Warehouse robotics startup inVia Robotics Inc. today rolled out the latest addition to its lineup of mobile robots: A fleet of rolling carts that move inventory around a warehouse to help workers perform e-commerce fulfillment and material handling tasks.
According to Los Angeles-based inVia, its Dynamic Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) is a goods-to-person solution that delivers totes and trays directly to human pickers, packers, and replenishers. The robots reduce the amount of human travel time in warehouses, and the potential for employee accidents, inVia says.
Last August, inVia introduced a pair of mobile order-picking robots that the company said could help retailers better compete with Amazon.com Inc.'s giant and super-efficient fulfillment network. The AS/RS system complements its piece-picking "goods to box" approach by adding a "goods to man" capability of delivering totes weighing up to 30 pounds apiece to human workers, inVia CEO and founder Lior Elazary said in a phone interview.
The process is similar in concept to that used by Amazon's robots that shuffle entire racks of inventory around DCs, but operates at a fraction of the cost of the Amazon system, Elazary said. InVia's AS/RS system uses a facility's existing shelf space and removes only the tote it needs, he said. DC operators can quickly integrate the inVia system with their existing IT operations by using its robot management system (RMS) software to connect with any warehouse management system (WMS), Elazary said.
The system justifies its price by delivering a high number of units per hour, resulting in a low cost per pick and a significant reduction in labor costs, the company said.
InVia's system joins a growing number of collaborative robots, or "cobots," being developed for warehouse work alongside human colleagues. As opposed to displacing human workers, cobots perform bulk tasks with automated speed and precision, while humans concentrate on more complex jobs. Examples include Rethink Robotics' "Baxter" and "Sawyer" robot models being tested by German transport and logistics giant Deutsche Post DHL.