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Automate to accumulate: Mobile robots for improved productivity

A need for greater efficiency and automation is now making mobile robots an even more relevant option for parcel operators.

Increasingly, companies want to train and deploy personnel for tasks that require special skills, and automate everything else to the greatest possible degree. Repetitive tasks including moving heavy load carriers can already be automated to facilitate efficient, safe, and ergonomic working environments. Mobile robots are not yet commonly used by postal and parcel operators, but they are fast becoming an integral part of future parcel operations.

Mobile robots for improved productivity – As the AGV/AMR industry is very fragmented and there are no standard off-the-shelf solutions available for parcel operations, it can be hard to know where mobile robots could bring efficiencies.

The focus is now turning to one of the most labor-intensive operations in parcel terminals which is (un) loading areas – more specifically the manual handling and moving of pallets, foldable cages as well as roll cages. This is a good example of an AGV-friendly operation meaning replacing a simple, repetitive, and time-consuming task of moving empty load carriers or pallets inside sorting centers.

As the line-haul truck arrives at a sorting center, the containers are emptied either manually or by tipping onto a conveyor belt. The most time-consuming task is transporting empty containers back to the sorting area to be filled again, either directly or via a buffer storage. This task does not add value to the customer and requires a substantial amount of forklift utilization.

AGVs would be ideal in this scenario – they could pick up the empty cages and deliver them to predefined handover stations for further processing. The benefits include labor cost savings, time savings, avoidance of transport damage and better transparency of material flows.

This kind of tasks also require the AGV to pick up pallets from pre-defined positions, transport them safely among forklifts and personnel and to finally be able to drop off the load at e.g., conveyer belt. As the volumes in parcel centers grow, the importance of effective movement of load carriers within these hubs is only increasing. It is good to keep in mind, that the effectiveness is not only about maximum driving speed but the combination of speed in all process steps while minimizing disturbances as well as optimized routes and use of the AGV fleet. Being able to operate in tight spaces can in many cases be the game-changer as in most of the parcel operations space is at premium.

New capabilities – Having recognized these needs, K.Hartwall, a global provider of parcel containers,  roll cages and tugger trains, has developed one of the most advanced intralogistics solutions in the “A-MATE” AGV. The A-MATE is an example of a new generation mobile robot that can pick up loads up to 1000kg and transport them safely among other traffic to off-loading positions. The free lifting capability enables the A-MATE to pick up loads also to and from conveyor belts which makes the AMR a flexible fit for many parcel and warehouse operations.

Many parcel operations are today considering or piloting AMR solutions, and we know that successful projects require a combination of a high-quality AMRs and a strong local partner for implementation”, says Eero Heinonen, Executive Vice President at K. Hartwall.

With the help of local partners globally, such as Avertas Robotics in Finland and Sweden, K.Hartwall’s customers can enjoy the highest mobile robot technology combined with local presence and excellent customer support.

Coming from one trusted source reduces risks and ensures full compatibility between the different elements.

KEY FACTS

Key A-Mate benefits include:

  • improved productivity
  • employee safety
  • higher flexibility
  • process quality
  • operational transparency

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