The robots make the warehouse: How to get the Amazon-grade warehouse of your dreams

July 27, 2017

You don't have to be a juggernaut like Amazon to have a technologically advanced warehouse.

Amazon is known for redefined the world of e-commerce, but its contributions to the evolving field of robotics and its development of the smart warehouse are just as important. But you don't have to be a juggernaut like Amazon to have a technologically advanced warehouse. Jerome Dubois and Rylan Hamilton, former executives at Kiva Systems, recently created 6 River Systems, a robotics company that is hoping to bring the technology and efficiency of Amazon warehouses to fulfillment centers across the country.

According to Lora Kolodny for CNBC: "E-commerce is expected to grow 12 percent this year in the U.S., and the demand for delivery is growing with it. To help warehouse workers carry their loads, 6 River Systems built a robot called Chuck.

The Chuck is essentially a self-driving cart that leads workers around a facility to the items that they need to pull off of shelves to fulfill a given order. It can also help workers quickly restock items that have been returned.

A screen on the Chuck shows users information about their own productivity during a shift, alerting them if they're close to achieving a personal best, for example. The idea is to motivate them to work as safely and efficiently as possible."

Despite its many advantages, the Chuck lacks one important feature: hands. The Amazon Robotics Challenge tasks robotics crews across the world to develop a bot with the ability to pick and pack on its own. According to Tom Simonite for WIRED: "The Amazon Robotics Challenge starts Thursday and tasks teams with picking up objects ranging from towels to toilet brushes and moving them between storage bins and boxes. The handiest contestants stand to win prizes from a pool totaling $250,000—and perhaps a shot at helping refine what happens when you ask Alexa to restock your paper towels. The showdown is taking place in Nagoya because it’s part of this year’s RoboCup, a festival of robotic competition which includes events for rescue, domestic, and soccer robots.

Amazon has run versions of its challenge in two previous years. This time around, though, the retail giant has revised the rules in ways that make the competition more difficult.

One change Amazon has made to this year’s contest is to give the robots less space to work with than previous years. They now have to deal with objects right next to or on top of each other, as a human worker packing a bin of varied products into a box might. A bigger change is that half the objects a robot has to handle in a given round of the contest will only be revealed 30 minutes before it starts."

About the Author

Alexis Gajewski | Senior Content Strategist

Alexis Gajewski has over 15 years of experience in the maintenance, reliability, operations, and manufacturing space. She joined Plant Services in 2008 and works to bring readers the news, insight, and information they need to make the right decisions for their plants. Alexis also authors “The Lighter Side of Manufacturing,” a blog that highlights the fun and innovative advances in the industrial sector. 

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