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How to find the best logistics robot

We compiled a set of questions to ask suppliers that will help you find the robotic solution best suited for your (intra)logistics operations.

Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are a new breed of machines, taking over warehouses and manufacturing facilities by storm. Roll-outs of these collaborative machines picked up considerably around 2015, and the market is now powering quickly through the early adopter phase to enter the early majority phase. Analysts speak of turning points and rarely seen growth rates.

However, the surge in demand for this new technology means that companies now face multiple options. Even when options appear comparable, they may not be technologically or functionally equivalent. Meanwhile, few companies have staff familiar enough with the technological differences and the advantages and disadvantages of each system from looking at a specs sheet. It is difficult to know even what to ask your supplier to avoid unknown pitfalls.

With that in mind, we compiled a list of questions to ask potential suppliers that will help you find the solution best suited for your operations. We also explained why the information is relevant and how it will allow you to make an informed decision.

Useful terms:

Autonomous = Requiring no direct human operator or guidance system, self-driving.

Collaborative = Designed to navigate and work safely with and around people as well as fixed and mobile equipment.

Mobile = Designed to move around facilities, not stationary.

Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) = Fully autonomous and designed to navigate itself around people, equipment, and obstacles. AMRs must have simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) capabilities as well as autonomous navigation (path planning). Most AMRs on the market rely on LiDAR.


Load and Operation Specs Questions

What is the maximum load? What are the maximum dimensions of the load?

Other than the maximum weight of the load, it is handy to know how wide, deep, and high a load must be. For some solutions, stability and specific center of gravity may be relevant.

Are there any additional components required, such as transport boxes?

Some solutions require that the load is transported in specially designed cages or boxes, or secured by netting or other restraints. A critical question that you should not forget to ask is if the supplier requires that you buy this equipment from them and how much it costs. The dimensions for such boxes will also help you determine how well these fit with your shelving infrastructure.

What is the maximum speed? What is the lifting time?

Knowing the speed will help you calculate the overall usage efficiency as compared to your current operations. In the case of robots and AGVs that lift the load, also ask how long it takes them to perform such operations. Please note that many jurisdictions have security regulations limiting speed. The most common speed limit is 5 km/h (1.39 meters per second or 3.1 miles per hour or, roughly, a walking pace).


IT infrastructure

What are the requirements for IT infrastructure – WLAN, WMS integration, and server installations?

Do you need WLAN, and if so, what is the recommended bandwidth? Do any of the components need to be installed to the client’s servers? Do you need integration with WMS (Warehouse Management System) software, or are there alternatives for automated task input? Knowing IT requirements will help you determine any investment in network equipment and integration costs.

What is the robot interface? How is the robot operated?

Does the robot have a remote device, or is it operated through a web/tablet/smartphone application? What type of input can be automated and how exactly is a transport order triggered? What should be done by hand? Ask your supplier to describe the process, and this will help you determine how it will best fit into your workflow.

Use Cases and Efficiency Improvements

What are the ideal/possible use case scenarios?

Ask your supplier to provide examples of use cases – real or modeled. Even with all the questions asked and specifications provided, there may be some deciding factor that will make one solution better adapted for your organization, workflow, and facilities. Ask for any reference projects the supplier can present.

What efficiency improvements can be expected?

Ask your supplier to provide more data – real or modeled – on the efficiency gains you can expect. A made-to-measure model, based on your actual operations, would require you to provide a potential supplier with real data. Please note that such an analysis would constitute consulting services that some suppliers may not offer, or would charge separately.


If you want to know more check out our free e-book that will help you understand when and how to select autonomous mobile robots as your preferred material handling solutions.