an interconnected architecture. All elements have to be interlinked, communicate with each other, send and receive feedback while drawing correct conclusions. Then robots independently identify the most optimal process and are highly beneficial for an efficient processing of all warehouse operations.
Today, robots are flexible and intelligent. Their features are highly flexible and robots operate independently. Huge potential for operations in the warehouse management.
Effects on the IT-architecture
Classic automated warehouses follow a hierarchic structure with a distinct chain of commands from top to bottom: the superior ERP-System issues commands, the warehouse management system decides how the command is performed and the material flow calculator issues specific work orders to the operating machine.
Operating intelligent robots requires an interconnected architecture, reaching far beyond the classical structure. All elements have to be interlinked, communicate with each other, send and receive feedback while drawing correct conclusions:
- The flexibility of the robots requires decision-making algorithms upon the lowest controlling level, key word „edge-computing“.
- Higher, classical decision-making levels have to be informed about decisions made by the robotic and generate their own, up-to-date situation-specific image, the so called „digital twin“. Digital twins and human work environments meet within the digital world and coordinate all processing steps amongst each other (man-machine-interaction).
- Lower levels (material flow calculator and robotics controls) need information about their operating context, such as e.g. information about stocks.
- Robots operate within an environment in cooperation with other robots and humans, which requires coordination in order to ensure smooth cooperations - and for safety purposes in order to e.g. avoid collisions.
The IT architecture has to be remodeled so all systems, robots and humans can communicate with each other.
The new interconnected world of robotics
An example: One order reaches a central robot in form of a data set. The central robot interprets this data set by means of its algorithms and issues commands to all „small“ operating robots. These process the task and confirm their work process status. The robotics, the total of all operating robots, does not just know the way and the processing but is also familiar with the purpose of the order and the according content. These smart machines find the optimal processing procedure independently and interact with each other and other people involved.
The tact which soon will be everybody’s „has to“
Algorithms will specify this tact. Standards will become crucial for the interconnection, currently each robot communicates in its own „language“. A standardization in the desired application scenario does not exist.
This individuality is the great advantage of digitalization, a lot is already possible today. Digitalization and robotic create room for solutions, which will gradually replace monolithic standard IT solutions of today. Enterprises cannot withstand this trend if they want to maintain their competitiveness.
When introducing far-reaching technology which profoundly affects your systems you should rely on partners with a competent overview about all business processes. Only then you will be able to identify and implement solutions with the greatest possible leverage for improvement. As the house of SCM, we today also apply for your trust; we provide all services from consulting to Application Management and Support.
You will benefit due to our experience gained throughout numerous successful robotic projects, e.g. based on our warehouse management system LogBase and the small part warehouse AutoStore.
If interested, get in touch. We will identify your individual demands, design a tailor-made robotic solution, implement this solution and guarantee its efficient and reliable daily performance.