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How Autonomous Pallet Robots are Revolutionizing Material Handling

Cyngn |

Autonomous pallet robots, a type of autonomous mobile robot (AMR), are becoming increasingly popular in the world of material handling due to their ability to move and transport goods without human intervention. These innovative robots utilize a combination of sensors, software, and mapping technology to navigate their environment, identify obstacles, and determine the optimal path to reach their destination.

This demand for automation in material handling has fueled the growth of the global autonomous mobile robot market, which was valued at $2.7 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $12.4 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research. As a result, organizations are turning to autonomous pallet robots to transform the way that they handle and move goods, fostering increased efficiency, productivity, and safety.

In this article, we'll explore the benefits of autonomous pallet robots, the different types of AMRs available, factors to consider when choosing the right AMR for your business, and how they compare with traditional material handling methods. 

Benefits of Autonomous Pallet Robots

Traditional material handling methods involve manually moving goods or materials using tools such as forklifts, pallet jacks, and hand trucks. These methods require human operators to physically lift, move, and transport goods, which can be time-consuming and physically demanding. Traditional material handling methods also rely heavily on human decision-making and may have a higher risk of error, leading to potential safety hazards or damaged products.

Fortunately, AMRs offer a variety of benefits that traditional material handling methods can't match, improving efficiency while simultaneously enhancing safety and accuracy. Let's take a closer look at some of these benefits:

Improved Safety:

One of the primary benefits of autonomous pallet robots is the improvement in safety they provide. In fact, in the warehouse/storage industry alone, there were approximately 5 workplace injuries for every 100 full-time workers in 2020. However, with AMRs, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of these accidents and injuries in the workplace. Unlike forklifts and other manually operated industrial vehicles, which require a trained operator to navigate them, AMRs are programmed to move around the facility without the need for human intervention. By prioritizing safety, organizations are able to reduce the risk of operator error and accidents.

Additionally, AMRs come equipped with advanced safety features, such as sensors and cameras, that help prevent collisions with objects and people, making the work environment safer for everyone. This can, in turn, help to improve the quality of life for workers and increase worker retention. 

Increased Efficiency and Productivity:

Another key benefit of autonomous pallet robots is their ability to significantly increase efficiency and productivity. AMRs take on repetitive and tedious tasks, moving goods faster and more efficiently than traditional material handling methods. This helps to reduce the time it takes to complete tasks and allows employees to focus on more valuable and satisfying job opportunities. Moreover, AMRs can simplify workflows without changing the infrastructure, quickly, and without the level of extensive training that humans require. As a result, businesses can streamline their operations, optimize workflows, and maximize productivity. This increased efficiency can also help reduce labor costs, making the use of AMRs a cost-effective solution for businesses.

In fact, according to Cyngn’s research, the deployment of an AV at Global Logistics and Fulfillment’s Las Vegas warehouse facility led to a 33% increase in efficiency when using Cyngn’s autonomous stockchaser vs. using an electric pallet jack. Additionally, the organization saw a 64% reduction in labor costs.

Better Accuracy and Traceability:

AMRs also offer better accuracy and traceability to organizations. With the use of advanced sensors and cameras, AMRs can precisely locate and move goods around the facility, reducing the risk of misplaced or lost items. Additionally, they can provide real-time updates on the location and status of goods, improving traceability and making it easier to track inventory. This enhanced accuracy and traceability contributes to reduced product damage, as well as likelihood and duration of downtime. Not only can AMRs work continuously, but they are able to respond quickly to unplanned events, and mitigate the risk of human error, improving overall operational efficiency. 

Flexibility and Adaptability:

AMRs are highly flexible and adaptable, making them suitable for a wide range of applications and industries. Unlike traditional material handling methods, which require a significant investment in infrastructure and equipment, AMRs can easily be integrated into existing systems and workflows. They also can be quickly and efficiently reprogrammed and redeployed to handle different tasks and applications, making them a versatile solution for businesses that need to adapt to changing market conditions. 

For example, at Cyngn, if your facility needs to adjust its workflow or layout, DriveMod can adapt with ease, no matter how complicated. This scalability is strengthened by our ability to deploy AV technology on diverse vehicle fleets. Furthermore, our technology includes common interfaces and experiences that unify one’s AV operations. This in turn, reduces the costs associated with expanding AV operations across sites. 

