Interesting post about how robots are increasing efficiency at retail warehouses. Apart from that it’s a little too close to an informercial for Kiva, the robot maker, there are some interesting facts about the development of warehouses in general.
For example how long the order to shipping process takes:
The Zappos guys claim that from the moment you put your order in and it is submitted to the time the box is on the dock and ready to be put on a truck is 12 minutes.
And some good insights in how the system adjust itself.
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.
At Amit I found this experience from Amazon’s warehouse.
When we got there, we were given small wearable computers that we velcro’d onto our forearm, and slipped a small barcode scanner over our index finger (barcode scan trigger was on the right side, clearly made for right handed people).
Everything had a barcode, and the computer told us what to do. Grab a bin; scan. Walk to this aisle, column, and row; scan. Grab this product; scan. Drop it in the bin; scan. Repeat 5-10 times, then return to the central station and unload. Generally, we never had to leave the aisle we first went down; the algorithm knew it would be faster if we walked less.
What was so fascinating is that product was everywhere. Books mixed with CDs mixed with DVDs on the same shelf. Identical copies of a book existed in multiple places. It didn’t matter, because the central computer knew where everything was.
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