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AMRs are the 'here and now', says SnapFulfil

Tony Dobson, CEO of SnapFulfil UK & Europe, describes a future where automation and AMRs transform the role of the warehouse worker, instead of supplanting it.

It’s easy to forget that robots will not improve picking times or reduce packing errors alone, they need human guidance. As productivity is largely about improving process, it follows that combining people and technology can also improve efficiency and therefore productiveness. This is where the appeal of automation comes in – however it has to be balanced. 

How much of the initial condition for work can be automated or conducted by a computer rather than a person?  These initial conditions don’t necessarily need to change, but selective automation can lessen a resource’s dependence on them, as well as measurably improving efficiency. 

Data collection and analysis tools such as a WMS are also critical, because after a WMS collects your pick, pack and ship process data; it can drive improvements warehouse-wide, helping staff identify which areas of the warehouse need the most attention.  

However, the automated task management functionality doesn’t remove humans from the equation, rather it streamlines processes and frees up time to accomplish higher-level tasks – like a sophisticated rolling inventory count, strong reverse logistics and dynamic return operations. 

So, while warehousing automation is not yet capable of packing items itself, it ensures that productivity, efficiency and accuracy are hard-wired into your warehouse operation from start to finish – and that’s to the benefit of both your customers and your bottom line. 

For us it’s still a case of ‘machine helps person’ rather than ‘person versus machine’ and SnapCart is a robotic fulfilment cart in the final stage of development that utilises an intuitive ‘cellular picking’ method whereby the picker is allocated a confined cell in the picking area.  

The nearest picker is assigned to SnapCart and instructed to perform the picks just for this cell. A unique light-bar, controlled by the SnapFulfil WMS, displays which items are required, ensuring high productivity, accuracy and significant reduction of pickers’ daily walking distance.  

Adopting a ‘person-to-goods’ approach to multichannel and automation is a low-cost and low-risk solution designed to help e-commerce fulfilment centres streamline their high volume, small parts picking operations.   

Being application led, it has been specifically engineered for the demands of a featureless warehouse environment, plus the motors and sensors are engineered to automotive industry standards, while Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM) navigation technology ensures safe and efficient manoeuvring at all times.  

It’s fully reconfigurable and businesses can gradually integrate the collaborative robots without making any costly infrastructure changes, while an easy-to-use interface means staff can be trained within minutes.  

AMRs are not just the future – they are the here and now – already providing bespoke algorithms combined with artificial intelligence that tangibly maximise optimisation. The technology is being developed rapidly and costs will tumble, making them an affordable option for businesses of all sizes and a vital utility for those having to compete in this fast-paced world of e-commerce. 

You're also going to see detailed analytics playing a crucial role in terms of AMRs – using real time information to drive better outcomes, not only for the sake of efficiency, but also for making sure that orders consistently get out with the increasingly demanding service levels customers require. 

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