Reduced Product Damage and Downtime:

Finally, AMRs can help businesses reduce product damage and downtime. A study by Vanson Bourne found that 23% of unplanned downtime is caused by human error alone. However, with their sophisticated navigation and mapping technology, AMRs can navigate around obstacles and avoid collisions, reducing the risk of product damage during transport. As discussed, AMRs can also operate 24/7, reducing the amount of downtime required for maintenance and repairs. This increased uptime can help businesses improve operational efficiency and reduce costs.

Types of Autonomous Pallet Robots

There are different types of AMRs designed to handle specific material handling tasks. Let’s explore —

A. Pallet-moving robot
B. Forklift AMR
C. Mobile robots

A. Pallet-moving robot:

Pallet-moving robots are used in material handling to autonomously move pallets from one location to another. These robots are equipped with advanced sensors and software that enable them to navigate through dynamic environments and avoid obstacles, allowing them to more efficiently transport pallets without the need for human intervention. By handling repetitive, labor-intensive tasks, human workers can focus on more complex, high-value tasks. Pallet-moving robots can also lift and transport heavy loads, making them ideal for warehouse and manufacturing applications. 

B. Forklift AMR:

A forklift AMR is a type of pallet robot that is designed to replace traditional forklifts in warehouse and manufacturing environments. These robots can be programmed to perform specific tasks, such as picking up and transporting pallets, as well as other heavy loads without the need for a human operator. Unlike traditional forklifts, forklift AMRs are equipped with advanced cameras and sensors that enable them to navigate through crowded warehouse environments. These robots can detect obstacles and other vehicles in their path and automatically adjust their route to avoid collisions.

Forklift AMRs can also be integrated with other systems, such as Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), to optimize material handling processes. Some of the leading companies in this field include Toyota Material Handling, KION Group, and Hyster Yale. In the coming months, Cyngn will be bringing DriveMod to a well-known forklift brand, BYD. Learn more about the BYD partnership here.

C. Mobile robot:

Finally, mobile robots are designed to move autonomously throughout a warehouse or manufacturing facility. Unlike pallet-moving robots that transport and move pallets, a mobile robot can be used in a variety of applications. These robots can be programmed to perform a variety of tasks, such as picking up and transporting items, as well as assisting workers in different tasks. Autonomous mobile robot companies such as Boston Dynamics, ABB, and BlueBotics are at the forefront of developing these machines. With their ability to operate autonomously and their capacity to handle various tasks, mobile robots are quickly becoming an integral part of the material handling industry.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an AMR

Choosing the right Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) can be a daunting task. With numerous different options available, it's important for organizations to consider various factors when determining the most suitable solution for their needs.

A. Cost and ROI

One of the primary factors to consider is the cost and Return on Investment (ROI) of the AMR.  The ROI of an AMR can vary depending on the type of application and industry. It's important to evaluate the cost of the robot against the potential savings in labor costs and increased productivity. To see your potential ROI from Cyngn AVs, check out our ROI calculator. 

B. Payload Capacity and Speed

Another important factor is the payload capacity and speed of the robot. These factors will depend on the specific application and the weight and size of the materials being transported. It's essential to consider the required speed and payload capacity to ensure that the AMR can meet your organization's needs. At Cyngn, for instance, our Autonomous Stockchaser offers 6,000 pounds of towing capacity.

C. Navigation and Mapping Capabilities

Navigation and mapping capabilities are also critical factors to consider when choosing an AMR. These capabilities will ensure that the robot can navigate safely and accurately through the environment. It is important to look for AMRs that have advanced sensors and mapping software that can create detailed maps of the facility and update them in real time, helping your organization respond to changes in demand. By adapting well to your existing workflows, the technology will help make your team even more efficient.

D. Battery Life and Charging Requirements

Battery life and charging requirements are also important factors to consider. Look for AMRs that have long battery life and can operate for extended periods without requiring charging. Additionally, it's important to consider the charging requirements and how they will impact the overall productivity of the organization.

E. Compatibility with Existing Systems

Compatibility with existing systems is another critical factor when choosing an AMR. The AMR should be compatible with existing systems, such as Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), to ensure seamless integration into the existing material handling process. This will help to optimize the overall material handling process and increase productivity.

