Episode 11 – ProMat Part 5
This is the last in our ProMat series and it is a very interesting episode. One of the major things about ProMat was the amount of technology that is coming into our industry and the different and incredibly smart ways it is being applied. I think that this episode really showcases a lot of the technological advances from different segments of the industry. This episode covers fully automated picks, machine learning at the loading dock, autonomous forklifts, conveyors on mobile robots and more. Read more about each company below and if you missed the previous parts in this series you can find them here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.
Approaching the Berkshire Grey booth, I was greeted by signs saying “Do Not Pet the Robots” and as I saw it was because they were hard at work. I got the chance to speak to Pete Blair, VP of Marketing, on the upper level of the booth as the Robotic Store Replenishment Solution (RSR) was doing some hard work behind us (you can hear it picking in the background). Berkshire Grey has been working on their solutions in stealth for a few years and ProMat was their unveiling. I was very impressed to see this solution because it literally did everything in the picking process. The tote came on the conveyor and the robot picked from it and placed it directly into the shipping carton. I am excited to see how Berkshire Grey grows and how their solutions get applied in different operations.
I caught up with Matt Davidson, VP of Product and Marketing, of Locix who is digitizing the warehouse space. What they were showcasing at ProMat was the Smart Dock Solution. This solution is addressing truck dwell time. They have created a very easy to implement camera that is wireless and can utilize machine learning to check not only if a truck is at your dock door but also senses movement and can start to track time it is taking to load or unload. It is a super simple way to start collecting data on where you are picking up dwell time. Their technology helps to extend the transportation management system beyond the dock door. This is a great tool especially as distribution centers grow in size and the number of doors increases it becomes harder to maintain visibility to each door.
At the GreyOrange booth, Sid Chatterjee, VP of Product, explained to me how they want to approach automation in warehousing in the same way as Tesla utilizing software and AI to drive their automation solutions. Their main product they offer is the Butler which brings the product to the picker or to their additional automation solutions making the pick fully automated. They also have a flexible sortation solution that can sort up to 12,000 packages per hour. We also discussed how their software guides robots similar to how the Uber app works finding available robots and directing them to the available task.
Pineberry offers different automation solutions to be built in to your conveyor system allowing small mundane tasks to be automated. Dan LaForce, VP of Sales and Marketing, walked me through the feeder solution that they were showcasing at ProMat which can feed promotional inserts directly into shipping cartons as they pass through your conveyor system. We also discussed a very appealing solution that can instantly print packing slips as the barcode on the box is read and insert them directly into the box as it passes by. Helping to reduce these mundane tasks and automate them can definitely improve an operation’s effiency.
Art Eldred, Client Executive of Systems Engineering and Jeff Lammert, Client Executive of System Sales spoke to me about their specialization in providing solutions for the ecommerce space and the high turnover of skus in the apparel industry. They specialize in assessing your operation and seeing what solutions can help you to best optimize. We discussed how they are entering into the automation and robotics market to address the labor concerns of their clients. One of the most interesting points was how we discussed the explosion of warehouses and distribution centers in areas that did not have many warehouses in the past. This underlines how rapidly this industry is growing and how it is becoming hard to find labor to fill all of these buildings. A great benefit of working with VARGO is that they are not affiliated with any specific solution so they can help to bring you exactly what is best for you.
Autonomous mobile solutions are what the Vecna Robotics booth was all about. I got the chance to speak with David Clear, VP of Business Development, about their uniquely green machines and how their solutions offer flexibility to their customers. What I learned is that their solution can be equipped to any manufactured machine. At the booth they had a Crown and Doosan outfitted with their solution. What is very interesting about their solution is the ease in which you can switch from autonomous to human operated machine. There is a simple switch and within seconds you are in regular operating mode. I believe this type of flexibility will be a huge factor in having successful operations as an increased number of operations move to autonomous machines.
This Denmark based company is providing interesting solutions and additions to the MiR (Mobile Industrial Robots) which incorporates rollers and conveyor that travels with the robot. I spoke with Peder Grejsen, Technical Sales Manager, about their products and how they are providing new ways to work with these robots. The solution is smart and helps to streamline the operation even further. What is most impressive is how their solution takes away the manual work of unloading and loading robots. It transforms the robot into a mobile conveyor which can carry anything from a box up to a full pallet and then conveys it from the robot when it gets to its destination. This is a great solution to increase efficiency and reduce safety risks of lifting.
I hope you enjoy this episode and learn something new. Please leave a comment below and let us know what you are most excited about from these companies.