At our high-volume shared user eFulfilment centre in Nuneaton, Wincanton utilises advanced autonomous mobile robot technology for its big brand customers. Investing in this technology ensures speed, accuracy and safety in order fulfilment with full collaboration with the picker. A fleet of six autonomous mobile robots work as part of a wider digitalised warehouse, which also incorporates wearable technology, delivering improved fulfilment efficiency.
Improving warehouse processes and efficiencies with robots
The collaborative autonomous mobile robots have played a transformative role in the picking operation at Nuneaton since their introduction in July 2021, with Wincanton ensuring the robotic infrastructure is ready and proven for a busy Christmas peak season of eCommerce in the second half of the year.
How do autonomous mobile robots improve picking accuracy?
The digitised picking process has improved accuracy, with wearable pick scanners from ProGlove adding intelligence to picking, sorting and sequencing processes and improving communication between the picker and the supporting IT infrastructure which powers the warehousing operation. ProGlove have played an active role in Wincanton’s W2 Labs innovation programme, which discovers new ways to shape the supply chain of the future for our customers.
Fully integrated with order processing and inventory management, the Sorion Fleetware software architecture which supports the collaborative robots collates orders, defines the mission and assigns a robot to a picker. The robot then takes the most efficient route to pick the order in the warehouse, stopping in the right location zone where the pick is required. A Wincanton colleague then scans the robot, the tote and the item to pick is displayed on hand-mounted device. The item itself is then scanned for validation, the pick is confirmed, and the robot then moves to the next location.
Transforming the warehouse with robots
Each autonomous mobile robot is flexible and smart, ideal for any situation where colleagues spend time pushing carts or making deliveries. It can carry a load weight of up to 100kg, operating uninterrupted for 10 hours on a charging time of two hours. Running at a speed of 1.5m/s it uses laser-mapping for ergonomic efficiency in a high-volume, fast-moving eFulfilment environment.
The improved picking process delivered by the introduction of autonomous mobile robots has also improved the onboarding process for colleagues. New starters can pick up the order picking process quickly and easily, trusting the wearable technology and the robot to guide an accurate order completion journey safely around the warehouse.
The autonomous mobile robots also allow Wincanton to redeploy colleagues to more valuable tasks across its shared user eFulfilment facility and reduces the risk of reliance on short-term seasonal labour to fulfil peak order periods.
Automation within the packaging area
At the same time as introducing robots to the picking area Wincanton also looked at how we could improve packing accuracy and identification. To resolve that issue, we introduced a nine-inch PC screen at each pack bench with a bar code scanner. The new process sees a colleague scanning a QR code at the start of each shift and then scanning the barcode order and confirming all items are picked; once confirmed they scan the postage label and the order is then emailed to the customer with picker and packer identification along with product details.
Paul Durkin, Chief Customer and Innovation Officer at Wincanton commented
“The team at Wincanton have pulled out all the stops to ensure these autonomous mobile robotics solutions have been successfully deployed across the multi-user operation in good time ahead of our customers’ 2021 Christmas peak. The impact of the robot solution on the accuracy and efficiency for the customer has already been felt across a demanding promotional period.
“This is not the end, but really the start of something exciting. Already, as a result of this successful implementation, we have identified alternative applications where autonomous mobile robots will add significant value to existing operations. We very much look forward to bringing these projects to fruition in due course.”