Choose your autonomous robot carefully to have the best chance of finding one to match your company’s mission, core values, and future direction.
Robots: The Ideal Supply Chain Solution?
In the article Robots in the Supply Chain: The Perfect Employee? author Merrill Douglas describes a world in which robots and humans work together to accelerate operations, improve accuracy, reduce costs, and better allocate labor resources. The world of supply chain robotics—states Douglas—is not far away.
“We’re sitting in the middle of a perfect storm for robots in the supply chain. E-commerce sales continue to climb, forcing retailers to pick up the pace in their fulfillment and distribution centers,” Douglas writes. “But these days, it’s hard to find workers to keep product moving in any kind of warehouse—e-commerce or otherwise.”
Current Uses of Robots in the Supply Chain
At the time of writing, supply chain robotics are already being designed and utilized to fulfill the least attractive tasks:
“In some cases, robotic systems do this work entirely on their own, freeing humans for more complex functions,” Douglas observes. “In other instances, bots collaborate with humans. Whatever the scenario, proponents say that these automated solutions provide a big productivity boost.”
Firstly, robots in the form of autonomous drones are currently being used to transport products from one place to another in the warehouse, DC, or yard. Secondly, supply chain robotics can complete mundane and repetitive tasks in the management of inventory (including tasks that are unsafe for people, like flying up to high shelves and hard-to-reach places to view inventory). Thirdly, robots can extract shelving units from tightly-packed storage spaces and take these goods to the picking station.
All Drones Are Not Made Equal
We can all see that Intelligent machines are able to complete tasks without direct control and are already being used in the supply chain industry. However, before buying the first supply chain robotics models that are being advertised or used successfully by another company, it is worth spending the time and effort to find the right autonomous robot for your company.
In the Deloitte publication Using autonomous robots to drive supply chain innovation, an interesting decision-making framework is described that can help companies choose and integrate the right equipment for their needs:
“As with any new strategy,” the firm explains, “your goals for incorporating autonomous robots and automation into your supply chain should match your organization’s overall vision, goals, and strategy.”
Options for Integrating Drones into Your System
Furthermore, many supply chain robotics models can be provided by third parties or manufacturers as a service item as well as being implemented directly into a company’s operations:
“Flexible leasing options could provide a service model appealing to growing companies with limited funds for initial acquisition,” Deloitte notes. “Autonomous robots as a service may also be a good option for organizations with minimal operator experience in their user base.”
Those who do not have the resources to construct and service these machines in-house can connect with specialized technology vendors that have supply chain and logistics expertise. This is another way to expedite the time-benefit ratio of your investment.
Planning for the Future
While coming up with your autonomous supply chain robotics procurement strategy, make sure that you think about the future needs of your company and how future evolutions in robotic technology will be able to contribute to your end-to-end supply chain:
“As autonomous robots become more sophisticated, the setup times are decreasing,” Deloitte notes, “they require less supervision, and they are able to work side by side with their human counterparts.”
Contact PINC for Integrated Supply Chain Solutions
PINC is a supply chain execution company that provides scalable Yard Management Solutions, Finished Vehicle Tracking, and Inventory Robotics. Our innovative approach to supply chain technology has made us a world leader that services the largest global brands.
To learn more about our software and supply chain robotics and how they could help your company, please contact us today.