Warehouses and manufacturing facilities alike see the need for automation to improve warehouse operations, including making the move to autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). In fact, market research firm Interact Analysis research predicts that the number of AMR shipments will increase to over 530,000 in 2024, bringing the total number in operation to more than 1.1 million, a significant increase over the 36,000 AMRs in use at the end of 2019.
To help companies properly evaluate, select, and implement AMRs, The Robot Report created Mobile Robotics Week, a virtual conference of webinars and panel discussions. Steve Branch, Senior Director of Sales Engineering at Locus Robotics, was a panelist for “Selection Criteria for AMRs” during Mobile Robotics Week, along with Marlon Hall, Head of Business Development at Techmetics Robotics, which produces AMRs for healthcare, assisted living centers, hospitality, casinos, and more. The moderator of the discussion was Mike Oitzman, Editor for The Mobile Robot Guide and The Robot Report.
During the lively virtual panel, Branch and Hall both provided selection criteria for AMRs along with questions that companies should ask themselves and the vendors they’re evaluating when they’re choosing an AMR for their facility.
Find the Right Solution
Branch started off his presentation by stating that a facility’s goal should be to find the solution to the problem they’re having, even if it’s not an AMR. Your evaluation will most likely lead to choosing an AMR as a solution, but keep other options in mind. How do you figure that out? Look at the problem you’re trying to solve in your facility. It could include:
- Hiring and retaining skilled workers
- Trying to reduce costs
- Having to fulfill more orders in the space you currently have
- Needing to reduce cycle time
Once you’ve determined the problem, define your criteria for success, which could include the savings and ROI you’ll receive with your chosen solution.
The automation technology you’re evaluating will be the latest and greatest, but it’s the potential savings and ROI that are going to sway your C-level in one solution over another. As Branch noted in an anecdote he’d heard from a sales rep, “Yes, robots are cool, but there’s not a CFO in the world who buys ‘cool’.” Instead, their focus is on the ROI, labor retention, long-term maintenance needs, training, and more.
Additionally, while your CFO wants to hear about the savings and ROI, their ears will perk up if the AMR you choose comes with an OpEx model rather than CapEx. Why? The industry is developing at a rapid pace. If you invest in a solution with a CapEx model, that means that you’ve committed to that solution for the lifetime of the solution, which could be seven to 10 years.
With an OpEx model, like Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS), you can be flexible with the number of bots you have at a time based on demand. When peak season comes around, simply add additional robots just for that timeframe to work in your facility to cover orders with your human associates.
Is it the Right Fit?
Whatever you choose for an AMR or automation solution, it needs to work along with your human associates. As Hall noted, “robots should make human lives better.” And it also needs to work within your facility. To determine if the AMR can do what you need it to do, we’ve created a helpful checklist that lists some key questions. Those questions include:
- What is the payload of the robot? Do the dimensions of the robot match what you’ll be placing on it?
- What are the training requirements for the AMR you’re considering? Can your associates ramp up easily to the technology?
- Is the human interface visual and simple to be easily understood?
- Can the robot run on your warehouse surface?
- How does the AMR see? Can it see and respond to obstacles in its path?
- What’s the charging time and battery life of the AMR?
- Does the vendor/provider have experience with your specific use case?
One last note: For any AMR or automation solution you’re considering, you should always see the solution in operation at a live site.
To view the on-demand version of the virtual panel and learn all of the points to consider when choosing an AMR, you can register here.
You can also download our helpful checklist to guide you:Download the checklist