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Distributor expands use of AMRs in warehouse operations

Scaled-up operation incorporates larger-capacity cart units to improve productivity and throughput.

RK Logistics Group, a leader in third-party logistics (3PL) based in Fremont, Calif., is a privately held minority business that employs more than 600 and operates 14 warehouses in the greater Bay Area. It represents nearly 1 million square feet of distribution space for inventory management, manufacturing support and e-commerce fulfillment. The deployment of new autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) has improved the efficiency and productivity of fulfillment operations that support high-tech manufacturing clients.

The company creates unique, industry-specific programs, such as sequencing parts into lean production lines at automotive and technology equipment factories, and just-in-time (JIT) deliveries to construction sites. The AMRs (Fetch Robotics) are part of an expansion of robot-assisted support for time-critical warehousing and distribution operations.

“The real benefit of AMRs is they relieve employees from tedious, low-value work, such as walking a cart full of items from order assembly areas to shipping, and then walking back,” says Rock Magnan, president of RK Logistics Group. “It improves the workplace experience for the employee, makes them more efficient, and frees up time for them to focus on higher-value activity.”

RK is deploying the AMRs in the warehouse in support of picking and kitting operations, with AMRs moving employee-completed orders from assembly areas to shipping. RK already had three years of experience with an earlier model of the supplier’s AMR. Operated by an on-board touchscreen, the older units have a fixed-capacity cart attached and typically handle up to a dozen small parcels, boxes or totes.

The new AMRs do not have fixed carts attached, are more flexible and can pick up different-sized, higher-capacity carts designed to carry larger boxes and totes. These units can be operated remotely by any Web-enabled device, such as a hand scanner or through direct integration with warehouse systems. RK is also using the supplier’s Cloud robotics platform to deploy automation quickly and flexibly while ensuring future connectivity to other systems and technologies.

“In this economy, finding warehouse workers is a challenge. We continually have dozens of positions open,” Magnan says. “The AMRs allow associates to focus on work that’s more thoughtful and stimulating, and makes the best use of their talent. This technology has proven to be a positive recruiting advantage for us.”

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About the Author

Josh Bond
Josh Bond was Senior Editor for Modern through July 2020, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.
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