Robotic Distribution Centers: 50-Degree Temperatures, Few Restrooms

Robots will dramatically transform the warehouse/distribution center (DC) facility of 2050, but all a DC user may need to retrofit existing space for these mechanical creatures is an empty box, according to DCVelocity.

“The easiest way to go robotic is to start from scratch, incorporating any required features like charging stations, Wi-Fi networks, and smooth floors into the design of a brand-new building,” says Doug Rabeneck, director in the operations excellence practice at business and technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners, in the article. “That approach is clearly more expensive than adding robotics to an existing warehouse, but it avoids the challenges of overlaying a new robotic system onto the existing work force and systems.”

For existing buildings, all the user needs is an empty box along with necessary electronics: “You might need a lot of electronics and communications up on the roof, like wireless router boxes, and either a server in one corner of the facility or communications through the cloud. And you’d probably need charging stations for the units.”

Just how will robots change the warehouse? According to the article, here are changes to look for:

  • Storage capacity: Robots are agile and need a lot less room than humans, so more warehouse space can be used for storage.
  • Warehouse shape: Depending on the type of robotic system selected, the warehouse might work best as a spread-out one-story facility; with other robotic systems, a vertical configuration would be best.
  • Interior temperatures: Humans are comfortable working at 70 degrees; robots thrive at a chilly 50 degrees.
  • Floor: Humans like to walk on carpet; robots prefer bare concrete.
  • Interior layout: Humans can work on loading docks and out in wet, stormy weather; robots need to be protected from the wet or the electronics will be destroyed.
  • Amenities: Humans like soda machines, break rooms and restrooms; robots need charging stations and a reinforced power grid so they don’t shut down due to a storm knocking out power to the facility.

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