The onset of the Industrial Revolution augmented the Mobile Robots Application across different industrial functions, however, the latest developments and the pace of business operations made it almost a mandate for many companies to adopt these bots into their everyday operations. Mobile robots, descendants of driverless vehicles that were taken birth in the grocery warehouse of Mac Barret found their place not only within the four walls of the industrial warehouse but across different applications like military, security, healthcare, domestic, surveillance, and entertainment industries.
Despite their ubiquitous presence across the spectrum, we will discuss the most popular Mobile Robots Application & the associated structures here.
Intra-Logistics – Warehouse Logistics
Shelf Units – Semi-automated installation (manual intervention) – To transport semi-finished or finished goods between productions, between production and warehouse and/or in warehouse logistics. This is especially useful for automobile or electronics industries where the manufacturing of main products involves the assembly of thousands of spare parts.
Conveyor band/belts – This is one of the popular applications of mobile robotics with a conveyor top module attached to it. It is used majorly to transport material between fixed conveyor band/belts- it could be between a robotic depalletization unit to shelving unit, or from a palletizing unit to dispatch unit or between production lines or from the production line to delivery. These are usually fully Warehouse Automation Solutions.
Robotic Arm – A mobile robot mounted with a bin-picking robot, popularly used for Picking solution for warehouse. This solution ensures high picking accuracy and is used for picking fast-moving goods with small order sizes and high volumes. This solution coupled with pick to light makes it a popular for Paper Industry.
Paper roll handling was one of the important jobs to be performed given the sensitivity of the material. It’s quite common that conventional manual handling of the paper rolls leads to damage of the outer layers of the roll, and that is as much as up to 10cm of the diameter of the roll!
This leads to the adoption of AGV for material transfer& transportation of paper rolls and pallets of sheeted paper as early as the 1970s. With the evolution of Mobile robots& flexibility, they have numerous applications.
In the paper industry, vertical paper roll warehousing and horizontal delivery of paper rolls to printing machines are very typical. To facilitate this, mobile robotsare integrated with the down ender system.
Hospitals: Another interesting area of application of mobile roboticsis Healthcare automation, where they are used for carrying surgical/medical supplies, linens, medicines, needle trays, and other generic items. Their ability to interact with one another, collision avoidance capabilities with other mobile robots, humans, obstacles like doors, walls… etc make them very flexible to use in multi-specialty hospitals where nurses and other helping staff do walk for kilometers every day carrying the essential items. By mounting a UV technology system on mobile robots, they can be used for sanitizing hospital corridors, operation theatres, and quarantine facilities etc to prevent the spread of acquired infections.
Electronics Industry: It is characterized by the highest quality and product design. It also consists of several serial components of high quality. During the manufacturing & shipping, it is of paramount importance that these spare parts need to be dealt with extreme cleanliness and orderliness. The weights to be transported are usually of standard boxes of size 600mm*400mm. Majorly, in these production sites, flexibility is key– both the layout and the processes often change over the course of ongoing optimization. Mobile robots with their reliability and flexibility of operation, exactly fit into the demands of this industry and have been playing a vital role in material transportation for quite some time & the trend is only uprising.
Food & Beverage Industry: Globally, this industry is booming at a skyrocketing growth rate with numerous players, multiple SKUs and extending every nook & corner. This continuous growth of the sector leads to a great utilization of available space plus the very nature of the products demand quick logistics and supply chain management operations. Especially the beverage industry is subjected to enormous price pressure worldwide. Hence there is an acute need for operational cost savings and even the very marginal price differences can define the fate of the business. This is how Industrial automation and mobile robots came into the picture. Popularly piggyback model of mobile robots can be used to perform pallet transportation. These mobile robots are equipped with conveyors to manage pallet pick up and drop off laterally onto stationary conveyor equipment. These robots do offer a high amount of operational flexibility.
The way forward
Currently, mobile robots are in heavy or unusual payload applications; however, flexibility is at the core of their functionality; they are fast penetrating into new industries with each passing day. Mobile Robots Application will soon become the harbingers for the realization of ‘Lean Manufacturing’ that connects islands of Industrial automation across different business functions.