Soft Robotics Inc. today announced the SuperPick Polybag Picking System, which it said is the first system specifically designed to handle product returns. It is intended to enable e-commerce operations to automate the handling, scanning, and loading of outbound orders and returns of polybagged items.
The 2019 holiday season provides examples of the challenges posed by reverse logistics, said the Bedford, Mass.-based company. According to a recent report, up to 30% of all online orders are returned, with some retailers experiencing levels as high as 50%. In addition, processing a return requires 20% more space and twice the labor as sending out the initial package.
Returns from 2019 holidays could amount to as much as $90 billion to $95 billion this year, according to Soft Robotics. Some retailers will replace an item or credit the customer’s account and instruct them not to return it. This can result in more packaging waste heading to landfills, and industry experts have referred to product returns as “the ticking time bomb of multichannel retailing.”
“Reverse logistics and returns handling have become the center of attention for many e-commerce companies, as recent studies have shown that 41% of people who purchase items online do so with the intention of returning at least part of their order,” stated Carl Vause, CEO of Soft Robotics. “This problem is only going to get worse as consumers continue to increase their volume of online shopping each year.”
SuperPick Polybag Picking System
Robotics can help address labor shortages, as well as accelerating demand for rapid and flexible order fulfillment and product returns, said Bedford, Mass.-based Soft Robotics. The SuperPick Polybag Picking System is an extension of the SuperPick platform, which combines 3D vision with compliant gripping technology to handle a wide variety of items.
“We’ve introduced an innovative automation solution that not only addresses the complexity and variability in the unstructured environment of the reverse flow of merchandise, but also is an end-to-end solution for the full order fulfillment process,” said Vause.
“The SuperPick Polybag Picking System leverages the SuperPick vision and picking platform to singulate and scan polybags for robotic loading of any material handling system,” he told Robotics Business Review. “All SuperPick solutions can be adapted for order-fulfillment or reverse-logistics applications.”
Polybags or self-sealing mailer bags have become the preferred packaging method in e-commerce because of their lower shipping costs in comparison with cardboard boxes. Traditional automation has had difficulty reliably handling unstructured items in malleable plastic bags.
The SuperPick Polybag Picking System is designed to handle a multitude of SKUs without reprogramming or time-consuming, complex training, said Soft Robotics. It can pick, scan, and deliver identified products of varying size, shape, fragility and weight to any material handling system on the market.
Soft Robotics to display at Modex
Soft Robotics plans to display the SuperPick Polybag Picking System in Booth 3626 at MODEX in Atlanta from March 9-11, 2020. For more information or to request a meeting at the event, contact Mandy Dwight, director of business development, at [email protected]
The following partner booths at MODEX will show applications that the platform can address:
- Honeywell Intelligrated will include a goods-to-robot (GTR) vertical tote-picking solution at Booth 7619.
- Sealed Air will include an end-to-end robotics picking fulfillment solution for packaging with the Autobag 850S, I-Pack, and FloWrap systems at Booth 8248.
Soft Robotics has global customers in food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, and e-commerce, among other industries. The company, which was in the 2019 RBR50 list, raised $23 million in Series B funding with participation from FANUC in January.