Smart Warehouse Robot Sensors Improving Performance, Efficiency


Technology use is becoming increasingly prevalent in warehouse operations.  Today, warehouses are leveraging a mix of autonomous and human-operated equipment. But, the supply chain challenges and demand during the global pandemic underscored the need for even more technology to improve operational efficiency and support human workers.  Technology can provide the support businesses need to improve productivity, efficiency and safety.

Rochester Institute of Technology researchers are developing an intelligent materials handling system for warehouses that integrates smart technologies including LiDAR sensors and AI.

Michael Kuhl, professor of industrial and systems engineering in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering, and the project team received a grant for “Effective and efficient driving for material handling.” This is a one-year, $300,000 project sponsored by The Raymond Corp.

“We have information about localization, the different types of sensors that we use within the warehouse to try to identify where the robots are located, and the actual movement of the robot,” said Kuhl. “Can they plan to get from the current location to destination safely and efficiently? They can have a short path, but they still need to avoid other robots and people.”

Using machine learning techniques such as deep neural network strategies, the system components are trained to make specific, sequenced decisions based on common tasks. Decisions can also be made on the infrequent or unusual actions that might occur in the warehouse environment.

Avoidance strategies do need to be integrated with task options, path planning and recognition of multiple robots able to communicate with one another in real time. Robots also need to recognize humans who are interacting within the warehouse space.

In field experiments at Simcona Electronics Corp., the team tested the robotic technology in its 50,000-square-foot facility. The researchers were determined to find out if robots can communicate make that decision about what to do next.

The result: robots do react. Because of this research, robots will soon be equipped with advanced decision-making intelligence, such as being able to understand which has the right-of-way in a warehouse aisle, increasing efficiency and safety.

Edited by Erik Linask
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IoTevolutionworld Editor

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