Robots In The Warehouse: It’s Not Just Amazon

In 2009, I saw the Kiva robots for the first time and knew it would eventually change the face of warehousing. I wrote a strategic report that examined this technology. The report was called “Warehouse 2025” because I thought the warehousing industry was very conservative and that is how long it would take for these types of robots to become mainstream.

I was far too conservative. Amazon is using over 30,000 of these robots in their facilities. Unfortunately, for the rest of the industry, Amazon is no longer selling the Kiva robots, renamed Amazon robots, to the industry. They are using all of their production internally.

However, there are competitors that have emerged to fill the void. And with the ongoing, rapid growth that e-commerce continues to place on existing fulfillment networks, these new solutions are emerging just in time. Warehouse technologies that support high volumes of small, multi-line orders are receiving great interest from practitioners as they realign their capabilities to fit the changing warehouse demand profile.

In the warehouse automation market, this can be seen in the growing adoption of goods-to-person automation, namely in the form of shuttle systems that offer high levels of performance and flexibility. These new robots are called autonomous mobile robotics (AMR AAMRQ +%). These emerging robotics systems are being developed by a number of start-up firms and established warehouse automation providers. Although robotics have physical characteristics, the embedded intelligence and application software are the key differentiating characteristics of these systems. Here is a brief overview of the landscape for AMR in the warehouse, as my colleague at ARC Clint Reiser currently sees it (in no particular order).

Knapp Open Shuttle

The Open Shuttle is marketed along with Knapp’s existing line of carton and tote handling shuttles that includes the YLOG-shuttle and the OSR Shuttle. The Open shuttles utilize trackless navigation but also directly integrates with complementary systems such as the OSR shuttle. Open shuttles are generally available and in use at client sites, as evidenced by a new press release stating Grene in Denmark obtained the Knapp Open shuttle in 2012 and uses it in conjunction with the OSR Shuttle.

To read the rest of this article, published in Forbes, please click here.