Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Vecna empowers logistics robots with AI

Steve Rogerson
April 11, 2017

Robotics automation company Vecna has unveiled an end-to-end logistics approach that it says uses artificial intelligence to reimagine automation for manufacturing, warehousing and omni-channel fulfilment.
With more than two decades of experience and more than $52m in research and development for collaborative robotic mobility and manipulation, the Massachusetts-based company intends to enable organisations to transform logistics into a competitive advantage across global markets with a low-risk, highly scalable, flexible and extensible approach.
The logistics system begins not with specific robotic platforms, but with an overarching approach powered by artificial intelligence that continually optimises workflow and integrates any and all material handling platforms, including Vecna’s full spectrum of robots.
Facility-level simulation is said to determine best targets for automation, identify the right mix of robot capabilities and demonstrate clear RoI before implementation. Real-time optimisation is carried out through a proprietary task manager and warehouse management and manufacturing execution system (WMS-MES) integration for order processing. Support includes a remote-assist capability.
“As mass customisation and omni-channel order fulfilment become the predominant model for our consumer economy, the focus will shift from automating siloed tasks to a full spectrum of coordinated automation,” said Daniel Theobald, Vecna co-founder and chief innovation officer. “The solution we have developed has a foundation in these market dynamics, allowing our customers to turn logistics into a major competitive advantage.”
Software powering the logistics approach has been achieved through two decades of R&D developing robotics platforms for hospitals, Nasa, US Army, US Navy, Department of Defense, Darpa and other partners.
In addition, end-to-end logistics enables accurate tracking of goods from the point of manufacture, all the way through the supply chain, to the consumer’s doorstep.
The logistics approach comprises consultation services, software implementation, automated robot platforms and on-going support.
The simulation software determines optimal automation platforms for each facility’s floor plan, throughput and resources. Based on this information, users implement automation platforms from the conveyor, lifter, tow tractor or VGo telepresence series and have the flexibility to integrate their current suite of robots or equipment.
AI commands the fleets’ tasks and continuously optimises resource allocation based on information from the WMS and MES to improve efficiency. This task manager optimises the execution of prioritised delivery tasks by leveraging the most appropriate resources given the relevant dynamic constraints. This integrated system leverages not only the robotic platforms, but also crewed equipment and coordinates activities among human and robot workers to ensure the right resources are used for each task.
Remote assist proactively monitors uptime to ensure a facility’s operations flow smoothly.
Vecna was founded in 1998 by a consortium of MIT engineers. It provides technology in the fields of healthcare, education, business, government, material handling and logistics.