Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

SAP integrates robots into warehouse management

Steve Rogerson
May 17, 2016
German software company SAP is adding robotics to its EWM extended warehouse management application. The technology comes from California company Fetch Robotics.
Unveiled in May 2015, the Fetch Robotics system is comprised of an autonomous mobile platform called Freight and a mobile manipulator called Fetch. Fetch and Freight use a charging dock for continuous operations, allowing the robots to charge when needed and then continue on with their tasks. In addition, the system includes Fetchcore fleet management software to support the robots and integrate with the warehouse environment.
The partnership between Fetch Robotics and SAP aims to enhance the efficiency at warehouses by adding to the capabilities of EWM the ability to interact with the physical environment through the use of autonomous robots working alongside and helping workers to perform repetitive tasks such as goods delivery, pick and pack, and surveying.
"We're delighted to combine our expertise in robotics with SAP's experience in warehouse management," said Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics. "It's an innovative combination of hardware and software that benefits warehouse operators and their employees."
The Virtual Conveyor is one of the main products from Fetch Robotics. It lets the Freight robots work in concert with warehouse employees and the EWM. The associates pick goods from shelves and place them onto a container or a shelf on a Fetch robot. When goods are all picked, the picker sends Freight to the packing station either using a mobile device or touch screen on the robot. As the worker completes this task, EWM is updated with the completed order and another Freight robot engages with him or her to start following the employee for the next picking order.
"The combination of Fetch Robotics and our warehouse management system means warehouse operators benefit from more efficient operation," said Franz Hero, senior vice president at SAP. "This integrated warehouse functionality allows logistics companies to automate the transportation of picked and packaged goods within their warehouse and drastically improves the efficiency of the warehouse workers."
In some warehouses, employees walk up to 23km each day, a physically demanding regimen that leads to fatigue, injury and burnout. By introducing the Freight robot into the workforce, employees spend up to 50 per cent less time traversing the warehouse floor and more time fulfilling orders.
Fetch Robotics was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in San Jose.