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Complying with Social Distancing Regulations Using Robotics and AI

Production and fulfillment centers, and logistics firms are looking at a trifecta of challenges as an outcome of COVID-19. Accelerating market demand for their output, manpower shortages owing to restrictions – and, the icing on the cake, social distancing regulations that put further limitations on the availability of manpower and the efficiency of operations. 

Retail and e-commerce were on the rise prior to COVID-19, but currently they are flourishing. Industry’s previous assumptions about things which needed manpower/human interfacing is now being put under the microscope and being redefined owing to the needs of social distancing. 

The outbreak has created a pressing need for many businesses across sectors to comprehend the advantages of automation and AI not only for social distancing but also as an organization and as an operator. 

Certain automation investment studies held during the preliminary stages of COVID-19 demonstrated that more than 50% of USA-based organizations are receptive to making investments in automation in order to prevail with the evolving market conditions owing to the pandemic, with e-commerce (66%), grocery, food and beverages (59%), and logistics (55%) as the industries most open to making these financial commitments.  

Tech being deployed is demonstrating its value as organizations meet the requirements of compliance with social distancing regulatory standards. 

In this blog piece, we will consider three different cases that utilize automation and AI for social distancing and provide specialist tips for accomplishing compliance in the wake of these obstacles, with maintenance of, and possible increase in productivity and throughput.  

The sortation situation 

Manual sortation fixtures at customer fulfillment centers usually consist of two or more customer associates functioning in close quarters – something which is no longer viable due to the demands of social distancing.  

Kindred AI’s Sort Robot is a solution. Developed to handle items that reach the robot in an unstructured fashion, the SORT automatic putwall system is driven by continuously updated machine vision and understanding neural network algorithms. SORT, by nature, enables social distancing. 

Replacing associates that stand next to each other before the sortation station, categorizing and classifying goods delivered through the chute, SORT helps one individual to monitor 3-4 robots in a row carrying out the same function., 

The end output is essentially quadrupled throughput for each customer associate. Regardless of the fact that SORT is almost 100% anonymous, putting a human in the process is vital to efficient SORT deployments. 

Clothing company GAP Inc., a client of Kindred AI since 2017, rapidly utilized more SORT systems as demand escalated owing to COVID-19. 

Also, the system undergoes learning from each transaction. SORT has finished hundreds of millions of transactions in real time production environments and each transaction outputs various data that can be learned from and we currently utilize it to optimize our AI algorithms. Relate it to the concept of a hive mind in which the entire international fleet gets more intelligent as they learn through any one robot present in the fleet.  

SORT assisting in complying with social distancing regulations is an extremely advantageous side-effect of how the system is already utilized by Kindred AI’s consumers.  

Labour and workforce shortages in the wake of COVID-19 fortifies the case for the usage of SORT. 

The distribution center 

Distribution centers are complicated sites that output millions of data points including automation, products, employee location data, and processes. 

Putting all of this data together – be it departures or product arrivals to bin-picking information – into a coherent, functional whole assists organizations to accomplish social distancing while enhancing productivity. 

With the help of data analytics and artificial intelligence, companies accomplish comprehensive understanding of warehouse execution, manpower requirements, and how to make optimum usage of their automation systems.  

That data which is output by supply chain logistics, product movement, distribution and transacting is increasingly escalating in volume. Simultaneously, AI algorithms are getting more and more smarter through the millions of data points that are obtained each day. This is the direction the industry is heading in. If organizations want to be viewed as formidable competition and get into that mix, they are needed to comprehend how to facilitate, facilities, processes, and workers via AI solutions. 

The Logistics Facility 

Business-to-customer order fulfillment organizations typically deal with escalations in demand, particularly around Christmas and New Year’s. 

Owing to manpower shortages and social distancing regulations, a temporary, seasonal workforce has been tough to hire. Organizations are looking to collaborative robots instead. 

With this technology, DCL Technologies observed a 60% increase in the amount of product they handled. 

Usually, the organization would hire temporary manpower, but to safeguard their team and to be compliant with social distancing regulations, this wasn’t viable. The organization promptly included another cobot into its packaging line, helping it to stay abreast of consumer requirements without supplemental manual labor added to the mix. 

Quick deployment and reduced footprint are marquee aspects of cobots, making them a best fit for maintenance of social distancing regulations. 

Conventional automation is static and rigid, which renders altering the layout really tough, costly, and disruptive.  

Cobots are simple to deploy, are adaptable enough to be utilized on a broad variety of tasks from assembly to packaging to quality inspection and they feature reduced footprints, which means organizations can accomplish social distancing regulations without having to revamp their entire production premises. 

As the COVID pandemic draws to a close, which will happen soon, the result of these automation efforts is that the several advantages of our cobots are going to become increasingly evident. The single plus point of this pandemic will be that industries will be more receptive to automation, and it will be a staple fixture of organizations moving forward. 

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