Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Robotics-as-a-service model improves warehouse management

Steve Rogerson
August 23, 2016



InVia Robotics has made its goods-to-box robotics system available across the USA. It was created to transform the fulfilment and material handling operations of ecommerce providers and warehouses.
 
The California company provides an automated turnkey system that increases the efficiency of its customers’ businesses by fitting into existing workflows, without requiring companies to reconfigure their floors or change shelving. Its robots integrate seamlessly with warehouse management systems and enterprise resource planning to make the most of existing technology investments while adding functionality and adaptability to a changing environment at a low relative cost.
 
“Ecommerce is booming, but retailers are struggling to keep up with consumer demand, due to rising price pressures, increasing expectations for faster delivery and a shortage of warehouse labour,” said Lior Elazary, CEO of InVia Robotics. “For decades, the man-to-goods model reigned supreme, but now with robots in the warehouse, goods can autonomously navigate across warehouses to be sent to their final destinations quickly and cheaply. Robotics is the next evolution of automation and unlocking its benefits will enable more businesses to stay competitive, which will positively impact the industry and economy.”
 
The top three challenges facing supply chain executives are hiring and retaining a skilled workforce, meeting customer demand for fast response times and lowering delivery costs. Robots’ potential to improve productivity offers a solution for all of these problems by working alongside human workers to pick and ship more products faster for less cost per pick. In fact, 94 per cent of chief executives who already use robots in their businesses believe they have increased productivity.
 
The company’s robots are available through a robotics-as-a-service business model that requires a low upfront investment, enabling more businesses to take advantage of robotics’ productivity gains. Customers pay monthly for each robot, which allows them to scale up or down to meet seasonal or fluctuating demand. If a robot malfunctions or requires an upgrade, the company will swap it out to reduce downtime.
 
This approach to service robotics is said to be already dramatically improving the warehouse operations of several of the world’s biggest e-commerce providers. LD Products, a printer and office supplies company, has automated what used to be manual processes and helped it overcome labour shortages and seasonality while scaling as its business grows.
 
“InVia Robotics gives us the edge to compete with some of the larger ecommerce companies,” said Aaron Leon, CEO and founder of LD Products. “Since we launched our InVia Robotics system, order accuracy has shot through the roof. We also are processing a lot more orders with the same amount of people, so it has reduced our labour cost per order and increased customer satisfaction. Additionally, its robotics-as-a-service model gives us cost certainty, as we know how much we’re going to pay per pick. We don’t need a huge capital expenditure to hit the ground running and the speed of deploying a new system will expedite how quickly we can open up a third fulfilment centre in the USA.”
 
The GrabIt robot can lift items up to 13.6kg and up to 61cm wide, ranging in size from a deck of cards to a 24-pack of pop. It can also reach up to 2.4m and work for ten hours on a single battery charge. Once a product is picked, a GrabIt can offload an item to its companion, TransIt, which can accumulate orders and take them to an awaiting box to be shipped.
 
The robotics management system lets customers dynamically change their workflow in real time as well as reduce wait times, empowering businesses to change their processes on-the-fly. It works alongside the company’s robotics operation centre, which notifies InVia Robotics of any issues that need to be addressed, to ensure that a robotic fleet is performing the right tasks and functioning properly at all times.