Retail is one of the sectors that will benefit most from the use of intelligent robots in addition to human workers. The Gartner report Emerging technologies: The introduction of intelligent robots generates diverse business valuepublished in April, found that the deployment of intelligent robots in retail was able to demonstrate quantifiable results in 72% of uses, the highest percentage among industries.

The main advantages include the deployment of intelligent robots in warehousing and logistics facilities, such as eliminating human interference in lifting heavy loads and walking kilometers, assisting in the selection and consolidation of orders and the ability to sort packages by destination. The analyst firm predicts that by 2030, 80% of people will be involved in intelligent robots every day, due to advances in intelligent robots in intelligence, social interactions and the ability to increase people, which is higher than less than 10 % today.

Due to the boom in e-commerce during the Covid-19 pandemic, retailers had to increase their ability to quickly execute customer orders. “Many logistics and trade companies have struggled to cope with demand due to the pandemic,” he said. Annette Jump, senior director and analyst at Gartner. “Their online operations have expanded significantly and they need to process goods faster.”

By integrating with humans, intelligent robots “massively improve what human operators can do,” Jump said. For Gartner, this has led retailers and logistics companies to pay close attention to the deployment of robots to speed up certain parts of business operations. “There is a desire to eliminate annoying parts and create high-tech jobs in the process,” she added.

Ocado is one of the pioneer companies in the field of robotics in retail and logistics. Its customer service centers use modern robotics to select groceries for online delivery. The company recently released the 600 Series, the latest version of its food picking robot. The unique nature of the business means that the company has developed this robotics technology internally.

One of the main design goals of the new bot was that it should be lighter than the 500 series, which it will eventually replace. Matt Whelan, head of the engineering department for the 600 Series bot at Ocado, has experience in simulations and 3D printing. With Ocado’s small research team based on the campus of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Whelan applies the principles of flexible hardware development software development. His stay on campus gave him access to a range of talented hardware and software engineers.

“We grew up with recommendations,” Whelan said. “We had a lot of recommendations.” The team is already divided, with 35 in Stockholm and 35 in the UK.

Although the 600 series is basically an evolution of the 500 series bot, Whelan said it is produced in a very different way. However, it has a lot in common with its predecessor in terms of firmware and communication system. Given the pace at which additive manufacturing has matured, Whelan said Ocado has managed to combine 3D printing with the company’s software experience.

“We can create teams and move fast enough to take advantage of what’s happening there with additive manufacturing,” he said. “We developed the hardware as a software product, running sprint cycles and running a new generation of bots.”

The team used additive manufacturing to 3D print the parts needed to build 600 Series bots. Whelan said the wholesale use of 600 Series additive manufacturing “unlocked a lot of things for us that we didn’t expect in the beginning. [of the project]“.

The company operates a test site at the facility in Stockholm, which allows the team to test new ideas, prototypes and produce bot parts. The bot is a quarter the weight of the previous model, but Whelan said: “We design it to have the same operational specifications as its predecessor – but it has the potential to do new things.”

Among them is the possibility of implementing the 600 series in smaller facilities with simplified networks for launching bots. Earlier this year, at the Ocado Re: Imagined event, Tim Steiner, CEO and founder of Ocado, said the 600 Series “changes everything”. Because the bot is lighter, Ocado now has the ability to build ultralight grilles that can be built in parallel in weeks instead of months, he said.

The robot technology being developed and implemented at Ocado to streamline the delivery of online food orders is an example of how intelligent robots can enable logistics companies to optimize workflows.

According to Gartner, logistics robots are the most famous and mature of all the uses of intelligent robots. An analyst study found that half of all intelligent robots implemented come from the logistics sector. Last month’s Gartner report said such robots were used as stand-alone mobile robots, grip handles and carousels. But Jump pointed out that in other sectors, smart robots are still in the experimental stage.

While companies like Ocado are uniquely set up to develop their own role-specific bots, technology leaders in other sectors will need to consider how to approach robotics. Some companies may be able to partner with a robotics startup to develop a bot that meets their business requirements, while others will need to work on a plan that may require the deployment of several intelligent robots for different roles. which increase human workers.

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