In today’s world, companies are looking for ways to gain efficiencies and use their existing workforce the best possible way. Automation has always been a part of manufacturing but not necessarily part of material handling. People on fork trucks are not the only way to move pallets anymore and robotic lift trucks are becoming more and more viable for every day operations.
Companies are now exploring autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and may often come across an issue: Where do I start? If you’re looking to explore if an AMR is right for your facility here are a few tips on how to get started.
Do you have multiple locations? Just pick one.
If you run multiple warehouses or facilities and don’t know which one to start with just pick one. Don’t waste days and weeks figuring out which may be the best location suited for an AMR. One of the first checkpoints in any robotic project is to put a budgetary number in front of you. One of the key factors in making AMRs a success factor is it’s ROI. If the cost of a project is too high, all that time picking the perfect location just became wasted effort.
ELT Systems Group will help you find the most advantageous location for a robotic lift truck through our pre-sale process. Let’s get some general costs in front of you and then if they fit in with your capex budget expectations, we can move on and explore multiple scenarios.
Automate repeatable material moves, not complicated ones.
When looking for tasks to automate, the ones that are often repeatable and simple are often the most successful ones. For example, look for places where you’re moving pallets back and forth long distances. If you are consistently moving pallets from a dock to a staging area that may be the perfect place to automate. That horizontal transport is the easiest application of an AMR because it’s simple: Pick up a pallet at Point A and bring it to Point B. The result of automating this will allow your workforce to unload trucks faster and keep those doing put-aways closer to the aisles working more efficiently.
We’ve used automated fork lifts as an example, but don’t forget tugger applications pulling trains of carts on milkruns in a manufacturing setting as well.
After simple ground to ground transport of pallets you may want to start looking at moving from ground to elevated surface like pallet wrappers, conveyors, and scales. Are we transporting finished goods from a conveyor to a staging area? Perhaps we are bringing pallets to a pallet wrapper, wrapping them and then bringing them to a loading dock. These can all be applications we can automate with AMRs.
The last kind of application we may want to think about is product put away. If you are looking to fully automate a facility, the last leg of that is typically automated reach trucks that can put product away in racking. At this point you’ve most likely already have looked at the first two application types above.
Collecting data, but the right data.
We’ve discussed getting a budgetary quote in your hands so we can calculate a rough estimate of an ROI. In order to get that estimate in your hands we have to know a few basic pieces of information. So we’ve got an application in mind, we’re moving pallets from off the ground from a staging area and bringing them to a loading dock. What data do we need to get to the first checkpoint?
- Pick and Drop combinations on a facility drawing.
- Distance between each combination.
- How many pallets are we moving per hour between each.
We don’t need SKU counts, or annual move data at this point. We need to know where the robotic lift trucks are going, how often they need to go there and how far they have to travel. These three data points will allow us to estimate how many trucks you will need and what the installation costs will be required. Throughout the pre-sale process, we’ll be making many adjustments so don’t be afraid to provide general information or estimates at this point. We’re just determining the scope of the project from a thirty thousand foot view.
So with the example given above, we have four pick up points at the staging area and a single drop off location at the loading dock. That pallet run is 300ft long and we’ll be moving 12 pallets per hour. With that information we’ll be able to tell you how many trucks you need to meet that throughput demand.
This is just the beginning.
At this point we’re just finishing Phase 1 of 3 of the pre-sale process. Once we’ve gotten basic budgetary information to you, we can then dive down deep into the application and refine our proposal. ELT Systems Group is there with you to determine the best applications, increase ROI and determine if the environment is safe for AMR operation.
If you have a an application you think is right for AMRs or AGVs then fill out our contact form or reach out to us at 1-888-779-8880.