The development of warehousing robots is just like mushrooms after a rain. The fastest growing is Amazon, which has been deploying an automated logistics system since 2012.
In fact, the most important job in this warehouse is sorting. That is, put the packaged goods into trucks destined for different regions according to different receiving addresses.
And the main role played by these robotic vehicles is also this. After human beings have these carts, they only need to stand in place and put the packaged goods on the robotic cart in front of them in order, and the work is complete.
Next, these cars will automatically plan their routes in the 125,000-foot site, and put the goods into the corresponding more than 300 trucks.
So here comes the first question. How do these robot cars recognize the road?
First, Amazon has equipped these robotic vehicles with a cloud line control system. The management and control system is like a railway dispatch center. It needs to arrange the route of each trolley for each task. It also needs to monitor the status of the entire transportation network in real time. When there is an accident or congestion, it will also generate a plan in time to ensure The entire system can run normally and smoothly.
In addition, these cars have exclusive "blind tracks" to guide them.
The floor of Amazon's sorting center looks no different from ordinary concrete floors. But if you look closely, you can find that there are actually two-dimensional codes on the ground. These QR codes are the "blind path" of the robot.
Whenever the car reaches a location with a QR code, it will be scanned with a scanner "under the belly". The QR code will also tell the car should "continue forward" or "turn left/right" next. After receiving the order, the car will continue to move forward as instructed until it encounters a QR code that tells it "has reached the end".
When the trolley transports the goods to different destinations, the trolley will send the goods into the chute at the end through the crawler, and the goods will fall into the trucks sent to different regions along the chute.
Since then, the task of sorting goods by the robot car has been completed.
I believe some people will have this question: Put in as many robot carts as possible, and adjust the speed of each robot cart faster, so that the efficiency of the entire sorting system will be higher?
Actually it is not. Think about it, there are so many people in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and the cars don’t go slow, but the transportation system is still so inefficient. People still waste two or three hours commuting every day.
The same applies to these robots. Amazon said that the entire logistics center has a total of 800 robot carts, but in order to be more efficient, Amazon often only puts 400 to 500 of them.
Ryan Clarke, senior manager of Amazon's robotics application, said that it is quite complicated to rationally allocate traffic and minimize congestion.
In order to find out how many robot carts are put in at a time and when the speed of the cart is set, the efficiency of the entire sorting system is the highest. Amazon also has a special simulation system. With the help of this simulation system, they can more intuitively analyze how to allocate robot carts under different order quantities or more complex conditions is the most reasonable.
In fact, in addition to Amazon, there are also e-commerce and logistics companies in my country equipped with similar automation systems to cope with the increasing logistics pressure.
For example, JD.com's Asia No. 1 smart logistics center, Dilangcang, located in Beijing, has improved its efficiency by 8 times through robot automation. Starting from the moment the consumer places the order, it takes less than an hour to complete the process of picking, packaging, sorting and loading of the goods.
Another example is Shentong's transshipment center in Tianjin. After adopting the AGVS warehousing system, nearly 300 robotic carts operate at the same time every day. At the same time, the manpower is reduced from 150 to 30 under the same workload.
▲ Jingdong storage robot. Picture from: Jingdong
Obviously, it is finally back to the old-fashioned question. Will more efficient robots completely replace humans in these positions?
The answer is correct. But this does not mean that humans will be laid off.
R. David Edelman, former U.S. President Barack Obama’s special assistant to the digital economy, said that automation represents only the transfer of skills, not the transfer of jobs. Humans can also use this to acquire more advanced skills in the same job.
What does it mean? In fact, it has been reflected in Amazon.
With the intervention of robots, human employees no longer need to walk around in the 125,000-square-foot storage center to sort goods, but instead learn more advanced skills such as troubleshooting and handling robot failures.
Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon's global consumer department, also said in a recent interview with CNBC that the use of robots not only did not replace workers, but also helped some of them get higher wages.
Illustration of this article comes from: Amazon