Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

RK Logistics deploys Fetch autonomous robots

Steve Rogerson
March 19, 2019



RK Logistics Group, a Silicon Valley third-party logistics company, has completed testing and has deployed Fetch Robotics' CartConnect autonomous mobile robots (AMR) in an expansion of robot-assisted support for time-critical warehousing and distribution operations.
 
The deployment of the AMRs should drive additional efficiencies and productivity into fulfilment and shipping operations that support high-tech manufacturing clients, according to Rock Magnan, president of RK Logistics Group.
 
"The real benefit of AMRs is that they relieve employees from tedious, low-value work, such as walking a cart full of items from order assembly areas to shipping, and then walking back," said Magnan. "It improves the workplace experience for the employee, makes them more efficient, and frees up time for them to focus on more higher-value activity."
 
RK is deploying the AMRs in the warehouse in support of picking and kitting operations, with AMRs moving employee-completed orders from assembly areas to shipping.
 
RK has used Fetch's HMIShelf robots for the past three years. These units have a fixed-capacity cart attached and typically can take up to a dozen multiple small parcels, boxes or totes. It is operated by an on-board touchscreen, so when the employee is finished loading the AMR, one of several options is selected on the screen, and the robot is sent off on its route. At destination, another employee unloads the cart and then, using the screen, sends the robot back to its origin.
 
The CartConnect AMRs do not have fixed carts attached. These units are more flexible and can pick up different-sized, higher-capacity carts designed to carry larger boxes and totes, and then autonomously deliver the cart to a destination. These units can be operated remotely by any web-enabled device, such as a hand scanner or through direct integration with warehouse systems.
 
When an employee finishes loading a cart, he or she can summon the CartConnect AMR, which then picks up the cart and proceeds to its directed location. At destination, the CartConnect AMR separates from the cart and issues an audible signal, notifying a worker that the cart has arrived. The worker then rolls the cart to a nearby workspace to complete the shipping process. This also relieves the worker from having to lift boxes physically from the cart and carry them any distance in the shipping area.
 
RK says its expanded use of the Fetch cloud robotics platform demonstrates its continued commitment to finding technologies that deliver the greatest value to its customers. The platform lets the company deploy automation quickly and flexibly, and provide future connectivity to other systems and technologies.
 
"In this economy, especially in the Bay Area, finding warehouse workers is a challenge," Magnan said. “We continually have dozens of positions open. The AMRs help improve the workplace experience for our warehouse associates, enabling us to focus them on work that's more thoughtful and stimulating, and makes the best use of their talent, while reducing the more tedious, repetitive, manual tasks. Our associates like the AMRs. This technology has proven to be a positive recruiting advantage for us."
 
Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics, added: "RK is a great example of a company innovating its way out of a tough employment market. Our Fetch cloud robotics platform provides a solid foundation and path to further automating and integrating warehouse processes and systems."
 
In addition to adopting robotics-assisted order picking and fulfilment technologies, RK is creating industry-specific programmes, such as sequencing parts into lean production lines at automotive and technology equipment factories, and just-in-time deliveries to construction sites.