Labor shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic have posed serious challenges for warehouses and distribution centers. Honeywell International Inc. yesterday announced a strategic collaboration with OTTO Motors to provide automation throughout North America for help with labor-intensive tasks, such as moving carts, pallets, or totes.
Honeywell said the partnership enables its customers to increase efficiency, reduce errors, and improve safety by deploying OTTO Motors’ autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in their facilities.
“Supply chains continue to be stressed by staffing shortages and consumer demands driving expectations of speedy and accurate fulfillment,” said Keith Fisher, president of Honeywell Intelligrated. “Tackling the more dynamic, unstructured environments of today’s distribution centers calls for more sophisticated robots, and OTTO’s AMRs have been proven to be deployed and adapted quickly to changing market conditions or peak buying seasons.”
Charlotte, N.C.-based Honeywell is a Fortune 100 technology company that serves the aerospace, building management, manufacturing, and supply chain industries. Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions (SPS) provides hardware, software, and connected systems to improve productivity, workplace safety, and asset performance to customers worldwide.
Mason, Ohio-based Honeywell Intelligrated provides materials handling automation and software.
Industry recognizes automation's benefits
A 2020 Honeywell study found that more than half of companies are more willing to invest in automation because of the pandemic and its lasting effects. Respondents said they see increased speed of tasks, productivity, and employee utilization as the top three potential benefits from automation.
Robot sales in North America had the strongest year ever in 2021, as more industries look to increase productivity and alleviate ongoing labor shortages, according to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3).
Not only are existing users of automation expanding applications in their facilties, but many many first-time users are also increasingly turning to robotics to stay competitive, said A3.
While AMRs handle repetitive and often time-consuming tasks, increasingly scarce labor resources can be shifted to higher-value jobs, noted Honeywell. This alone delivers multiple benefits such as boosting worker satisfaction, reducing injuries, and lowering turnover rates, it claimed.
Mobile robots offer flexibility
Honeywell said that AMRs from OTTO Motors can automate the movement of carts used to transport picked orders or returns. They can travel over any floor surface smooth enough to handle a traditional cart pushed by a worker.
Instead of spending more than half the day walking, workers can simply park carts in designated pickup locations throughout the facility and call robots to retrieve them, said Honeywell. The robots also offer a flexible way to transport pallets typically accomplished primarily with forklifts and conveyor systems.
OTTO Motors said its AMRs are easy to install and smart enough to interact safely with human co-workers and other vehicles, find a different route if their original paths are blocked, and respond to rapid changes in orders—all without human intervention. The company's AMRs can work with Honeywell automation including its Smart Flexible Depalletizer and autonomous storage and retrieval system (ASRS).
“OTTO Motors provides autonomous material handling inside manufacturing facilities and warehouses and is the technology behind some of the largest deployments of AMRs in North America,” said Matt Rendall, co-founder and CEO of OTTO Motors. “Our relationship with Honeywell shows we partner with the very best integrators and tech leaders to provide business with industry expertise to automate a wide range of workflows in their facilities.”
Kitchener, Ontario-based OTTO Motors is a unit of Clearpath Robotics Inc.
Honeywell and OTTO to give MODEX demos
Honeywell said its collaboration with OTTO Motors gives its customers a complete suite of fixed and mobile robotics solutions, backed by expert systems integration, developers, and reliable 24/7 technical support.
Honeywell will offer demonstrations of OTTO AMRs working with its Smart Flexible Depalletizer at Booth B7619a at MODEX 2022 next week in Atlanta. They will illustrate the benefits of integrating AMRs into the warehouse, it said.