Robotic Picking Systems: What You Need to Know

Warehouse order fulfillment involves a number of repetitive tasks. The most important and foundational one is order picking. It’s usually one of the biggest expenses in a distribution center, often making up more than half of operational costs.

That’s why it’s critical to understand the different picking methods and assess which one is optimal for your business. Getting it right can directly lower your costs. It can also directly increase the satisfaction of your customers. Quick and accurate picking leads to happy consumers and higher loyalty and retention rates.

First, What Is Order Picking?

Order picking is the process of selecting items from warehouse inventory to fulfill orders placed by customers, often through online e-commerce purchases. It is the basis of warehouse workflows and the most labor-intensive and expensive of all order fulfillment tasks. Traditionally, it is done manually by people walking through long warehouse aisles to retrieve ordered items and bring them back to the packing station to ship out to consumers. Given its impact on costs, efficiency and accuracy, businesses are looking toward new technologies and processes to improve order picking.

So What Is a Robotic Picking System?

In the simplest of terms, a robotic picking system is an order fulfillment system that uses mobile fulfillment robots and order management software to automate all or part of the picking process in an e-commerce warehouse.

These systems work alongside your warehouse staff. They take on the dull, repetitive tasks that can lead to burnout, freeing up your people so they can focus on more meaningful work.

Basics of Robotic Picking Systems, and Picking Robots

The term “warehouse automation” brings to mind images of large, vertical carousels and conveyors, known as automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS). Those fixed systems are impressive, but they are expensive and time consuming to implement. Many of the newer robotic picking systems are designed to work within your existing infrastructure, so you can avoid costly construction projects or warehouse redesigns.

Mobile robotic picking systems generally fall into two categories: collaborative robots (or “cobots”) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Cobots accompany workers as they walk through the warehouse picking items for customers’ orders. AMRs operate as autonomous warehouse robots that travel the aisles independently, retrieving items and bringing them back to a picking station.

With inVia Robotics system, specifically, our robots can pick and move standard totes of all materials, shapes, and sizes weighing up to 40 pounds. They also adapt to your existing shelving, and we’ll even provide intelligence that helps you optimize density.

Curious to Learn More?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by acronyms and new technologies. Our Getting Started with RaaS (Robotics-as-a-Service) guide will show you how easy and affordable it is to add robotics into your warehouse with no big upfront costs, no disruption to your fulfillment process and no new infrastructure requirements. You can also read our complimentary white paper that explains how the mobile robotics revolution turned an expensive ideal into an affordable reality.