e-commerce sales in the U.S. will increase approximately 16 percent in 2018, to exceed $526 billion, according to a recent study. This growth will continue, with e-commerce projected to account for more than 12 percent of U.S. retail sales in 2020.
Honeywell and Fetch Robotics are teaming up to help distribution centers fulfill growing volumes of e-commerce orders by using autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). The initiative enables Honeywell Intelligrated’s customers to increase productivity and boost labor efficiency by deploying Fetch’s AMRs, which operate safely alongside people to transport items through distribution centers without human guidance or fixed paths. By adding this offering to its smart robotics portfolio, Honeywell Intelligrated can provide customers with a range of flexible automation solutions that can be tailored to address current and future operational needs.
“As staffing challenges and the continued growth of online shopping are pressuring supply chains, robotics can be an effective solution to help make large, integrated distribution centers more efficient,” says Pieter Krynauw, president of Honeywell Intelligrated. “With this arrangement, we can provide our customers with a complete suite of fixed and mobile robotics solutions, backed by the expert systems integration, solutions development and reliable, 24/7 technical support they expect from us.”
Fetch’s AMRs use a combination of LiDAR and 3D cameras to navigate unpredictable warehouse environments safely and accurately. In the event of an obstacle, these robots can adjust routes in real time, unlike automated guided vehicle systems, which depend on pre-programmed, fixed paths. This enables the AMRs to take on repetitive warehousing tasks that may otherwise require significant travel time between locations and transporting heavy loads.
“We are committed to helping customers achieve their productivity goals by providing on-demand automation that enables a wide range of flexible and safe AMRs to be rapidly deployed,” says Melonee Wise, CEO, Fetch Robotics. “We fully expect our relationship with Honeywell Intelligrated to help accelerate the adoption of our cloud robotics solution within the logistics and manufacturing verticals.”
Companies are increasingly turning to robotics to gain competitive advantage in the supply chain, with adoption expected to rise from 34 to 73 percent over the next five years, according to a survey in the 2018 Material Handling Institute’s annual report. The study identified that the most common uses for robotics in warehousing operations include tasks like receiving and putting away inventory.
Honeywell, CMU partnership
Honeywell, which announced the Fetch partnership at Pack Expo 2018, also recently partnered with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to advance artificial intelligence and robotic technologies used in distribution centers. This partnership will focus on developing a next-generation architecture to control and operate multiple robotic applications.
Matthew Wicks, VP Product Development at Honeywell Intelligrated, told The Robot Report at Pack Expo that combining its expertise of the logistics market with CMU’s robotics knowledge will help solve some common challenges.
“There are some applications in manufacturing that are problematic, to say the least. The idea behind robots today is, even vision-based robots, you have a quick look at the environment and then go make some action,” Wick says. “But to really manage the chaotic and dynamic environments in warehouses, you need much more computational power to pull in that data and make decisions quickly. We need to be able to do that, to solve some problems that are out there today and being solved by manual intervention.”
Honeywell Intelligrated delivers a broad portfolio of automation equipment, software, service and support to more than 60 of the top 100 global retailers and half of the top 100 internet retailers.