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Is my warehouse ready for AMR?

Discover how you can benefit from implementing AMRs & how they are helping businesses around the world conquer major industry challenges.


The impact of the pandemic has accelerated some far-reaching megatrends – such as rising online consumer demand, labour shortages and global supply chain uncertainty.


Despite some major leaders declaring the pandemic ‘over’, these megatrends are here to stay, and their impact on supply chain and logistics is more prominent than ever.


We’re seeing businesses continue to grapple with labour shortages, while consumer demand is still largely unpredictable and volumes unprecedented.


The linear growth patterns and demand planning strategies of the pre-pandemic world are largely irrelevant in today’s environment, and relying on finding not only the right people, but the right amount of people, to scale up an operation is becoming increasingly challenging.


While automation technology has been a major feature of warehouses, manufacturing and logistics for some time, more recently warehouse technology has pushed the barriers through use of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).


AMRs essentially provide the opportunity to look at these industry challenges in a smarter way, factoring in new growth targets or considerations. They can carry out many processes in a warehouse or distribution centre, such as intricate product picking, fulfillment and pallet moving. This removes many lower value activities that employees would have previously needed to do, making them far more productive.


These robots are helping businesses around the world conquer the major industry challenges of today.


How can AMR improve an existing warehouse? 


AMR technology gives organisations the flexibility to grow and to expand their operations, or to keep up with the volumes and the growth they are experiencing without the need to move facilities.


Instead of having to buy new property and grow the footprint with traditional fulfillment or fixed automation, AMRs can be deployed into an existing facility.


AMRs allow increased volume to be processed in a smaller footprint, allowing organisations to stay in the same facility, while increasing throughput. When you decide to move to a new location, the AMR solution can come with you.


Because AMRs are a flexible solution, you can dynamically increase on a gradual basis, rather than having to take a big-bang approach. Your operations can expand as they need to, based on growth over time, instead of having to predict five years in the future and build a solution that fits that exact prediction.  


Using sensors, cameras, and embedded safety mechanisms, AMRs build a digital map of their environment, meaning they don’t need guide rails or tracks, and can move around objects. This also frees more space on the warehouse floor by reducing static rail systems.



When should you consider AMR for a new warehouse? 


If you're a retailer or logistics provider, one of your major goals is to get closer to your customers. Maybe that means building a new distribution centre in a dense urban area to cut fulfillment times. AMR enables you to pivot quickly and get up and running, with a much shorter lead time than traditional automation.  


With AMR, you can turn the solution on and transition into full production mode within a three-to-six-month period. You also won’t need the increased headcount of a traditional non-automated distribution centre.  


How will humans work if AMRs are implemented? 


Humans work in collaboration with AMR solutions. During and post-pandemic, getting and keeping good people in warehousing has been difficult due to the global labour shortage, and you’ve really got to look after the people that you have. AMRs mean that you can make their job easier, ensuring you keep them on board and fully engaged.  



What cost savings can be realised with AMR? 


Traditional automation is quite capital-intensive upfront, and the investment payback period is typically a longer term, with five-plus years required to see a return on that investment. With an AMR solution, payback is typically achieved in 18 months or less, with an average payback of about 12 to 16 months.  


Space optimisation also allows for savings in real estate costs.  With AMR, inventory can be stored in closer spaces, with narrower aisles and higher shelving.


Inventory management becomes easier with AMR for rapid fulfillment. You can start putting additional stock on your shelves more regularly or reduce the high value goods and replenish on a tight turnaround, reducing aging stock.   


Furthermore, through a leasing model, businesses can hire and off-hire AMRs as they need them on a OPEX rather than CAPEX model.


What can businesses do to get ready for AMR? 


Organisations must look at their individual operations to see where bottlenecks, pain points or problem areas exist. Once they’ve identified these issues, they can see if flexible automation can solve some of those problems.


As far as physically getting a distribution centre right, it's relatively straightforward. Körber can adapt to most distribution centres currently in operation, with limited disruption or difficulty. The main challenge is getting past the mindset that automation means the entire warehouse or DC needs to be converted at once.  


Which industries and points on the supply chain stand to benefit most from AMR integration? 


The COVID pandemic changed consumers' mindsets in terms of retail shopping, from it primarily being a traditional brick-and-mortar experience to using online shopping for almost everything.    


There are now different methods for shopping, such as the click-and-collect approach, that allows customers to quickly shop for what they need online, then pick it up locally at their convenience. Others prefer to have their items shipped and are willing to pay a premium for faster fulfillment. This has led to an increased demand and requirement on the supply chain. 


How does Körber make transitioning to AMR easy? 


Körber was the first organisation to bring AMR solutions to Australia and has successfully transitioned many companies to partial or full automation using AMRs. In terms of having the people on the ground to really understand the drivers of the business and can plan around them, we've got the experience to make it happen. To learn more about AMR solutions, contact us today. 


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