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By Matt Wicks, Chief Robotics Solution Architect Automation Finally Tackles One of the DC’s Toughest Jobs Ask any DC operator which task causes the most labor headaches, and you’ll probably get an earful about unloading freight on the receiving dock. Few warehouse jobs are more arduous, repetitive and injury prone. Not only are these jobs notoriously difficult to fill — especially in today’s shrinking labor market — but they also have some of the highest turnover rates in the industry. While unloading has long been a target for automation, previous approaches have been hindered by performance, integration and cost factors. Today, however, the newest advances in robot control systems, gripping technology, perception and dynamic collision-free path planning are finally making an efficient solution available. Robots can now take on the difficult tasks of loading and unloading freight, meeting or even exceeding manual performance without modification to trailers or nearby workflows. These innovations come at an opportune time, as supply chains are forced to modernize in the face of increasing pressures from e-commerce. Robotic unloaders and other innovative technologies are more commonly seen as critical to remaining competitive, i.e., lowering logistics costs while enabling DCs to keep up with stricter service level agreements (SLAs). Other benefits are equally clear. Robotic unloaders relieve workers from arduous and repetitive tasks that are frequently uncomfortable to perform, especially in the extreme temperatures of the summer and winter months. They also eliminate many of the most dangerous jobs, allowing workers to be shifted to more satisfying, higher-value positions. Matching Technology with Unloading Finding the technology to automate unloading freight has been a longstanding challenge, mainly because of distribution center (DC) throughput requirements and a variety of package characteristics, including size, weight and type of container. The industry has seen some attempts to implement automation, […]
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