Ready to develop a fully-flexible, automated warehousing environment, global logistics provider DB Schenker Americas recently began collaborating with IAM Robotics to blend innovative, leading-edge logistics technology into its operations. As automation and robotics continue to pave new inroads in the logistics environment, this new collaboration will serve as a foundational platform for the use of these advanced technologies to help shippers work smarter, better, and faster.
DB Schenker Americas Collaborates with IAM Robotics to Develop the Warehouse of the Future
DB Schenker Americas and IAM Robotics join forces to maximize the convergence of robotics and automation in the warehousing environment.
The modern-day supply chain does a lot more than just move products from one place to the next. Serving as the foundation for an increasingly-global, information ecosystem that must be able to coordinate and collaborate across all of its links, today’s supply chains require technology, automation, and digitization to run at optimal levels. And, they need to do this in a way that meets customers’ demands for flexibility, visibility, and transparency.
According to MHI, 34% of companies are looking to robotics and automation to improve overall supply chain efficiencies — namely by handling previously-manual tasks like picking, sorting, inspecting, storing, handling, and classifying products. Five years from now, the industry group expects robotics and automation adoption to rise to 53%.
“This expected rise in adoption suggests that firms recognize robotics and automation as integral tools to maintain and increase competitive advantage through NextGen supply chains,” MHI reports. “As automation becomes smarter, safer, and more accurate, it is also becoming less expensive and easier to implement — helping to drive adoption.”
Paving New Inroads in Logistics
This is a true collaboration in the sense that DB Schenker knows the logistics industry inside and out, and IAM Robotics has an incredible depth of technological knowledge and innovation
said John Stikes, DB Schenker America’s Director of Innovation and e-commerce.
“By bringing these two powerful forces together, we can challenge one another and come up with solutions that literally take warehousing to the next level.”
Fully-Flexible Distribution Solutions that Perform
By blending their respective expertises, DB Schenker Americas and IAM Robotics are working to deploy mobile manipulation solutions — the kind of robots that can both pick up and transport goods.
“This is the goal that the entire logistics industry is working toward — fully-flexible distribution solutions and models that allow organizations to be responsive to the accelerated pace of change,” says Joel Reed, CEO at IAM Robotics. “To achieve this vision, we’re having open dialogues about customers’ needs, a roadmap for the future, and where those two intersect.”
As part of that mission, the two entities are helping to create operations that align with Industry 4.0 — or, the current trend of using automation and data exchange (i.e., the Internet of Things, cloud computing, cognitive computing, etc.) in manufacturing technologies. Also known as the fourth industry revolution, Industry 4.0 supports the “smart factory” approach to manufacturing and distribution.
“In the warehouse, fully-automated applications will be the key to sustainability and competitiveness in the new marketplace,” Stikes says. “Through automation, companies can achieve compelling economic advantages while alleviating their labor issues, and then redeploy that labor to more thought-involved processes and gain enhanced flexibility in their operations.”
The Perfect Combination
Reed says the combination of robotics/automation in the warehousing environment solves age-old labor challenges that have been exacerbated in recent years by the global shortage of skilled workers. Add the e-commerce boom, the pressures of omni-channel distribution, and changing customer preferences to the equation, he says, and the resultant environment is one that’s ripe for change.
“To help their customers’ offset these challenges, logistics providers like DB Schenker are exploring and leveraging existing technology, both within the existing and the future warehousing environment,” says Reed.
It’s about leapfrogging the technology that exists today and determining which technologies can be deployed over the next three to five years to help companies work even smarter, better, and faster.”
(Joel Reed, CEO at IAM Robotics)
With the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the automation itself going down, and as the breadth of flexible solutions expands, the argument in favor of warehouse automation is only getting louder.
“In the past, we were forced to use large, monolithic pieces of steel (e.g., conveyors, pallet racks, etc.) that were bolted to the warehouse or DC floor and that only were justified if a company was shipping millions of cases a year,” Stikes points out. “That’s changed dramatically as flexible automation has taken off, allowing us to leverage more modular, adaptable means of running the modern-day warehouse.”
It’s a Win-Win for Everyone
As automation and robotics continue to drive unprecedented levels of change in the warehousing and distribution environment, IAM Robotics is helping providers like DB Schenker overcome key challenges while also helping them ensure future longevity and profitability.
As the NextGen supply chain comes into clearer view — and as automation replaces more and more previously-manual, labor-intensive tasks — expect to see a greater number of companies leveraging advanced robotics systems that enable a wider swath of distribution, warehousing, and logistics processes.
In return, those logistics providers will be able to allocate labor to more important tasks, streamline their operations, and offer even higher levels of service to their customers — the holy grail in today’s competitive retail and manufacturing environments.
“Anytime we can drive our value to our customers by moving our employees away from manual, repetitive tasks like picking and packing, and over to more value-added assignments,” says Stikes, “we can effectively deliver even higher levels of value for those shippers, which becomes a win-win for everyone.”