Logistics businesses are facing the choice of whether to hire more people or to expand their physical footprint as they scale to meet increasing demand and the need for resilience and efficiency. Systems integrator Mission Design and Automation LLC and vision software provider Plus One Robotics Inc. today said they are partnering to offer automation that can help supply chain operations.
“Our customers tell us that they want an easy-to-deploy solution that can grow with their business, helping operators cope with peak and surge demands while managing the labor force and an endless array of packaging designs,” stated Scot Lindemann, CEO of Mission Design and Automation. “With Plus One, we’ve created a custom system to meet those needs.”
Founded in 2004, Mission specializes in the design and manufacturing of advanced automation for the automotive, office furniture, medical, and consumer goods industries in North America. The company designs, builds, and integrates custom equipment for manufacturing companies, from standalone operator-assisted stations to fully turnkey robotic systems.
Plus One vision applies to multiple tasks, supervision
With the wide variety of item types passing through warehouses each day, supply chains need robust, scalable applications that can mitigate labor shortages and manage peak season surge, said Mission and Plus One. The partners said their joint offerings can help both businesses getting started with automation and those accelerating existing plans.
San Antonio, Texas-based Plus One Robotics said it applies 3D vision and artificial intelligence to industrial robots for fast and reliable materials handling in the warehouse. The company said its computer vision innovations enable robots to learn to recognize and image new SKUs (stock-keeping units) right at the dock door. This can help warehouse operators automate tasks such as depalletization, order-fulfillment, tote-picking, and parcel sortation so they can keep pace.
Plus One added that it has taken a novel approach to human-robot collaboration and supervised autonomy, with one person able to manage many robots simultaneously.
Partnership with Mission to help warehouse workers
The companies said their partnership brings together Mission’s experience deploying robots at scale in e-commerce and distribution centers with Plus One Robotics’ Pick One vision software to handle a wide array of goods.
For example, unloading pallets stacked with random items is not ergonomically friendly. Automating depalletizing can bring greater efficiencies and deliver higher-quality throughput while eliminating a dangerous, repetitive task, said the partners.
Warehouse workers can now move to more valuable positions such as crew chief. A crew chief can manage multiple robots using Plus One's Yonder software to handle exceptions, such as when the robot encounters a new SKU or unfamiliar packaging type.
The crew chief would see on screen exactly what a robot sees. When the robot calls for help, the crew chief can tell it the best place to pick the item, getting the robot back to work in seconds, said Plus One.
“The warehouse is predicated on variability,” noted Erik Nieves, co-founder and CEO of Plus One. “Our technology gives robots hand-eye coordination to perform repetitive tasks manipulating a wide range of items.”
“Systems built by Mission can now mitigate warehouse labor shortages and give customers confidence, knowing they can maintain a high degree of quality throughput using systems built by trusted industry professionals,” he added.
The depalletizing robot is available for demonstration by appointment at Mission Design and Automation's headquarters in Holland, Mich.