DHL testing robotic warehouse picking for increased productivity.
Apparently, we are all going to be replaced by robots, and sooner than we expected. Dozens of companies are competing to replace teamsters with driverless trucks, but having to share the highway with vehicles piloted by inefficient biological organisms - us - makes it challenging for these carriers to go to full automatic mode.
The controlled environment of a warehouse floor, OTOH, is an ideal field for robotic pilots. Amazon, as usual, is out in front, since buying warehouse automation firm Kiva in 2012 and deciding not to make its bots available to other companies' supply chains. Those shippers are struggling to catch up.
Now international carrier powerhouse DHL is partnering with Locus Robotics on a pilot program testing robotic "pickers" which they claim will dramatically improve worker efficiency and productivity, reported Supply Chain 24/7. The "LocusBots" will automatically learn the most efficient travel path, allow for hands-free picking, virtually eliminate errors, and offer gains from 200 to 500 percent over traditional cart picking, the companies say.
In the promotional video, the LocusBots look like non-threatening upright vacuum cleaners, scanning codes from human supervisors, and navigating nimbly around people and other bots on the floor as they deposit or pick up boxes.
"We believe it's critical to identify and implement these types of advanced technology solutions in the warehouse so we can seamlessly improve our customers' supply chains," said Adrian Kuman, VP of solutions design for DHL North America.
Yes, but did he watch "I, Robot" or "RoboCop," not to mention the entire "Terminator" franchise? At least in Hollywood, these helpful machines always seem to turn against their creators and the rest of humanity.
Whatever your feelings, though, automation and information technology are the wave of the future, and not embracing them only means you get killed off quicker - in a business sense - by the companies that did. Let us help you cope with this brave new world. As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, "come with me if you want to live."