Hearing the names Bert and Ernie might bring you back to your childhood or trigger a memory of yourself trying to recite the alphabet, but now those are the names of Amazon’s two upcoming mobile robots. And Bert, in particular, will be Amazon’s first Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR).
Ernie, Bert, and two other robots are currently in Amazon’s testing phase as the goal is to deploy them to assist with moving items across Amazon’s fulfillment centers. AMRs like Amazon’s are a glimpse into what the future might hold for the next generation of warehouse technology.
The difference between Bert (AMR) and Ernie (non-AMR), for example, is that Bert can move through its environment without the need of an operator close by to help its navigation across a facility. Bert is made to navigate Amazon’s facilities on its own and is capable of evading workers. Workers would also be able to ask Bert to move items across a warehouse since Bert is not restricted to a specific space.
This type of technology is possible with the help of computers, maps, and sensors the robot has on-board. With these tools any Autonomous Mobile Robot or Bert, for example, is able to interpret its environment. This means any AMR can identify obstacles in a warehouse setting, create their own routes, or even reroute themselves when necessary. The main difference between an AMR and a non-AMR is that an Autonomous Mobile Robot can handle a dynamic, ever-changing work environment on its own.
The AMR market is forecasted to register a CAGR of 15.12% during a five period from 2020 to 2025. Part of the reason is the increasing demand for AMRs in industries such as oil and gas, automotive, healthcare, and medical science.
Though right now, the primary use case for Autonomous Mobile Robots is the modern warehouse. AMRs are capable of sorting items, inventory, product, and freight. AMRs can also act as transportation as well as quality inspectors.
Aethon is one of the key players in the AMR space, though right now they’re targeting the capabilities of Autonomous Mobile Robots for healthcare. One of their AMRs is able to handle delivery and transport tasks within hospitals to free up time of employees for patient care. This would include moving meals, linens, medications, and even items from laboratories.
Airports are also beginning to implement AMRs to assist with cleaning terminals. Cleanliness reached new demands in public spaces throughout the pandemic, so AMRs are stepping in to scrub floors 24/7. And a major benefit for this type of service is that as more time goes on, the Autonomous Mobile Robot will continue to learn new routes and adapt to more efficiently to clean its environment.
1) Free Up Employee Bandwidth
One clear benefit of AMRs is the time they can free up for other employees. As mentioned in the healthcare use case, more time would be available for patient care. For any security or military sector, AMRs can act as a patrol at sensitive defense sites. And in agriculture, an AMR would be capable to act as a pest or weed control solution.
Going back to Amazon’s warehouse setting, Scooter and Kermit, the two other AMRs Amazon is developing, would assist with transportation. In addition to transporting empty packages, Scooter and Kermit will also be able to move heavier packages as well. This benefit would lessen the normally physically strenuous work or repetitive motion injuries that can impact any warehouse employee. Both Scooter and Kermit will be introduced in North American sites this year.
The defense sector could also increase employee safety with the use of autonomous mobile robots. For example, the unmanned AMRs could assist with rescue operations during natural disasters, handle hazardous materials, or even detect and defuse explosives or landmines.
AMRs are an adaptive and sophisticated technology that can reduce errors, collisions, and quality checks. Between freeing up bandwith and reducing mistakes, AMRs can contribute to removing any obstacles that could get in the way of a supply chain.
The long-term ROI of AMRs is a benefit any business owner should seriously look at if an opportunity presents itself. Staying competitive is a must for any business and that involves creating logistics processes that move smoothly, reliably, and efficiently.
AMRs can provide non-stop service that is always adapting and learning on its own. Additionally, autonomous mobile robots can assist with enabling flexible workflows. In the past, automation would sometimes lack the orchestration of robotics and software, however AMRs are quickly becoming a very real option as a solution for everyday tasks.