Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Roombas on steroids article about autonomous warehouse robots

The comment about auto-tuning warehouses is particularly interesting:

The system adjusts to the nature of the products and workers, too. In a typical setup, the humans are placed around the edges of the room. As the robots pick up loads of products and put them back, they adjust the warehouse for greater efficiency. More popular products end up around the edges of the warehouse while more obscure products, like those acid-washed bell bottoms, end up buried deep in the stacks. The self-tuning nature of the system creates big efficiencies.

"We find that it's two to four times more efficient [than the average warehouse]," said Wurman. "A big chunk of the benefit comes from the fact that we've eliminated all of the walking."

And an additional benefit:

That allows warehouse operators to switch off the lights and climate controls in the large areas of the warehouse that are patrolled solely by robots, cutting energy costs by as much as 50 percent over a standard warehouse.

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