Numina Group is excited to announce that we are a finalist for MHI’s annual innovation award. The winner will be announced as part of the ProMatDX event in April, 2021. Numina is the first to market with a warehouse software application that fully synchronizes people and AMRs’ work tasks across the entire pick, pack, and ship operation.  This warehouse AMR strategy differs from previous AMR application approaches, and promises a much faster ROI.

By extending the capabilities of its RDS pick by voice suite to move operators and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) as a united pick and pack order fulfillment process, productivity nearly tripled at the client’s distribution operation! This process breakthrough is a giant step forward for the Material Handling Industry – putting AMRs within reach of small to midsize operations.

This new paradigm, that we are calling the “Direct me” approach, unites people and robot work tasks across the entire pick, pack, and ship order fulfillment operation.  A while back, Bob Trebilcock, editor of Modern Materials Handling, coined the following definitions of AMRs by their use in warehouse automation applications, into three categories:

  1. Follow me” approach: The robot, an automated cart, acts like a tugger pulling other carts behind It follows the picker who controls the robot movement with an RFID tag or other locator device.
  2. “Swarm me” approach: The robot, integrated with the Warehouse  Software waits for nearby pickers to interact with
  3. “Holy Grail” approach: The robot includes piece-picking capabilities and travels autonomously to a pick location and performs the This approach does not involve humans but has proven to be problematic when considering all the processes associated with picking such as slotting, replenishment, open cases and trash removal.

The “Direct Me” approach manages both the AMRs and the pickers’ movements and picking duties as a single application. This is a major innovation in warehouse execution software modules, that seamlessly integrates order release, order and batch cart cubing and real-time pick by voice, along with the movement of the pickers and AMRs from order start, pick-up, and zone transport of large capacity 28 order batch pick carts throughout the warehouse’s multiple pick zones.

The warehouse execution and control software application, Real-time Distribution Software, (RDS) manages both the robots, and voice directs the pickers’ work tasks and movements.  By optimizing the order release and all work tasks, picking productivity has exceeded 250 lines per person by reducing over 50% of wasted walk time and manual cart pushing across the pick and pack processes.  The software and use of the large batch carts allowed a small fleet of six intelligent robots to perform the equivalent work of a fleet of 25 or more “Meet Me” type robots.

To further optimize the picking process, RDS looks for the closest available pick cart and robot to assign and dispatch for the group of prioritized orders, and directs the transport of the batch cart throughout the pick zones. At the same time, RDS looks for the closest available picker and directs the picker using voice commands to each pick location, and directs by voice with hands-free barcode scanning to validate locations and items picking.

Pick carts visit each required zone and the same picker movement optimization is repeated until pick completion. Carts are then assigned and delivered to the dual cart pack station staging locations. Packing has accelerated by 40% through the “keep the open pack station full” logic. Additionally, automated conveyor at the exit to packing includes in-line order weight-dim audit, and print and apply labeling to automate manifesting, and sorting to the carrier doors.

The results – RDS software, coupled with a design innovation using large order capacity batch picking carts, autonomously driven by AMRs, more than doubled the customers picking rates, and increased robot utilization so a fleet of 6 robots performs the work of 25 or more small capacity AMRs. The solution drove pick rates over 250 lines per hour, and a 40% increase in order packing efficiency by uniting robots and people across the entire order fulfillment operation.