Tech Spotlight: Logistics Automation with Plus One Robotics
Robots are becoming increasingly prevalent in almost every industry, from healthcare and education to defense and transportation. Given the soaring e-commerce volumes, combined with labor shortages and supply chain disruptions, it is not surprising that many logistics companies have turned to automation and robotics to boost their operations. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, “the transportation and warehousing industry (now) has the third-highest automation potential of any sector.”
Meet Plus One Robotics, a vision software company that has led the way in logistics automation. Let’s take a look at their origin story along with some of their outstanding technologies!
The Story Behind Plus One Robotics
Founded by Erik Nieves , Paul Hvass and Shaun Edwards in 2016, Plus One Robotics is an automation machinery manufacturer dedicated to the objective of “always-on” logistics. Their software technologies provide an unrivaled approach to human-robot collaboration in warehouses and distribution centers, addressing the difficulties of package-type variability and personnel shortages. Thanks to the revolutionary approach to human/robot collaboration, the company’s automation solutions are flexible, scalable, and reliable. This helps companies alleviate the ongoing shortage of manual labor by allowing employees to transition from monotonous routine chores to higher-value activities.
In the words of Erik, robotics has always been a systems problem. As robots function best with intelligent software and human oversight, Plus One has come up with a 3D and AI-powered software to “give the manual dexterity they need to pick and place an endless variety of items in the warehouse.” “With hundreds of SKUs added daily, robots learn new materials to be handled. Human supervisors manage multiple robots from any location, providing 24/7 customer service while helping the robots get back to work in seconds when they encounter an exception, which they inevitably will,” Erik added.
Yonder – Plus One’s Remote Supervision Software
As they scale up to tackle many challenges such as the increasing demand for a more resilient, efficient supply chain, logistics companies must decide whether to hire additional people or increase their physical presence. However, in reality, robots can learn to detect and photograph new SKUs (Stock keeping units) right at the dock door thanks to advances in computer vision in logistics. As a result, it can help warehouse operators automate many processes including depalletization, order fulfillment, tote picking, and package sortation.
Plus One developed Yonder to bring greater efficiencies to warehouse operations through remote robot management. In fact, Yonder is the first “Human-In-The-Loop” robotics remote supervisor software which allows humans to remotely supervise and assist robots from any location. The software enables a person, known as a Crew Chief, to remotely control teams of robots, allowing businesses to follow-the-sun and satisfy the demands of the 24/7 customer. For the benefits it brings to Plus One’s customers, analyst house Frost & Sullivan awarded Yonder a Best Practice award for Customer Value Leadership. The company sees a future where many Crew Chiefs manage legions of robots.
“We make the eyes for the robots to be able to work in those environments. They do the same thing over and over again, and that works when you’re going to build cars. It doesn’t work when you have to move packages or fulfill orders.” – Erik Nieves, Founder and CEO of Plus One Robotics said.
Thanks to Yonder, the warehouse staff can now advance to higher-paying roles like that of the Crew Chief. Actually, a crew chief monitors numerous robots and uses Yonder software to handle exceptions. For example, when the robot encounters a new SKU or package type, it can raise its hand to request assistance from a Crew Chief on the ground. The Crew Chief is able to see exactly what the robot sees on screen. As a result, when the robot asks for assistance, the Crew Chief can command the robot where to pick up the item, enabling the robot to get back to work in seconds.
In fact, during the Covid 19 pandemic, the demand for Plus One’s technology increased dramatically to meet the surge in online purchases. As Zachary Keenton, developer of Plus One Robotics declared, “These robots don’t need to do social distancing and don’t need to wear the masks”
Moreover, recently, PlusOne Robotics has received funding from BMW I Ventures. In fact, the Series B funding will help to drive automation across the supply chain and logistics industry, as well as provide warehouse owners with a transformative experience.
Plus One Robotics will use this funding to build on its present momentum by expanding within its existing client base and expanding market share through new customer installations. Besides, the money will help the company’s machine-vision software development in order to handle new use-cases and applications in the logistics value chain.
High Speed Parcel Induction with PickOne
PickOne is the industry’s fastest 3D and AI-powered vision software. It enables logistics robots to do a variety of picking and positioning jobs in e-commerce fulfillment and warehouse distribution facilities by providing exact eye-hand synchronization. One of the most outstanding benefits of PickOne is to increase first-pass yield and promote associates from mundane tasks to more valuable work. Besides, it can also reduce turnover rate by improving job satisfaction and lower per-unit handling costs. PickOne provides effective tools to prevent lost production due to induction errors as well as improve sortation accuracy. Last but not least, integrators will also be equipped with superior control to optimize system performance
PickOne locates and delivers the location and orientation of randomly oriented items in a pile to a robot. Each parcel is selected from the pile and placed on a conveyor. Then PickOne checks for faults and corrects them by sending robot commands to rearrange erroneous parcels.
PickOne can first send a shuffle instruction to the robot controller to disturb the parcels and force a rescan. If it is unable to locate a parcel to be picked, PickOne sends a request to Yonder. In fact, Yonder provides an image of what the system observes to a Crew Chief who handles the exception by choosing an item in the scene from a remote location.
Next, it will update PickOne in a matter of seconds, and PickOne relays the data to the robot. Yonder archives the Crew Chief’s response in parallel, allowing the machine-learning algorithms to improve the system as it runs. This ensures that performance continues to improve over time.
Eventually, the system will picture the location zone once it is placed to ensure a great event. When it identifies an out-of-spec parcel or a duplicate, it alerts the robot to the problem.
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About Plus One Robotics
Plus One Robotics was created in 2016 with the goal of bringing warehouse robotics into the mainstream. The company was founded by computer vision and robotics industry experts to deliver cutting-edge 3D and AI vision capabilities to logistics robots. Plus One’s approach to human-robot collaboration includes robot monitoring that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing workers to supervise robots remotely.
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