Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Robot uses RFID to check warehouse inventory

Steve Rogerson
August 30, 2017

Supply chain technology company Surgere has launched Robi, a robot that can automate cycle counts and improve accuracy of on-hand inventory within automotive manufacturing and warehouse environments.
The robot has completed a full-scale pilot at a Dayton, Ohio, tier-one automotive supplier's distribution centre and is ready for large-scale deployment.
Robi integrates RFID technology with California-based Fetch Robotic's mobile robot platform to capture autonomously RFID label information from all angles and directions. Moving on programmable routes, the integrated platform transfers asset identification and location data to Surgere's cloud-based asset management system.
It validates and provides evidence of where tagged packaging, parts, tools and other assets are located within any given facility and to on-hand inventory. The data acquisition accounts for height of stacked or racked product above the floor, depth within shelving, and the speed of robotic travel, removing the need for manual counting and searching.
Secondly, Robi provides a 3D map of the facility and part location as part of the cycle count. Together, the inventory data along with inventory location enhances inventory management and retrieval.
"Even with WMS systems in place, many of our clients find the fast-paced automotive part and container inventory storage, retrieval and distribution process to often be ad hoc, time-intensive, error-prone, and costly," said William Wappler, president and CEO of Ohio-based Surgere. “Without supporting technology, it can be a process in chaos. After rigorous testing and evaluation, we've arrived at a place where our decision was solidly in favour of robotics over drones and other mobile and fixed devices.”
He said Robi was a much more accurate and granular form of RFID data acquisition in automotive environments. Using the technology, inventory tracking takes place constantly, consistently, quietly, safely and accurately. The real-time reporting capabilities, location mapping and sensor technology can allows a company to know their inventory is closely monitored 24 hours a day.
"Make no mistake, Robi is a game-changer in inventory and cycle counting automation within automotive supply chain digitalisation,” said Wappler, who added that a number of other deployments were also underway. “We are thrilled at the prospects of making our clients more successful."
The data captured by Robi feed Surgere's Cos supply chain visibility and control system. This cloud-based analytics engine provides real-time information and data analytics for upstream and downstream supply chain activity.
Robi's mobility platform comes by way of Fetch Robotics, a San Jose–based technology firm providing robotics for the warehousing and intra-logistics markets. Fetch robots are safe and come equipped with a dynamic obstacle avoidance feature that senses and avoids potential collisions with moving obstacles based on trajectory and speed. In addition, occlusion detection allows the robots to slow when approaching blind corners.
"We are pleased to partner with Surgere and help to automate inventory with our autonomous robot platform," said Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics. "Fetch's expertise in robotics and Surgere's leadership in supply chain combine for a formidable solution to bring more transparency and accuracy to inventory."