Robots have been dominating our news feeds for the past few years with a whole host of articles expounding on their ability to improve productivity in the warehouse. But are they suitable for e-commerce fulfillment operations? According to the latest Hot Topics publication from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ (CSCMP), autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) have some serious downsides and do not live up to all the current hype.
In “Robots are being overhyped for eCommerce,” order fulfillment solutions provider FastFetch Corp. argues that there are other lower-cost alternatives that can do as good a job at improving productivity and accuracy. In many cases, explains the company, AMRs require a person to follow the AMR through a picking zone and pick the product. The author argues that “If a human must follow an AMR carrying a few orders or pushing a cart with a larger number of orders, is labor being saved? Why not just have a human push the cart?”
While AMRs do have some good qualities—specifically for handling some distribution center tasks in receiving and shipping—it’s important to note that there are more affordable methods and technologies that companies can consider for picking, such as batch picking with carts, light-directed picking, put walls, and pick cells.
Hot Topics are available to download by visiting cscmp.org, clicking on the “Develop” tab, and selecting “Hot Topics.” You can search for “Robots are being overhyped for eCommerce” and purchase for immediate download (CSCMP members receive Hot Topics publications for free).