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4 Reasons to Work with a Systems Integrator When Considering a Warehouse Robotics/AMR Project

We don’t need reminding that, as a result of some key drivers, (availability of labour, increasing demand for ecommerce etc.), the market for warehouse robotics/AMRs is experiencing strong growth.


Increasingly in the UK, retailers and 3PLs have been embracing this technology by running pilot or proof of concept projects and are now at the point of rolling out full scale implementations.


The question for other companies seeking to invest in robotics is, who should you engage with in order to have a successful outcome; directly with a robotics vendor or with a Systems Integrator? It is easy to think that a robotics vendor is the answer, however there are a number of other criteria that should be considered:


1. An Understanding of End-to-End Distribution Centre Processes:

As the market for warehouse robotics matures, there are a wide variety of robots that can support and optimise an equally wide variety of warehouse processes (receiving, put away, replenishment, picking, packing, sortation, loading etc).


As a first step you need to identify which process you should focus on first. A Systems Integrator, which has years of experience of automating warehouse operations, is in the best position to advise on this.


This understanding of Distribution Centre processes is important because you need to understand which processes are stable enough for automation, ones where complexity and variability is understood, so that the parameters can be well defined as well as the expected process improvements. Systems Integrators are well versed in all these points and can often consider a wider range of technology solutions, so are not constrained by the scope of their offerings.


Systems integrators such as Logistex, have the capability to simulate and emulate all of the DC process to ensure that end to end optimisation is considered in the design of the solution, whereas robot vendors typically focus on just one aspect of the simulation/emulation phase of any project.


2. Integration of Warehouse Processes

Initially, the first implementations of warehouse robotics focused on relatively small, standalone pilot projects. As a result of the successful completion of many such projects, the benefits of warehouse robotics are well established and understood.


This means that projects now are becoming more expansive in terms of scope and scale and need to be fully integrated with the existing warehouse operations and technology to achieve maximum impact. When robotics work alongside other solutions, more processes can be automated. These should work together to augment human labour, resulting in an operation that is faster, safer, and more efficient.


As an independent warehouse automation specialist, clients of Logistex can take advantage of our ability to provide unbiased and objective guidance and selection of the most suitable, best in class equipment and systems worldwide. Whether you are looking to add robotics into an existing operation, or as part of a brand-new integrated system alongside conveyors, picking, sortation, order fulfilment etc., Logistex is free to select, design and integrate a solution with the most fit-for-purpose technologies that complement each other and work together as one system.




3. Implementation of Appropriate IT Architecture

Similar to the point about integrating physical warehouse processes, the IT landscape of a complex DC operation needs to be understood so that the robotics solution can be successfully integrated.


DC IT architecture is becoming increasingly multi layered, in order to support the various technologies and processes. Where a WMS integrated with an ERP used to be the norm, in a warehouse with various forms of automation and manual processes the IT architecture is far more complex.

Understanding what happens in terms of order & process orchestration, inventory visibility, order prioritisation, replenishment etc. is not straightforward and requires a partner that is capable of understanding the issues that arise with integrating the components of these various layers. Systems Integrators have been doing this for years and have often developed much more fit for purpose IT platforms that include WES and WCS capabilities.

Whilst robot vendors have a proven capability in robot management software and control systems, a systems integrator is better placed to provide a software package that encompasses not just the robotics, but that will control all elements of the extended operation in harmony.


4. Project Delivery and on-going Support:

Europe will no doubt follow the trend in the US and China and will see large scale robotic implementations. In the US we are increasingly seeing DCs emulating Amazon by having thousands of robots in a single DC. Managing such projects, particularly within complex live environments, requires deep levels of project and change management skills which system integrators tend to have in-house. Ensuring a partner has a proven track record of successful implementations is key to any successful project.


Beyond the initial project, just like all other forms of warehouse automation, having the right level of engineering and support resources to ensure that the robots and the software remains optimised and delivers the appropriate operational KPIs is essential. Systems Integrators such as Logistex offer Residential or Mobile Support with 24/7 Hotline. Ensuring any provider has the capability to support such critical operations and deliver in line with the SLA should be given careful consideration.



Conclusion:

When contemplating a warehouse robotics project, selecting the correct type of robots is only the start of the process. Selecting the correct partner is equally important and will potentially be the single biggest consideration in the success of any project.


At Logistex, we are not constrained by manufacturer, but instead have a number of partnerships with leading robotics vendors, meaning that we are able to select the best robotics solution for your operation, and integrate this into a bespoke holistic solution. Paired with design simulation and emulation to reduce risk, our in-house developed warehouse management and control software LWS Reflex, and an industry leading engineering support services team, you can rest assured you are in the best hands.


Get in touch today for more information, or to set up a no obligation call with one of our experts to see how we could enhance your operation:

E: Enquiries@logistex.com

T: +44 (0)1536 480 600