LOWELL, Mass. — NextShift Robotics, a provider of autonomous mobile robot solutions for automated order fulfillment and warehouse materials management, announced this past week it had been granted its second patent, “Method and System for Automated Transport of Items” as of February 26, 2019.
The new patent, first filed in 2014, pertains to the operation of a robotic picking system in which the containers to be picked are positioned on shelves and within picking stations.
“We are pleased to add to our portfolio of important intellectual property in the mobile robotic material handling space,” said Mary Ellen Sparrow, CEO and Founder of NextShift. “The patented ability to place and retrieve containers from variable shelf heights is very important in a Lean Manufacturing environment where standardized containers are delivered to point of use in work cells. This ability also supports automated replenishment of containers to any point in the process, eliminating much of the worker intervention.”
The patent covers the ability of a robot to raise itself vertically to access shelving of different heights in order to pick the appropriate container from a range of shelf heights and storage system configurations. The robot then autonomously transports the container throughout the facility and delivers it to a human or robotic pick/pack station. Thus, this patent covers an eventual unattended worker-free picking and packing operations.
This is NextShift’s second patent, following their original patent, “Storage Material Handling System” that covers an advanced materials handling workflow in which autonomous mobile robots collaborate with warehouse workers but perform independently. These robots, which work without direct worker interaction, enable a more efficient picking process involving fixed storage locations distributed in a storage space. After items have been placed into collection totes within the pick zones, the mobile robots autonomously load, transport, and unload the totes at destinations around the facility.
NextShift’s robot-based supply chain workflow is designed to increase order handling velocity, efficiency, and quality using a right-sized fleet of agile, intelligent robots to take over transporting inventory items throughout a warehouse, and from picking zones to fulfillment stations. The uniquely collaborative approach frees human workers from repetitive, time-consuming trips back and forth through the warehouse and allows them to focus on higher-value job activities.