Doing More With Less: The Application of Warehouse Robots and Wearables

Lior Elazary, Co-founder and CEO at inVia Robotics, was featured as a panelist at Manifest 2022 in a session titled, “Doing More with Less: The Application of Warehouse Robots & Wearables.” Session topics included the role of technology and robotics in disrupting the warehouse, how workers and warehouse robots work together, and the evolution in robotics. Here are some key takeaways from Lior’s remarks during the panel:

We need to increase the productivity of our existing warehouse workers.

Companies are facing major challenges with supply chain issues and labor shortages. This brings to the focus a question on how to make a company’s existing workers more productive. How do you increase picking rates from 90 units per hour to 1,000 units per hour, a 10X improvement? Returns and replenishment are also hurdles. Customers don’t have enough people to handle tasks like picking, returns and replenishing SKUs. The answer is automation, which saves workers from having to travel all over the warehouse to complete these tasks.

Our goal for customers is to multiply human effectiveness so they run the same warehouse with their core people and still absorb more demand and growth. Robotics helps people do their jobs differently and better than before.

The pandemic has fueled an evolution in robotics.

Our customers are struggling to meet demand and fill labor shortages. How do we manage in this new world of surging online orders without requiring armies of people to fulfill these orders on the back end? That’s where automation comes in. The pandemic has helped expedite the time it takes to deploy automation and helped warehouse robots adapt to existing infrastructure. With limited resources and labor, our customers need to get up to speed in one month as consumers require prompt order delivery.

Robotics is the next stage of automation, where you can deploy things quickly, adapt into existing infrastructures and change flow in real time. It can help design a system that flexes and ebbs during different demand periods and fluctuating pick rates.

With inVia’s Robotics-as-a-Service model, we don’t sell robots. We sell their productivity.

Our model is built around providing robotics as a service. In the past, companies had to invest heavily in automation. If it didn’t do what it was expected to do, companies had to stick with their choice. With our RaaS model, we sell the productivity that our inVia Picker robots deliver, not the actual robots or automation itself. We oversee the robots and make sure they are as productive as possible. We’re aligned with our customers whose greatest need is ensuring their orders are fulfilled quickly and efficiently.

Employee training will require intuitive UI and UX design.

During peak demand periods, like the holiday season, customers hire temporary workers who know very little about how warehouses operate. They need to become productive extremely fast working alongside smart systems that require skills and understanding. To help the workers get up to speed as quickly as possible, we need to create interfaces that are intuitive and easy to use. That may mean using color coding and visual aids that short-term workers can readily understand. At the same time, we need to use AI on the back end to measure performance, diagnose training needs and identify problems. It comes down to knowing what’s the problem I’m solving and its implications.

Refinements to robotics is an ongoing process.

Two areas we are working on to improve robotics capabilities are fine manipulation and cognitive ability. It’s still difficult for a robot arm to reach inside a tote and pick out one small item among other objects in the tote. Another challenge is problem solving. Warehouse robots can’t solve their own problems. If a pallet robot comes in to lift a pallet but the pallet is broken, the robot won’t know how to correct the situation. In these instances, we need to call in “robot wranglers,” people who can fix the issue.

To learn more about how inVia can boost order fulfillment, request a demo today!