Implementing robots in a warehouse has immense operational benefits, yet misconceptions about robotic automation keep many companies from considering making an investment in robots.

It’s undeniable that an operation that’s automated out-competes a manual operation. We see productivity improve by up to 8x, while at the same time costs are cut in half after implementing robots. Those warehouses that lag in adopting automation will find it hard to survive in a market where competitors are operating at maximum efficiency because their processes have been automated. Automated warehouses will rise to become market leaders.

So, to compete and thrive, the question isn’t whether you should automate, but when. Today robotic automation adoption is still in its early stages. Forward-leaning operations are the first to embrace it. As an early mover, you will have a competitive advantage over companies that are late to the game.

There are some common misconceptions when we talk to operators and ask why they hesitate when it comes to automating their operation. I’d like to debunk these myths now.

5 Common Misconceptions About Robotics

#1  Robots are complex and I need an army of engineers to keep them running.

While AMR-type robots are in less than 4% of warehouses today, the technology is proven and operating successfully in the marketplace today. These robots first automated Amazon’s warehouses more than 8 years ago, and they keep getting better and more reliable. You don’t need a robot expert on staff to have a reliable fleet of robots working in your warehouse.

At Prime Robotics, we remotely monitor every robot at our client sites, and can correct many issues before they become a problem. Our Client Support includes 24/7 access to our experts and comprehensive robot maintenance and repair.

#2  Robots are expensive.

The cost of robots has fallen dramatically due to technology innovation and competitor robot vendors entering the market. Our clients see a Payback in one to two years on their investment in robots. We offer a lease option too, which makes it possible to automate you entire warehouse for $9K a month.

#3  Employees feel threatened by robots, or fear safety problems.

Executives and workers alike can be a little intimidated by the idea of robots at first. We find that once people understand how safely they operate, how they’re able to reduce the physical burden on workers, and that they free workers from tedious picking, that they overcome their apprehension. Adding robots means their business can really grow and they can drive down expense. A growing, more profitable company is a boon for all employees.

#4  I need to upgrade my WMS before I can consider robots.

It’s not essential to have your WMS optimized in order to implement robots in your warehouse. The WMS functions needed to operate Prime Robotics’ robots are straightforward. Any WMS with a RESTFUL API or a SQL based database easily interfaces with our robot control system. Most importantly,  think about how long it’s likely to take to evaluate and ultimately select a new WMS — it takes many organizations a year or more.

When you think of the immediate savings you get from a robotics implementation (Our basic $9K per month warehouse package can save an operator more than $80K a month), it’s clearly preferable to add robots now. Integrating your robots with a newly-purchased WMS down the road is not a complicated process. What you save with robots could end up paying for your new WMS!

#5  I should wait until I open my new warehouse.

When you recognize that an investment in robots starts paying for itself on Day One, you realize you shouldn’t be putting off making the decision to automate. Think of it this way; every month you delay implementing robots you’re losing money. The sooner you implement, the sooner you start accruing those savings.

One reason we frequently hear to justify holding off on automation is that there’s a new warehouse or relocation planned in the future. It might be a new greenfield warehouse that’s a long way from being complete. The fact is our MobileShelf robots actually make a move to a new warehouse location easier. If you’re moving from a manual warehouse, packing trucks with inventory, then restocking shelves at the new site is both time and labor-intensive.

If your current warehouse is automated with a solution like our MobileShelf, it’s easy to move your inventory because it’s already in moveable shelves. Robots can drive all of your shelves onto trucks, and then unload them at the new site and place them directly onto the inventory floor. And since your WMS still knows where every item is on your shelves, you can be up and running right fast with little downtime.

No matter what your operation looks like — whether its 20,000 or 500,000 square feet — adding robots is the single fastest, most cost-effective way to impact your bottom line by dramatically lower operating costs. At Prime Robotics, we’re focused on making robotic automation within reach for virtually every operation.

Robotic Automation is within your reach. 

We have a lease that is $9K/mo.

We’ve created our Make 2021 the Year To Automate package to provide an end-to-end robotic solution as a $9K/mo lease. This package includes 10 of our most popular AMR robots, the MobileShelf, and everything you need to automate your warehouse’s inbounding and picking processes. A worker can make up to 300 picks/hour from a stationary pick station, and this package supports fulfillment of up to 6,000 orders/day. Everything’s included, from planning and implementation to dedicated 24/7 customer support and all robot maintenance. See all that’s included in the Make 2021 the Year to Automate package.

I also recommend you read our 2021 the Year to Automation Use Case that is an implementation of the package in an e-commerce warehouse – the numbers don’t lie. See monthly operations costs drop by $80K while order capacity increases. Read Robotic Automation Package Implementation and Cost Savings Use Case.

I invite you to plan a visit our Denver headquarters to see our fully-functional demo warehouse where our robots operating today. See for yourself how our robots enable top picking speed and higher productivity. Our robots are built here in the U.S. at our headquarters, so you can get a peek at our process.

Please get in touch if you’d like to start a conversation about what’s possible for you in 2021,

-Eric

 

Eric Rongley
CEO and Founder of Prime Robotics
[email protected]

 

 

I have to say we’re pretty excited about this. Since the start, here at Prime Robotics we’ve been focused on putting robotic automation within reach of warehouses, no matter their size. Warehouse robotic automation became Amazon’s paradigm-shifting advantage when its Kiva AMR robots changed everything about how orders were filled at Amazon’s warehouses. We believe that today virtually every warehouse can add robotics to their operation — from a 10,000 square foot warehouse on up.

We’ve created a complete end-to-end robotic solution for small to midsize warehouses that leverages the same robotics technology that powers Amazon’s warehouses. Our MobileShelf touts the fastest picking in the industry — 300+ picks per hour. Our “Make 2021 Your Year to Automate” Package is an all-inclusive robotic automation solution that can ship 6,000 orders a day.

Our package includes 10 of our best-in-class AMR robots and absolutely everything you need to hit the ground running. Here’s the best part — our robot package is priced at under $9K per month. There’s really never been anything like this available in our industry: Now an operator can add robotic automation to their facility with a simple, low-cost lease instead of making big capital investment and encountering a lot of hidden costs. This package is ideal for automating up to 20,000 square foot warehouses, and it can be easily customized for larger footprints.

What’s in our “Make 2021 Your Year to Automate” Package for $9K/mo

This complete lease package includes everything you need to automate your operation to fulfill up to 6,000 orders a day.

Robots

  • 8 Mobile Shelf robots
  • 2 MobilePallet robots

Accessories

  • 1 Piece Picking Station
  • 1 Hybrid Piece-Pallet Station
  • 1 Pack Station
  • 2 Recharge Stations
  • 1 PalletLift
  • 125 Shelves
  • 20 Pallet Platforms

Integrations

  • API integration with your WMS
  • API Integration with your OMS

Expertise & Support

  • Team Training
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • 3 Year Onsite Parts and Labor Warranty
  • 2 Year Extended Onsite Parts and Labor Warranty

Implementation (2 Weeks onsite)

  • Includes software integrations
  • Includes 1 Server to install operational equipment
  • Includes 2 training classes for your workers and administrators
  • Includes all freight costs


It’s amazing what’s possible with this system

When you automate key workflows in your warehouse using just what’s included in this package, the results are staggering. With this system, you can process up to 6,000 orders a day (this assumes 1.5 lines per order and 24 hour operation) and dramatically reduce the labor required. Consider this: if you ran at full speed 24 hours a day, this system can save $200K a month compared to a manual operation delivering the same output. The efficiency you gain will have you changing how you think about your business, because now you’ve lowered operational costs and freed up capacity.

About the lease and other details

This 5-year fair market value lease puts an automated warehouse within your reach. You don’t have to become experts in robotics, we provide white glove 24/7 customer support. We actively monitor your robots so we can correct errors before they become an issue. All support and maintenance is included. We take care of everything — and we’re with you for the long-haul.

Time from first meeting to implementation is typically 90-120 days. Before arriving, our team has tailored the system to fit your the unique needs of your operation. Our phased implementation approach means your operations aren’t interrupted.

Once implemented, your system is easy to scale to grow with you — and you might add specialized robots for handling pallets or cages. For example our new robot, AutoJack can enter a truck unmanned and unload it unsupervised.

If I’ve piqued your interest, you probably have a lot of questions. You can get in touch to start a conversation, and we can show you a demo of the package system in action in a warehouse environment. We’d like to learn more about what you want to achieve in your warehouse.

 

We look forward to hearing from you,

-Eric

Know your pick speed so you can calculate your Robotic Automation ROI

If you’re considering robotic automation, I encourage you to first calculate your current pick speed, then you can get your Robotic Automation ROI. This helps you understand the value of what increasing your pick speed by 2x, 3x or even 5x means for your operation.

The largest cost within a warehouse is typically labor

A large portion of operational cost comes from labor-intensive, inefficient manual order picking. Did you know that in a manual warehouse (one without automation), the average worker walks 12-15 miles per shift? All this time spent walking around the warehouse isn’t an efficient use of their time. All this required walking is the primary limiting factor to improving pick speed and therefore order fulfillment speed.

Pick Speed: Manual vs. Robotic Automation

We’ve found that most straightforward way to show a warehouse operator the value of robotic automation is to show them. We give them a quick comparison of what their current pick speed is today, and then what their predicted pick speed and orders per day can be with the addition of robotics. Our goal is always to bring value to the customer’s business, and I mean their bottom line.

