Warehouses and e-commerce order-fulfillment operations have been using mobile robots and soft grippers for some time now. Many often approach automation as a solution for a specific pain point rather than as an opportunity for wholistic improvements. More integrated systems and mobile manipulation are starting to change that, offering greater efficiency and productivity. One example is the mobile picking partnership that 6 River Systems Inc. and Soft Robotics Inc. announced today.
Waltham, Mass.-based 6 River Systems was founded in 2015 by former executives from Kiva Systems, which is now Amazon Robotics. The company’s Chuck autonomous mobile robot (AMR), named after the Charles River, uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to help human workers minimize walking, and it integrates with leading warehouse management systems (WMS). 6 Rivers’ Mobile Sort smart kiosks debuted at ProMat 2019, and its customers include DHL, Lockheed Martin, Office Depot, and XPO Logistics.
Bedford, Mass.-based Soft Robotics uses innovative compliant robotic grippers to handle a wide variety of items. In combination with its control unit and proprietary software, Soft Robotics’ configurable soft grippers are designed to be used in industrial applications, including advanced manufacturing, e-commerce and retail, and food and beverage.
The company’s SuperPick is capable of more than 600 picks per hour, and it can pick from heterogeneous and homogenous bins. Soft Robotics recently added to its product portfolio the Mini Finger gripper for tight pick-and-place operations.
Mobile picking demo
6 River Systems and Soft Robotics plan to demonstrate what they called “the first commercially available end-to-end mobile picking solution” at Booth 501 at CSCMP EDGE 2019, which will be from Sept. 15 to 18 in Anaheim, Calif.
The mobile picking exhibit will include 6 Rivers’ Chuck and Soft Robotics’ SuperPick, which the partners said provide ease of implementation and can handle a wide range of SKUs without requiring prior training, respectively.
“”Unlike ad hoc technology combinations, this integrated solution may bring transformative productivity gains of up to 2-3x to existing warehouses and fulfillment center installations.” stated the companies.
“This solution will allow customers to fully automate the picking process for high-demand products, thereby enabling warehouse employees to focus on higher impact operations,” said Jerome Dubois, co-founder and co-CEO of 6 River Systems.
With high turnover and shortages of warehouse workers, accelerating consumer demand, and improving technologies, the advantages of more integrated systems is clear. ABI Research predicts that the number of supply chain facilities using robots will increase from just under 4,000 in 2018 to more than 50,000 by 2025, with over 4 million in robots in use. The latest AMRs, end effectors, and intelligent software are converging in mobile picking to meet e-commerce demand.
“I speak with customers nearly every day that are struggling with peak efficiency as a result of their inability to hire workers,” said Carl Vause, CEO of Soft Robotics. “The integration of mobile material transport systems and goods-to-robot order-fulfillment systems will help to address an increasingly common market need, and I am confident these customers will see throughput gains and payback faster than ever before.”
The Robot Report has launched the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo focuses on improving the design, development and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum.