By Fouad Khalil, Senior Director, Compliance
Robotic solutions in warehouse environments can improve customer order and returns throughout as well as workforce productivity by automating time consuming, repetitive work. However, gaining these benefits requires successfully addressing security and compliance issues and building trust.
Robotics technology is fairly new and changing rapidly. Industry standards for operational and security practices are still catching up and few operations or security teams are fully up to speed. Sourcing the skills and expertise to securely deploy and protect robotic systems can also be difficult, and security teams and/or warehouse operations teams can find themselves working at cross-purposes.
Safely deploying robotics in the warehouse requires overcoming numerous complex technical and operational challenges, including security and compliance. Like Internet of Things (IOT) devices in general, robotic environments can be vulnerable to a variety of cyber-attacks exploiting physical as well as digital interfaces. By compromising bots, threat actors could also target servers, the warehouse management system (WMS), and other systems connected to them. This creates serious risks to safety, privacy, and availability of order fulfillment and returns processes.
For those reasons, “do-it-yourself” robotics deployments – even when assisted by vendors or system integrators – are at risk of failing to achieve their potential benefits due to inconsistent or immature security and operational practices.
Fortunately, robotics customers have another option – Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS). In the RaaS model, a service provider performs heavy lifting to deploy your warehouse robotics solution, including network design, integration with the warehouse management system (WMS), and cloud-based solution monitoring, reporting, and analytics. The RaaS provider helps customers close the skills gap using trained professionals seasoned through experience with hundreds of robotics deployments. Best of all, RaaS scales: Additional bot units can be quickly shipped into place, or removed, virtually at the click of a button as order volumes ebb and flow. The RaaS vendor continually services, updates security, and maintains ALL system components while minimizing customers’ upfront capital expenditure (CapEx) investment.
Customers should consider RaaS, and if it makes sense in their business context, move forward by verifying potential providers’ ability to deliver on the promises of increased productivity, safety, and trust. Seek providers that understand your industry warehouse environment through experience with similar customers and that have dealt with the compliance regulations in your jurisdiction(s), can provide qualified or certified integrators as part of a “one-stop shop” deployment solution, and can demonstrate their ability to run a secure service through a successful SOC 2 audit.
Within five years, industry thought leaders envision RaaS solutions will become so “smart” that entire warehouse robotics systems can be deployed literally “out of the box” in most customer environments. By positioning themselves for RaaS now, customers not only gain the benefits of productivity, costs savings, and a more trustworthy deployment, they are also future-proofing warehouse operations.