Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Fetch and Zebra cross paths in warehouse automation

Steve Rogerson
March 24, 2020



Californian cloud robotics company Fetch Robotics is collaborating with Illinois-based Zebra Technologies to optimise and automate warehouse picking processes through the integration of Fetch autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and Zebra FulfillmentEdge software.
 
The combination optimises picking across multiple orders for piece, case and pallet workflows. By optimising and orchestrating the movement of warehouse workers and robots, FulfillmentEdge and Fetch AMRs enable collaborative picking for more accurate fulfilment and improved workflows that allow workers to spend more time in the aisle instead of manually moving material throughout a facility.
 
Ecommerce is causing a profound change in supply chain operations that is blurring the line between distribution centres and fulfilment centres as companies increasingly ship to consumers and stores from the same facility. Increasing order volume, labour shortages, high turnover, long ramp up times and physically taxing material movement related to picking are forcing companies to accomplish more with fewer resources. In response, picking operations need to transform so companies can fulfil more orders with fewer and less experienced workers.
 
The integration of FulfillmentEdge and Fetch AMRs can help with this transformation. Through the combination, workers are collaboratively dispatched in optimised pick paths across multiple orders turning manual material movement into high-value, productive picking time. Worker and AMR movements are orchestrated for picking operations but can also interleave other tasks such as replenishment into the flow to leverage workers’ time better in the aisles.
 
In addition, FulfillmentEdge can direct Fetch AMRs to other non-picking operations such as removal of recycling, reverse logistics and restocking of packing stations to increase robot use. This also makes it easier to train workers for new workflows, reducing training and on-boarding time by up to 90 per cent.
 
“By integrating Fetch AMRs with Zebra FulfillmentEdge and the optional enterprise-class HD4000 head-mounted display, we have created a way for companies to modernise their picking operations without having to upgrade their warehouse management system or make changes to their facilities,” said Stefan Nusser, vice president at Fetch Robotics. “This combination enables companies to increase revenue by directing workers to high-value activity, reduce unproductive material movement and dwell time, and improve efficiency across piece, case and pallet picking operations.”
 
FulfillmentEdge uses multiple sources of data, including a user’s warehouse management system (WMS) and other back-end systems as well as contextual and mobile device data to direct and synchronise the best-next-action of multiple workers and AMRs for collaborative picking assignments across multiple orders using picking strategies that include zone picking and wave picking.
 
The picking process is streamlined with visual cues presented as a simplified graphical and numerical overlay in the HD4000 head-mounted display to provide information including item location, pick total, directional prompts and cues showing pickers where to place the right quantities for each order on the Fetch AMR cart.
 
“Warehouse operations leaders need to synchronise their WMS, worker and workflow optimisation and new automation deployments to maximise return on investment and minimise risks to supply chain operations,” said Joe White, senior vice president of Zebra Technologies. “Combining Zebra FulfillmentEdge with Fetch’s broad portfolio of AMRs empowers our joint customers to modernise their warehousing, distribution and fulfilment operations by optimising the performance of front-line workers alongside AMRs.”
 
Fetch Robotics is an intralogistics automation company headquartered in Silicon Valley. By combining autonomous mobile robotics with the power of the cloud, it platform provides on-demand automation for material handling and inventory management, with the power to find, track and move almost anything in any facility.