Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Honeywell sets up supply chain robotics centre

Steve Rogerson
October 30, 2019

Honeywell has set up a technology centre of excellence focused on innovating and developing artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision and robotics for use across supply chains.
Based in Pittsburgh, Honeywell Robotics plans to help shape the warehouse and distribution centre of the future, particularly as companies look to automation, software and robotics to deliver increased speed, accuracy and throughput in complex material handling environments.
"Honeywell has been at the forefront of warehouse automation technology for more than 25 years helping customers improve productivity and efficiency," said Pieter Krynauw, president of Honeywell Intelligrated. "We are bringing together some of the brightest minds, partnerships and industry collaborations to create breakthrough technological advancements for customers of all sizes, helping meet the ever-changing demands of consumers."
Consumer expectations have caused a seismic shift in supply chain operations. According to eMarketer, online shopping accounts for nearly 15% of total retail sales and is expected to grow to 22% by 2023, representing over $6.5tn in sales.
Online purchasing, combined with same- or next-day delivery options, has stressed the labour market to the point of a shortage. Nearly 80% of distribution centre operations are still performed manually, according to DHL's Robotics in Logistics study. With industry growth outpacing the labour pool by a rate of six to one, this growth is creating significant opportunities to automate supply chains.
The centre of excellence will be led by Joseph Lui, a robotics specialist with expertise in digital data, autonomous technologies and the industrial IoT. He previously served as director of industrial IoT and automation technologies including robotics for Amazon.
"As AI, machine learning and computer vision become commonplace, Honeywell Robotics will create innovative, breakthrough technologies to help customers alleviate skilled labour shortages, reduce safety risks and eliminate inefficient tasks," said Lui. "The use of technology – including advanced warehouse execution systems, 3D storage and sortation solutions to improve capacity and efficiency, and autonomous mobile robots – is just the start of the digital transformation in warehouses."
Customers can also benefit from Honeywell's Momentum warehouse execution system, a configurable enterprise software platform that orchestrates equipment, labour and inventory for distribution centres. Momentum can help streamline the deployment and integration of advanced robotics by providing warehouse managers with a single, centralised system to manage their operations and automation technology.
The establishment of the robotics centre of excellence is the continuation of Honeywell's technology transformation, putting investment in partnerships with software vendors, universities, start-ups and incubators to create new products for industrial users with both simple and complex needs.
Honeywell is also collaborating with AI researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's national robotics engineering centre to develop robotics technologies for distribution centres. The company, through its Honeywell Ventures investment fund, has strategic investments in robotics companies, including Soft Robotics and Attabotics, to help automate complex tasks in dynamic environments to increase productivity and labour efficiency.