Honeywell International Inc. today unveiled a collaboration with Fetch Robotics Inc. to provide distribution centers with autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to help them more effectively fulfill growing volumes of e-commerce orders.
Morris Plains, N.J.-based Honeywell provides its clients with a suite of warehouse technology products that provide a unified flow of software, automated equipment, workflows, orders, and labor. The firm expanded that capability in 2017 when it acquired systems integrated Intelligrated for $15 billion, in an effort to provide supply chain automation products for e- commerce and home delivery.
In August, the company's Honeywell Intelligrated division reinforced that portfolio through a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to develop next-generation artificial intelligence and robotics technologies for distribution centers.
The Fetch Robotics collaboration now adds mobility capability to the range of robotics solutions Honeywell is bringing to market, the company says. Honeywell Intelligrated says it can help customers to increase warehouse productivity and boost labor efficiency by deploying Fetch AMRs to operate safely alongside people to transport items through DCs without human guidance or fixed paths.
"As staffing challenges and the continued growth of online shopping are pressuring supply chains, robotics can be an effective solution to help make large, integrated distribution centers more efficient," Honeywell Intelligrated President Pieter Krynauw said in a release.
Fetch robots take on repetitive warehousing tasks that may otherwise require significant travel time between locations and transporting heavy loads. The AMRs use a combination of LiDAR and 3D cameras - similar to self-driving car technology - to navigate unpredictable warehouse environments and adjust their routes in real time, unlike automated guided vehicle systems, which depend on pre-programmed, fixed paths.
The announcement comes after Honeywell has been deploying pilot applications of Fetch robots in the field for six months, using them in combination with Honeywell's pick-to-light cart, that can now be automatically retrieved by a Fetch bot after a human picker has filled it with inventory and parked it at a certain spot, Fetch CEO Melonee Wise said in an interview.
"We're part of a much larger automation story," Wise said. "Together we can provide turnkey systems, whether it's conveyance, AS/RS, shuttle systems, goods-to-person, pick-to-light, you name it."
Because they offer flexible, adjustable paths and processes, Fetch robots can perform a number of parallel processes instead of focusing on one big process, adding tasks like reverse logistics or stocking to the standard picking workflow, she said.
San Jose, Calif.-based Fetch has been growing quickly in recent months, adding RollerTop and CartConnect robot models for the mixed-inventory and variable-workflow environments operated by third party logistics providers (3PLs), retailers, and manufacturers in April. And in 2017, Fetch raised $25 million in venture capital funding to expand its warehouse automation product line.