Artificial Intelligence has taken the reigns for almost every domain because of its high applicability and promising throughput. With the correct balance of human effort and technology, companies are shifting towards an efficient working environment.
E-commerce platforms use AI in various processes including Warehouse Automation. Artificially intelligent robots have eased up labour work with increased safety and accuracy. Almost every process including stocking, sorting, scanning, and transporting items throughout the warehouse is done by robots. The movement of the ordered item starts from the day of placement of order – or should I say before the placement? The answer would be the latter. Demand Forecasting using deep learning- a technique of Machine Learning – is how the companies can forecast what a customer is likely to order – even before the customer knows himself. Read more about it here.
A quick look at the kind of robots that are present in an automated warehouse.
Automation in warehouses includes both physical and digital WMS (Warehouse Management System). Robotic systems that automate manual processes are generally categorized under the physical category. The robotic systems majorly include:
- Pick-to-light and put-to-light systems
- Goods-to-person (GTP) technology
- Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
To get an insight on how these systems work and get answers to your questions about warehouse automation, click here: Warehouse Automation -The various kinds of automation techniques and robots used. Let’s answer one of the most common and interesting questions here itself,
How do robots navigate through the warehouse?
Robots used in warehouse rely on a variety of navigation techniques to travel throughout the warehouse without bumping into each other.
Let’s have a look at some of them.
Beneath the flooring of the warehouse there is a network of wires which has current flowing through them. Now robots have inductive sensors that measure the intensity of the electromagnetic field that is created by the current flowing through those wires to navigate. This makes the system a physical guide to the robots.
Magnetic tape-based navigation:
Magnetic tapes with an ambient magnetic field are placed throughout the warehouse running in continuous fashioned routes. AGVs (Automatic Guided Vehicles) sense these tapes with the sensors present underneath them and use them as a guide to travel throughout.
The main principle in this technique is object recognition using a laser range finder. The robot recognizes objects like a floor, door or shelf using the data from the laser. A Global map of the whole location is fed into the system. When an object is identified in its path and its position is associated with the global map, the robot is given orders for direction using semantic labels. A cellular neural network is used to generate an obstacle-free path. Similar to this, the vision-based navigation systems use laser sensors or photometric cameras with CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) arrays to analyse the visual features of the environment around them. This data is used for finding an obstacle-free path and for positioning.
Robots using this technique make use of sensors to establish their position in the environment based on a reference map. This also helps them detect obstacle, racks, walls and pallets – thus avoiding collisions and determining optimal routes.
LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. A 360-degree map of the environment is made using these LiDAR sensors on the robots. The sensors transmit a series of laser pulses to measure the distance of objects surrounding the robot. LiDAR coupled with ML and algorithms is used to help find the most efficient routes in real-time. This method is considered to be one of the most accurate methods of navigation.
Robots communicate via a ground-based network of GPS transmitters, which helps them track their real-time location in the warehouse. It can be used for both as well as outdoor applications.
2D Barcode scanning systems:
This is a widely used method wherein robots use 2D barcode pasted to the ground for navigation. These robots have barcode readers beneath them which continuously read the barcodes for accurate and collision-free navigation. By constant communication with the operating system, real-time collision-free routes are set.
RFID transponder system:
In this system, the RFID readers mounted on the robots communicate with the floor-embedded transponders for determining precise location. Travel direction, travel speed, and auxiliary functions can be controlled to ensure maximum efficiency. All pickup and deposit information is delivered by the WMS via wireless RF terminals. This method is also considered to be one of the most accurate methods of navigation.
With the advancement in technologies like AI, Machines will only get smarter. With correct implementation, these warehouse navigation technologies can be used to improve the efficiency and throughput of your warehouse.