Can Humans and Robots Work Together in Warehouses?

As robots become more advanced, many companies are grappling with the question of whether humans or robots are better suited to particular tasks. Both have their advantages and drawbacks. However, many seem to be overlooking the fact that there is a happy medium here in the form of robots that are designed to work alongside humans rather than in their place.

This solution allows each type of worker to focus on the tasks they do best. For example, some robots can be used to guide workers to the items that need to be picked or bring goods through the warehouse to the workers who need to pack and ship them.

These “collaborative” robots are relatively affordable and offer a viable alternative to fulfilling orders manually using carts and aisles. Better yet, they don’t require a pricey extensive network of conveyor belts and automation systems.

Getting More Done Without Adding Workers

This clever solution enables operations to increase their throughput without expanding their workforce. Quiet Logistics Inc. is already using mobile robots to fulfill online orders for Zara and Bonobos, and DHL is currently testing “swarming” robots at its Memphis facility to help the workers there pick out medical devices that are needed urgently. The robots work in groups to fulfill several orders at once. They park themselves next to the desired item, and the workers place it on the robot and then head for another one. When the order is complete, the robot then brings it to a packing table before heading off on its next task.

Collaborative robots can prove particularly useful for handling surges in sales that happen around the holidays, when it can be difficult to find extra workers. RK Logistics Group turned to these robots when they couldn’t fit any more workers into their building, and they have proven so efficient that they plan to add more in the future. While many firms like to wait and see some success stories before they invest in something new, the low price point of such robots – which can run as low as $30,000 per unit – could help boost adoption.

This blog post was based off of an article from The Wall Street Journal. View the original here.

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