10 Tips for Deploying a Robotics System

Automation is necessary to meet customer demand and companies have no other option but to deploy these technologies in their warehouses and fulfillment centers to remain competitive now and in the future. Here are 10 suggestions to help you get started.

1. Understand the CURRENT baseline. What are the facility’s operating parameters today? Gather one year’s worth of performance metrics to understand where the transformation to robotics is starting from. This is a valuable input to the robotics solutioning design efforts and gives you a way to determine the business value of the potential outcomes robotics enables.

2. Evaluate and grow to understand the robotics market. Different suppliers provide very different robotics solutions to address various business use cases. Do the research (third-party market reports are best) to understand which vendors should be on your short list for evaluation. Do you need a robotics AS/RS, goods-to-person, mobile sortation, or co-bot strategy?

3. Consider how your supply chain will evolve in the short term. Are you supporting multiple channels from the warehouse/DC? How is the balance between those channels changing? Will you ship more units versus cases in the future? Omnichannel fulfillment and the evolution of that strategy should strongly influence your evaluation of robotics.

4. Understand your integration strategy. Software application integration is typically on the critical path for implementing a robotics solution strategy. Understand which robotics vendors have already integrated their control systems software into your warehouse management system or ERP solution.

5. Select your robotics vendor carefully. Most robotics companies are small and may not have done a project in your specific industry segment. Understand the actual experience they bring to the transformational program for your warehouse/DC.

6. Make sure your people are ready. From hourly associates to senior executives, the change in both thinking and execution is substantial. An effective change management program is critical to the project’s success.

7. Select a stable vendor. Understand the viability of the robotics vendor you partner with. Mergers, IPOs, and acquisitions are common in the robotics vendor community today. Will the vendor you are considering be around in three years to continue your partnership?

8. Determine stakeholders. Think about who inside your company should "own" robotics in fulfillment. Is this a supply chain operations function? Is this an IT function? Is this an engineering function? The answer varies from one company to the next depending on how they envision the utilization of robotics in fulfillment and how they see it scaling in the future.

9. Create a business case for robotics investment. Unify on the vision for what capabilities robotics are enabling. Define this vision using the same metrics you operate with today to create a way to define accountability for success of the program. Evaluate throughput enhancements and labor reduction in the context of the robotics solution.

10. Think about the long term. As the value proposition continues to improve for robotics, how will your strategy evolve and be fully integrated? Think about the warehouse execution software and its ability to support multiple robots from multiple suppliers over time.

SOURCE: John Seidl, Partner, GreyOrange

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