Flying Robots in a Warehouse?
Well, this may appear strange but having watched Vijay Kumar and his team's innovation on flying robots in TED - http://www.ted.com/talks/vijay_kumar_robots_that_fly_and_cooperate.html , it struck to me that these little robots can do wonders in warehousing operations. Let see how...
I can foresee these robots capable of carrying out these warehousing activities listed below, of course with some modifications in their design to pick and place items that have a definite shape and size:
1.Putaway and Picking
This might not be quite practical for large, bulkier items though, but for items smaller in size and weight, it might work out well. In their current form, these could be employed for lifting smaller items using one or many of such robots as shown in TED's video. There would be an issue with the head space within the location for them to hover in case items need to be stacked one over the other within the location.
2.Check for Zero Stock
Zero stock cycle count is triggered when the stock in a bin reaches zero quantity. A warehouse picker has to physically check the location and verify whether the location has actually reached zero stock level and report back to the system either by a scanner or a voice picking device or manually update the system. The flying robot, instead would fly to the location, look for stock through its onboard camera and transmit back to the WMS system whether the location has reached zero stock or not. This saves human effort and time as well, especially for locations that are positioned at much higher heights in the warehouse.
These robots can be equipped with scanners for carrying out putaway and pick confirmations. But the bar code on the item need to be visible to the robot once its putwayed or before its being picked. There may be a need to have multiple stickers of the same barcode to be pasted on the those sides of the item that are accessible to the robot's scanner after being putawayed. This will also make scanning much easier for the robot during pick confirmation.
I am not sure how these robots would carry out a full-fledged cycle count, which means they have to either count using their onboard cameras (how do they count stacked items without lifting them?) or pick each item and place them in another bin while counting and replace then back into the original bin once the count has been completed.
The idea of using these flying robots is not primarily to reduce manpower in the warehouse, but to carry out warehousing activities in a much faster, quicker and accurate manner.
This is my initial perception of what these amazing technological marvels can do in the WM space. Your thought's please.