In this digital age, almost everything is being automated—especially in the manufacturing industry. In fact, autonomous technology is already making a massive impact on the supply chain. The use of autonomous robots continues to present promising opportunities for the improvement of the supply chain.
There are still many hurdles to overcome for some industries to implement a fully autonomous supply chain system. But at the rate that autonomous technology is being innovated, it’s not impossible to see a completely autonomous delivery system that is able to work outside of a strictly controlled environment.
But what exactly is the role of autonomous technology in the supply chain?
What Is an Autonomous Supply Chain
Investopedia defines the supply chain as the network between a company and its suppliers. This network includes different people, entities, resources, and activities, which aims to produce and distribute products to buyers. An optimized supply chain helps companies reduce their costs while making the production cycle faster. This helps many businesses remain competitive in the business landscape.
So, what do we mean when we say ‘autonomous supply chain’?
Simply put, the autonomous supply chain pertains to moving goods with very minimal to no human interaction. It also helps achieve inventory accuracy. Autonomous technology is the future of the supply chain, and it can be seen in many stores and warehouses, highways and mines, and last-mile deliveries.
A good example of this is the Belgian brewery De Halve Maan. The company developed a beer pipeline beneath the streets that is able to carry as much as 1,500 gallons of beer to a bottling facility located two miles away at a speed of 12 mph every hour. Aside from being a faster and more efficient way to transport the beer, this move also helped reduce congestion on the city streets.
How Are Robots Being Used in Supply Chains?
Suppliers, carriers, shippers, and others within the supply chain have been taking advantage of autonomous technology for many years to increase their efficiency and safety records. Some systems are even being used to identify the parts required to assemble certain products.
Did you know that most modern cars, SUVs, and trucks are assembled by fully autonomous robots? Likewise, large retailers like Amazon and other large organizations use autonomous technology to pick commodities or parts from smaller containers. This technology also helps these companies package and prepare the products for shipping.
Some of the equipment and components being automated to increase efficiency include:
● Robotic picking. This includes the use of automated forklifts and other autonomous equipment to pick products from storage.
● Parts picking machines. These machines identify the required components for shipping or assembly by reading barcodes and sensors.
● Transportation equipment. This uses autonomous driving robots to transport supplies and equipment throughout the warehouse. Other industries that may also use this technology include automated last-mile deliveries and freight trains.
Examples of Autonomous Robots
Some examples that make use of autonomous technology include:
● Robot vacuum cleaner
● Autonomous flying machines, such as drones
● Autonomous vehicles
● Baggage handling systems at airports
● Mail sorting systems
● Conveyor systems
● Mining systems
Why We Need Autonomous Robots
Many warehouses today use autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to help workers meet orders efficiently and quickly. The constant collaboration with AMRs enables workers to work more efficiently and productively. And the fact that finding and training warehouse workers are becoming harder and more expensive makes this technology even more valuable.
The implementation of autonomous robots has many benefits. This includes helping meet the growing needs of many industries, especially e-commerce. Autonomous robots are not just a category of devices. They are also helping define the future of the supply chain by assisting companies in:
● Providing utilization and labor stability
● Reducing long-term costs by improving delivery speed and order fulfillment rates
● Decreasing the frequency of inventory checks
● Reducing error rate, risk rates, and re-work
● Increasing productivity and efficiency
● Improving worker safety in high-risk work environments
● Performing mundane and lower value tasks so humans can focus on more strategic efforts that can’t be automated.
Furthermore, industries that require extreme accuracy and precision may use autonomous technology integrated with STO certified servo motors.
Industrial robots have historically been designed and built to perform a specific function or process. But with the growing market demand and advancement in technology, robotic vendors are racing to bring innovative and advanced functionality to the supply chain. So, the state of innovation in robotic improvement and development will continue to evolve.
In fact, autonomous technology is expected to see strong growth over the next few years, especially within supply chain operations that involve lower value and potentially high-risk or dangerous tasks. For more interesting articles, feel free to go through our page.