InVia Robotics Inc. recently released its Dynamic Automated Storage and Retrieval System, which is designed to efficiently deliver goods to people within warehouses. The new offering is built around InVia’s existing mobile robot pickers. The warehouse automation system also intended to quickly scale to meet the needs of the logistics and supply chain market.
Traditional automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are a major investment, requiring a large amount of dedicated floor space and a redesign of the warehouse workflow.
In addition, an AS/RS can be hard to scale or, more typically, are initially built with a maximum warehouse throughput in mind. This large upfront investment of capital and space restricts the deployment of classic warehouse automation systems to only the largest logistics providers.
The average warehouse operation may find traditional automation to be limited in usefulness. The capital expense also stretches out the return on investment (ROI) for the system.
Agoura, Calif.-based inVia said that it has brought a fresh perspective and a competitive business model to the warehouse automation market with its Dynamic AS/RS system. The new product should help both large and small logistics operations, according to the company.
InVia’s Dynamic AS/RS is built around the company’s mobile robots for goods-to-person picking. The inVia pickers autonomously pick and replace standard totes of goods off of shelves.
They then deliver them directly to pickers, packers, and replenishers. This process removes human workers from the task of running around the warehouse.
“We’ve started with customers with large sets of items,” said Corwin Carson, chief revenue officer at inVia. “Our robots can handle all the items in a warehouse up to 30 lb.”
“We’ve developed this over the past year from direct-picking systems,” he told Robotics Business Review. “The robots can pick items and bring them to humans — the human arm and eye are hard to beat at this moment in terms of cost and speed.”
Among the initial challenges were the totes and workflow. The use of standard shelving and totes reduces the need for any special totes.
“The totes were originally plastic, which could break,” Carson said. “Some customers wanted to keep items in their original boxes. This allowed us to integrate with the existing workflow; then the robots had to interact more with corrugated totes. We redesigned some of the suction cups and algorithms to understand and interact with different totes.”
RMS and WMS
Overseeing the entire operation is the InVia Robot Management System (RMS), which coordinates the movement of all of the mobile robots and integrates directly to with the user’s warehouse management system (WMS).
“We worked extensively on the Robot Management System, which is really in charge of the organization of all components, including people and processes,” Carson said. “Bringing items to people makes them more efficient, and we’re able to do this with a fast deployment and at a lower cost than other systems.”
“We’ve designed the RMS to be robot-agnostic, since some customers are working with different robots,” he explained. “The customer can replace one component, and all other systems work as they did before.”
“We already have a bunch of models that work together now — a large number of WMSes,” said Carson. “Some customers will use our API [application programming interface]. Then they’ll have IT integrate it in-house to create customized solutions.”
Unlike past warehouse automation products, which can take months to install and configure, the inVia Dynamic AS/RS can be set up and operational within a few days or weeks, Carson said.
“You don’t need an integrator,” he added. “We’re able to leverage our current picking robots and their vision, AI, and precision. You don’t have to set up precise shelves or tracks, since the robots can operate in existing environments.”
The key is in the autonomous operation of the inVia mobile robot picker, which can pick totes off of shelves and return unused inventory automatically to its storage location.
“You can hook up the order system, and the customer can be up and running,” Carson said. “From the customer point of view, we can now do inventory and replenishment, as well as group high-velocity items.”
In addition, inVia’s system is easy to move if the warehouse floorplan changes, expands, or is moved to a different facility.
“This doesn’t require a huge investment in infrastructure,” said Carson. “It can grow with the business.”
RaaS for affordable warehouse automation
InVia said its Dynamic AS/RS is different from other warehouse automation in that it is delivered through a robots-as-a-service (RaaS) business model.
Under an RaaS contract, customers pay only for the promised throughput of the system. Gone are the large upfront costs to purchase mobile robots as capital equipment. Instead, a customer can start small and scale up as needed.
“Customers are already familiar with the as-a-service model from the software side,” Carson said. “With robotics, the systems parts [of organizations] haven’t been exposed to that — they’re used to spending millions on hardware.”
“Most customers don’t want to be a robotics business or hire robotics engineers,” he said. “We already know how to move things in warehouses, and RaaS lets them focus on marketing products.”
The RaaS system can scale either as the warehouse grows in throughput, or to meet elastic throughput needs because of seasonal changes in product orders.
Adding a new picker robot to the system can be as simple as uncrating the robot and turning it on. The inVia RMS does the rest to immediately integrate the robot into the workflow.
“We also see that customers don’t want to spend a lot of money to fix up warehouses, since they fear having to set up smaller warehouses closer to customers,” noted Dan Parks, inVia chief operating officer. “We help companies that can’t find employees scale up without feeling stuck with a particular warehouse location or size.”
“A lot of customers that we talked to may be afraid to invest in infrastructure, but they know it will grow in the next year or two,” said Lior Elazary, inVia CEO. “They’ll have to move warehouses, so nobody wants fixed automation.”
More on Supply Chain and Warehouse Automation:
- Logistics Startups, Investments Spike With E-Commerce Interest
- Robots for Hire: Optimizing Business Needs vs. Risk
- American Industrial Automation Growth to Stay Strong, Says RIA
- The New World of Subscription-Based Robotic Solutions
- Drones in Warehouses — When Will They Take Off?
- Is 24/7 Uptime a Worthy Goal for Industrial Robotics?
- Delivery Robots Ready to Satisfy the On-Demand Economy
- RaaS Can Guide Robotics Adoption and Offerings
- InVia Robotics Promises Easier Automated Materials Handling
Market is moving fast
The warehouse automation market will experience a compound annual growth rate of 11.8 percent between 2017 and 2012 to $4.44 billion, predicted a report from Markets and Markets Research Pvt. Ltd. Similarly, the Internet of Things will enable the warehouse management market to grow to $19.06 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research Inc.
“Demand has been pretty high,” Carson said. “Amazon has spent a lot of money pressuring its customers to work more efficiently, so this affects a lot of e-commerce.”
“We have more than 10 rollouts of Dynamic AS/RS, and three more deployments in the next few months,” he said. “We have multiple other committed customers for 2017.”
“It’s a big market to be sure,” added Parks.Read More