Once we know the current picking productivity of manual pickers in an operation, we can calculate the optimal number of pickers and robots needed. In fact, once we have this data, we can also estimate the Return on your Investment on your robotic automation implementation. The dramatic increase in pick speed combined with lower labor demand results in a dramatic reduction in operating costs starting day one. We find that many customers have paid for their robot implementation within a year.

Robotic Automation Implementation: Time to Payback

At Prime Robotics, we like to share what we know, and we’ve refined a warehouse operations optimization model that allows you to input key data about your operation so we can recommend a complete robotic solution. Our ROI Estimator Tool lets you see your predicted boost in productivity, optimal number of robots and estimated cost. It’s a great first step to show you the business value of robots. Check out our online Productivity and ROI Estimator Tool and try it yourself.

So, getting back to your current pick speed. How do you measure it?

Line Pick Speed. These are the lines on an invoice. If an invoice has a line for 10 cases of tomato soup, this counts as one pick even though 10 cases are picked.

Piece Pick Speed. In the example above, the piece pick speed is 10, even though they are all the same SKU. Piece picking is probably a more appropriate metric if you’re doing case picking. Picking 3 cases of something may take considerably longer than 1 case, so it’s better to use the quantity picked as the measure and not the number of lines.

Which pick speed metric should you use?

The pick speed you use to compare manual versus automated depends on the nature of your business. If you tend to have a small quantity of eaches that get picked, like 1 or 2 at a time, you want to use the Line Pick Speed as your determinant. This is because the relative time to pick one item or two items from the same slot is marginal.

You should take the total product picked for a shift and divide it into how many man hours that work represents. For example, if ten people working for 8 hours would be 80 man hours. If I picked 4,000 lines during that shift, then my pick speed would be 50 picks per hour.

Picking Speed in a Manual Warehouses

In manual warehouses, you can calculate the picking speed of workers by calculating the number of order lines are processed in a shift. Pick speeds typical for manual picking are in the neighborhood of about 25-50 picks per hour per worker. If the warehouse has an effective WMS that provides route planning for pickers, it possible to reach speeds at the upper end of this average. If there is not a WMS, or a just very basic one, pick speed is on the lower end of this scale.

A Pick Wall

Sometimes warehouses record faster picking speeds than these. If the items being picked are small, like screws, then a pick wall set up makes it easy for  the pickers to quickly pick items. A pick wall is really efficient for high velocity items that are small, but efficiency diminishes as the wall gets longer and requires a picker to walk farther between picks. Up to 80-100 picks per hour is possible, but not typical. A pick wall is not scalable to large numbers of SKUs.

Types of Robotic Automation in Warehouses

There are several types of robots typically deployed into warehouses. They fall into one of two categories, Goods-to-Person and Person-to-Goods.

Goods-to-Person robotic systems

In G2P robot systems, the picker stays in one place and the robotic system brings the goods to them so they may pick it. This robotic system might be an elaborate rack and shuttle system or mobile robots. In both cases, a worker spends their time picking items, not walking between places. G2P systems can achieve speeds of 250-500 picks per hour. Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) systems tend to get to the 250-350 picks per hour per person range.

Person-to-Goods robotic systems

In a P2G, pickers are stationed in zones around the warehouse floor and robots enter their zone when something in that area needs to be picked. The picker places it on the robot. Over time the pickers become familiar with the location of items and get faster. Persons-to-Goods robotic systems can achieve pick speeds in the range of 100-200 picks per hour. Although not robotic, traditional conveyor operations can bring a real speed boost. Typical pick speeds for warehouses with traditional conveyor automation range from 100-250 picks per hour. Therefore, a move from conveyors to a Persons-to-Goods robotic system doesn’t provide an advantage. This may reduce labor, but it has a high capital cost and high utilities bills.

Prime Robotics’ Mobile Shelf solution

Prime Robotics’ MobileShelf is an AMR Goods-to-Person robotic system. It can maintain picking speed in the 300-350 range, depending upon the customer’s workflow and packing process.

Keep in mind, labor isn’t the complete picture of savings due to automation, but it’s the largest. For example, take a warehouse currently doing 4,000 picks per shift using 10 workers. If you automate your warehouse with a robotic system capable of 250 picks per hour, only 2 people are needed now. Whereas 10 were needed for manual picking.

Let us help you calculate your robotic automation ROI

When one considers the fully loaded cost of a picker, these savings add up fast. Our ROI tool helps you calculate your robotic automation ROI. Get in touch with us and we’ll walk you through it using your own operation’s data. We’re focused on helping customers design efficient warehouses that have a big positive effect on their bottom line. Learn more about our robotics solution for Warehouses.