Numina Group Blog

Where are the Case-Picking Autonomous Mobile Robots?

December 7, 2022

While the warehouse automation world has focused on the rise of e-commerce and “each-picking,” case-picking operations have been left starved for viable robotic automation options.

The fact remains that, at present, e-commerce still only represents roughly 14.8% of retail sales. Case-picking operations face the same labor crisis as everyone else, and it’s about time for a solution. 

At Numina Group, we’ve focused exclusively on solving the hardest intralogistics problems for the last 35 years. When we examined this problem, we identified the top five reasons case-picking autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) options are limited.

What is an autonomous mobile robot (AMR)? 

1. Heavier AMR payloads historically = more expensive and ROI prohibiting robots 

As you increase the payload requirements of an autonomous mobile robot, you increase the COGS of the AMR itself. Until present day, higher payload capacity robots have not aligned with the cost justification relative to the average fully burdened wage rate in North America. 

Rising wage rates and advancements in robotic manufacturing are rapidly closing this cost/benefit gap.  

2. Case-picks are harder to optimize – clustering, batching and sorting require nuance 

Optimizing case picking is constrained by the size and weight of the physical box. Unlike “each-picking,” it is far harder to grab several units at once or pick multiple orders concurrently.

Additionally, most slotting strategies for case-picking operations require warehouses to slot items from heaviest to lightest, or lightest to heaviest to avoid crushing product. This materially impacts travel-path reductions from order allocation logic alone, leaving zone-picking as the primary picking methodology.  

Benefits of Warehouse Slotting & Tips for Optimization

3. Venture capital investments in robotic startups are drawn to ecommerce 

The rise in e-commerce cannot be ignored. As a percentage of total retail sales, e-commerce has skyrocketed in the last 20 years to roughly 15%. This has attracted significant investment, particularly from the venture capital world in the development of e-commerce-specific automation solutions.

Amazon started this warehousingspace-race back in 2012 with the acquisition of Kiva Systems, and the intralogistics space has never been the same. However, e-commerce growth has tapered in the last year and B2B still has a long road ahead. 

4. No one is leveraging warehouse voice picking technology to execute the transactions on AMRs 

There is no shortage of AMR startups who have focused on the development of the robots required to process case picking. Look at the most recent Styleintelligence “AGV & AMR Robotics Report 2022 and you will find dozens of companies with workable hardware solutions.

What has been missing is the appropriate task execution technology to integrate your human workforce with robotics. By combining a voice picking system (a hardened and reliable warehouse automation technology with superior performance to RF/Paper) with robotics, case-picking AMRs become viable.  

5. Case-picking operations require warehouse execution software (WES) to orchestrate other tasks simultaneously 

Above and beyond the material movement and the task execution, a high-level or real-time orchestration in case-oriented operations is required. Case-picks, when processed optimally, should be batched, zone-picked and consolidated synchronously.

While WES has been a commercially available technology for decades, AMR providers have not yet prioritized the development of truly extensible WES capabilities as a function of their technology stack.  

Case-picking robotic solution, finally!

The Numina Group recognizes the challenges that are outlined above. As warehouse automation experts, it’s our obligation to develop creative, scalable, and hardened products to service underserved markets.

It is not in our DNA to sit on the sidelines and wait for someone else to develop the appropriate solutions while operations continue to face tougher macroeconomic conditions.  

If you’re interested in learning more about our case-picking robotic solution, BatchBot, check out the video below then give us a call.  

Ready to learn more? Contact the Numina Group today. 

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