Robots In The Warehouse Now A Reality . . . But The Super Bowl?

January 30, 2015

The XLIX Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks is here and many sports analysts are predicting a close game for the gladiators of the gridiron. For the past 49 years, the premier eveJerry Weinstock ULTRA BOWL Covernt of all football events has played out among human athletes, but what about 100 years from now . . . in 2115?

In his new science fiction novel, ULTRA BOWL, author I. J. Weinstock speculates that relentless technological innovation combined with the growing problem of football violence will result in profound changes to the game. The author, a former high school football player, has thought a lot about technology and the future of football while writing his futuristic novel. “If technology is transforming every area of our lives,” he says, “why wouldn’t it transform football, too? In one hundred years, pro football could very well be played by robots.”

That’s not exactly good news for today’s multi-million dollar human football superstars, is it?

According to Weinstock, the idea of robots playing football isn’t as far-fetched as it seems, but rather a logical extension of many of today’s technological trends. “Robots drive our cars, fly our planes, even grow our food. What won’t they be doing a hundred years from now?” he asks.

Mini-smart forklifts do the lifting

In recent years, robots have even begun invading the warehouse space as evidenced by Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva Systems in 2012. Acting like mini-smart forklifts, Kiva’s dutiful orange robots bring inventory to Amazon workers instead of making them walk around a large warehouse looking for it.

The fact that a company as large as Amazon was willing to invest $775 million into robots from another company like Kiva represents a serious shift in how robots are increasingly being used in commerce worldwide. Traditionally, robots have been mostly stationery, as seen in the automotive and electronics industries for example, with robotic spot welders waving, swinging and twisting as products make their way down the assembly line in a shower of glowing sparks.

Robots as laborers of the future

In Europe, automated warehouse system manufacturer Hatteland Computer has provided the German company EHEIM GmbH (aquariums and accessories) its first AutoStore system. Rather than using classic mini-load systems with stacker-cranes—which could not fulfill the needs of EHIEIM’s existing warehouse buildings—AutoStore’s integrated system consists of an aluminum storage grid for 7,100 bins, 10 robots, as well as four conveyor ports where staff members pick up the correct products from the storage grid for processing.

The AutoStore system can handle 300 bins per hour, and the system is flexible enough to add more robots to the storage grid which would increase bin capacity per hour as needed. This gives EHEIM the security that the automated warehouse system will keep pace with future sales.

The iconic red and black AutoStore robots themselves are powered by rechargeable batteries and operate autonomously on top of the storage grid. Each robot features a lift that allows it to pick and place bins in the grid. The robots receive their orders wirelessly from a central control system, sending them to and from the ports and ordering them to recharge whenever needed.

No matter where robotics takes warehousing in the future, one thing’s for certain. Unlike the football players of today, robots never get tired . . . they only need recharged. Undoubtedly, that’s what robotic football team members will be doing on the sidelines instead of drinking Gatorade.

Stay tuned to the 4SIGHT INSIGHT blog for more updates on industry trends, and to keep current on top of innovations impacting the supply chain and logistics industry.

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