Automation: Why software is the star
As fulfillment centers and warehouses become more highly automated facilities with multiple types of automation, software’s role looms larger. Issues like coordinating multiple systems around cut-off times and service levels, as well as knowing when and how to scale automated systems to accommodate peaks in demand, are two leading reasons why.
One way a warehouse execution system (WES) coordinates the allocation of work across automated systems is with smart order release, which instead of the big “waves” of work, releases work to systems in smaller chunks with the current status and capacity of multiple zones of automation in mind. This order release function can be thought of as the starting point for orchestration, with WES’s ties to lower-level control systems alerting of any unexpected events, or bottlenecks, that might be developing, with some software offering “load balancing” features to help adjust to the present reality on the floor.
With robotics solutions, software plays at multiple levels. Autonomous mobile robot (AMR) vendors, for example, don’t just make robots, they also offer fleet manager software, performance monitoring and analytics. Some vendors are also expanding into broader orchestration with functions like pack-out lines. Of course, artificial intelligence (AI) is in many robotics solutions, so the system can continuously learn over time when it comes to issues like path optimization, or how to best grasp and manipulate items.