F. Maintenance and Support

Finally is the maintenance and support requirements of the AMR. Look for AMR manufacturing companies that offer comprehensive maintenance and support plans to ensure that the robot remains operational and productive. It's also important to ensure that the robot can be serviced quickly to minimize downtime in case of breakdowns or issues. Under Cyngn’s RaaS model, for instance, the work is outsourced to our team of AV engineers who ensure your vehicles will continue to operate smoothly and reliably. In doing so, you not only save costs, you also can stay focused on the most important parts of your business.

Comparison with Traditional Material Handling Methods

Forklifts have been a fundamental part of traditional material handling methods for decades. However, as we’ve explored, the emergence of AMRs is quickly changing the game, offering organizations numerous benefits that revolutionize how work gets done. Let's take a closer look at the differences between AMRs and forklifts, as well as the advantages that AMRs have over forklifts.

Differences between AMRs and Forklifts

Forklifts have been around for a long time and have been the go-to material handling method for many industries. Their ability to lift, move heavy loads, and handle a wide range of materials has made them, traditionally, an indispensable tool in the workplace. However, forklifts require trained operators, which can lead to additional costs, training, and certification requirements. Additionally, forklifts are typically limited to certain areas, such as warehouses or factories, and can be dangerous in close quarters, resulting in safety issues. On the other hand, AMRs are designed to be autonomous and can navigate their environments without the need for operators. This means that they can operate in a wider variety of spaces and are safer to use for every-day tasks and in potentially hazardous environments. 

Advantages of AMRs over Forklifts

AMRs offer several advantages over forklifts, including increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Because AMRs are autonomous, they can operate 24/7 without the need for breaks or shift changes, allowing for continuous material handling operations and reduced labor costs. As a result, this leads to increased throughput and overall productivity in the workplace. AMRs can also be easily reprogrammed or redirected to handle new tasks or locations, providing greater flexibility in operations. Additionally, AMRs have fewer moving parts compared to forklifts, which means they require less maintenance and repair over time. This can significantly reduce maintenance costs associated with traditional forklift operations.

The Differences Between AMRs and AGVs

Now that we’ve explored the difference between AMRs and AGVs, what about automated guided vehicles? AMRs and AGVs are both types of autonomous mobile robots that can move materials around a warehouse or factory without human intervention. However, while they are both designed to complete industrial tasks, there are some key differences.

AGVs have been around longer and are typically used for tasks that require high repeatability, such as moving materials along a set path repeatedly. How they navigate without human intervention is dependent on the associated environment, but they tend to move along predefined routes. On the other hand, AMRs use advanced technology to navigate safely through their environment and intelligently understand their surroundings without a human directly overseeing operations. As a result, they are more flexible and can adapt to changing environments and tasks, which makes them ideal for companies that have a wide range of products and processes. 

While AGVs require infrastructure modifications, such as magnetic tape or QR codes to navigate, AMRs use complex artificial intelligence, machine learning, sensors, and path planning to comprehend their given environment. As a result, there are no required modifications to infrastructure. It's important to consider the specific needs of your business when deciding between AGVs and AMRs.

How to Implement AMRs in Your Business

Implementing AMRs in your business may appear intimidating, but with careful planning and execution, it can be a quick and seamless process. First, it's important to understand best practices for implementing AMRs. This includes ensuring that your warehouse is properly equipped with the necessary infrastructure and that all relevant employees are trained on how to use and interact with the AMRs. Furthermore, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of how the AMRs will integrate with existing systems and to thoroughly test them before deployment.

There are also common challenges that businesses may face when implementing AMRs. One challenge is ensuring that the AMRs are properly integrated with existing systems, such as warehouse management software. This requires coordination between the AMR supplier and your IT department to ensure that the systems can communicate effectively. Another challenge is ensuring that the AMRs can handle the specific tasks required in your warehouse, such as navigating narrow aisles or picking up heavy loads. Overcoming these challenges requires careful planning and coordination between different departments within your business.

Fortunately, at Cyngn, bringing self-driving vehicles to your business is quick and easy. We understand that every business is unique and has its own set of needs. Therefore, with our streamlined integration process and dedicated engineering team, we can have you up and running with an autonomous vehicle deployment in a matter of weeks. 

Overall, it is clear that Autonomous pallet robots (AMRs) have the potential to revolutionize the way businesses approach material handling. As explored, implementing AMRs in your business can bring significant benefits, including increased efficiency and productivity, as well as cost savings. By following best practices and understanding common challenges, your organization can successfully integrate AMRs into your material handling operations, not only realizing the benefits, but also helping stay ahead of competition.


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