Order preparation is a crucial step in intra-logistics. Indeed, the advent of e-commerce, consumer demand for ever shorter delivery times requires ever greater flexibility and responsiveness in the warehouse.
In BtoB activities, (for example spare parts picking activity), the argument prevails in the customer / supplier relationship. Among 18 month-tests, the Supply Chain has shown us how essential it is.
Faced with the challenges of recruiting new staff, and especially because of the exponential growth of e-commerce, companies have never had such a need to continuously adapt and make their supply chain more flexible.
Traditional order preparation automation solutions exist (Miniload, shuttle, picking at stations, etc.), but they require the reconfiguration of warehouses and flows. Of course, these solutions can be scalable, but the equipment to be installed from the start is significant, and changes cannot be put into place without disrupting the tool and production. Moreover, investments are huge at the very beginning with a distant ROI that is difficult to measure.
Listening to the market and building on this observation, the iFollow team, a member of La French Tech and La French Lab, has set out to reconcile the objectives and wishes of intra-logistics players:
Increase the volume of order preparations,
Do not have to rethink and redesign the configuration of a warehouse,
Substitute its solutions, gradually, gently, without disturbing the existing
Be flexible to adapt to future needs not yet identified
Contribute to improving the working conditions of pickers.
To meet these human, technical and operational challenges, the founding leaders of iFollow have merged a multi-technical team with unique talents in hardware, robotic software, artificial intelligence, etc. Thus was born iLogistics, a new standard of cognitive, autonomous and collaborative robot (1) intended to assist order pickers in warehouses.
More concretely, iLogistics, through its interaction with the picker, can either guide him or move forward in a concerted manner with the latter on the preparation of several orders. The picker is freed from the traction of his preparation supports, which frees him up time for tasks with high added value. In addition to the reduction of MSD (²) risks, this less arduousness makes it possible to feminize the profession and to retain operators.
The iFollow robots quickly established themselves on the market because of their unmatched technical attributes: capacity to transport 300 to 1000 kg while being one of the thinnest on the market at this level of load, adaptable to any existing preparation support ( pallets, rolls, trolleys, …). It moves forward and approaches either forward or backward, which gives it the ability to move in cramped and congested environments.
Note also that the trolley also works in refrigerated environments. It is even the only robot capable of moving from a -25 ° C area (a cold storage room) to a positive temperature area (a shipping dock for example) without being disturbed by frost or condensation.
The robot’s vocation being to work in collaboration with a preparer, detection and security equipment, lidars, 360 ° camera, combined with high-performance on-board computing, powered by AI and deep learning, increases the volumes withdrawn. In terms of operational performance, the outcomes show an increase of 28 to 42.5% in volumes prepared per hour and per picker at iso-perimeter.
Promising to integrate quickly, easily and without modifications to the existing one, the latest deployments made by iFollow took place in 4 to 5 months, product manufacturing included. Indeed, since the operation does not require any infrastructure (beacons, marking, etc.), the iLogistics robot uses its cameras and lidars to map the customer’s environment, the map of which it dynamically updates. The robot constantly adapts to it, avoids obstacles, recognizes operators and performs missions according to an optimal trajectory while respecting a defined highway code.
The AMR iL-300, iL-600, iL-1000 and iL-Conv, very easily integrated into an existing warehouse, are reliable, agile and efficient individually. But that’s not enough !
The user will get the best out of their robots if the following key points are met: The ability to manage the robot fleet, the use of innovative order picking processes and a perfect integration into the business IT environment.
iFollow has patented no less than 5 innovations (international patents) which contribute to performance:
Its Mycelium fleet management software, efficient regardless of the size of the fleet (150 mobile units for example), based on clustering, guarantees the optimization of operator trips. Also, an iLogistics fleet can move independently, in a dynamic environment and optimize the movement of each AMR.
In terms of productivity, where hitherto known principles level off, iFollow drastically increases them through a multi-order, multi-robot, multi-operator process. Concretely, an operator is not only assisted by one AMR, but by at least two, which boosts the sampling / travel ratios.
The solution was designed to integrate and complement the customer’s tool environment (WMS, WCS 3), allowing Mycelium to intelligently prioritize the next rolling or order picking operations to be carried out. The integrator and publisher of IT solutions for WIIO (4) warehouses was not mistaken. He has developed a preparation module using robots and processes created by iFollow that can be used in its IRIIS software suite.
iFollow first focused on critical environments, especially in the frozen industry. In this sector, picking operations are becoming more complex because of the negative temperatures which hitherto prevented any robotic solution from operating there to relieve the operators.
The ability of iLogistics to operate natively in extreme conditions and the productivity gains observed quickly convinced one of the French leaders in the delivery of frozen food products. Since then, large logisticians operating in frozen foods have followed suit.
In addition to the refrigerated logistics market, iFollow has won over the food industry, e-commerce, and supermarket chain logistics. One other use in which AMR are getting better everyday is the dispatch among distribution platforms that has been done exclusively manually until then.
Industry is also a user, for example from a global material handling stacker manufacturer that uses iFollow AMRs for its flexible production workshop.
So many perspectives that allow iFollow to intensify and democratize its approach to cobotics.
This post is also available in : Français (French)