CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, states, “The way we look at manufacturing is this: the US’s strategy should be to skate where the puck is going, not where it is”.

Manufacturing processes continue to improve with dramatic advances in robotics and automation. Labor-intensive, dangerous, and repetitive tasks like product assembly, materials handling, and logistics can now be done better and faster with robotic technology.

The top 10% of manufacturers continue to adapt and head where the puck is going. They’ve embraced Industry 4.0 and even 5.0 technologies to improve productivity and grow their competitive edge. Yet change can be slow for small to mid-sized manufacturers who are short on capital and sometimes freeze up as they evaluate their best course of action for the future.

One technology gaining momentum with warehousing, logistics, healthcare, and food/beverage organizations are Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). As a manufacturer, it’s time to consider AMRs as a strategy in your arsenal for manufacturing excellence.

The 5th industrial revolution

Industry 5.0 is here with better ways to solve manufacturing challenges by optimizing people, processes, and productivity.

What are AMRs?

An Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) is a type of robot that is self-operating. AMRs navigate and perform tasks without the need for direct human interaction or fixed infrastructure like rails, tracks, or reflectors. AMRs use AI algorithms, mobility systems, and sensors such as Lidar, 3D cameras, ultra sonic, etc. to see their surroundings, plan optimal paths, and carry out tasks.

In comparison, an AGV is an Automated Guided Vehicle. AGVs need to follow a fixed route inside facilities using reflector or magnetic tape. AMRs provide much more flexibility because operations professionals can replan their routes and adapt to new tasks. AMRs navigate dynamically while safely avoiding obstacles. There is no need for infrastructure updates (like tape or reflector) with AMRs.


How do AMRs relieve my pain points?

By strategically integrating AMRs, companies like you can address a variety of challenges. Here are a few of the pain points we frequently hear from our customers.

+ Labor Shortages: Many industries face labor shortages and difficulties in attracting and retaining skilled workers. AMRs can automate repetitive and physically demanding tasks, reducing reliance on human labor and mitigating the impact of workforce shortages.

+ Labor Costs: By automating repetitive tasks, AMRs can reduce your labor costs, improve operational efficiency, and optimize resource utilization.

+ Inefficiency in Material Handling: Manual processes are often inefficient and prone to errors, leading to delays, bottlenecks, and inefficiencies. AMRs can streamline your material transport and logistics workflows, optimize routing, reduce cycle times, and improve throughput.

+ Inaccurate Inventory Management: Manual inventory management processes can cause errors, inaccuracies, and discrepancies, which may lead to inventory problems. AMRs equipped with sensors and inventory tracking capabilities can provide you real-time visibility into inventory levels, locations, and movements.

+ Safety Concerns: Certain tasks and environments create safety risks to workers, such as heavy lifting, repetitive motion injuries, and exposure to hazardous substances. By using AMRs, you can enhance workplace safety, reduce the risk of accidents and injuries, and create a safer work environment for your team.

+ Space Constraints: Limited warehouse or facility space can make it difficult to store and organize inventory, equipment, and materials. AMRs navigate efficiently within confined spaces and can utilize vertical storage systems effectively.

+ Adaptability to Changing Demand: Fluctuations in demand and seasonal variations can make it challenging to adapt operations. AMRs offer flexibility and scalability, allowing businesses to adjust production and distribution processes quickly, accommodate fluctuations in demand, and scale operations up or down as needed.


How are Autonomous Mobile Robots used?

AMRs can perform a variety of functions like picking, tunneling, and lifting in a safe and reliable way. They can carry payloads ranging from 130 pounds to 2,200 pounds, and they can be customized with accessories to drive further efficiency. Here are some common ways they are integrated to improve output.

Material Transport and Logistics: One of the primary applications of AMRs is in material transport and logistics within warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing facilities. AMRs can move goods between storage locations, picking stations, packing areas, and shipping docks, reducing the need for manual labor, and improving efficiency.

Goods-to-Person Order Picking: AMRs are used in goods-to-person order picking systems where they transport storage units or totes containing items to human operators at picking stations. This improves the efficiency of order fulfillment processes by reducing the time workers spend walking between storage locations.

Inventory Management: AMRs equipped with sensors and scanners can autonomously navigate through aisles and storage racks to perform inventory audits, cycle counts, and stock replenishment tasks. This helps businesses maintain accurate inventory records and optimize stock levels.

Manufacturing Assembly: In manufacturing environments, AMRs can transport components and materials between workstations, assembly lines, and storage areas. They can deliver parts to workers on the production line, improving workflow efficiency and reducing downtime.

Hospitality and Healthcare: AMRs are used in hospitality settings like hotels and resorts to make room service deliveries, linen and towel transportation, and waste disposal. In healthcare facilities, AMRs can safely deliver medication, medical supplies, and equipment to different departments or patient rooms.

THIRA AMR in action

What is my ROI with Autonomous Mobile Robots?

This is where the rubber meets the road, or the AMR hits the floor so-to-speak! There are many variables involved in determining your ROI. Before making an AMR purchase, we recommend conducting a thorough cost-benefit analysis. Here are some key steps to take.

Steps to Calculating AMR ROI

  1. Identify Your Goals and Objectives: Clearly define your goals and objectives in implementing AMRs. Determine the specific tasks or processes you want to automate.
  2. Quantify Current Costs: Assess your current costs associated with the tasks targeted for automation. This may include labor costs, equipment costs, facility operating expenses, and any associated overhead costs. Break down these costs into components that can be directly impacted by the implementation of AMRs.
  3. Estimate AMR Implementation Costs: Determine the upfront costs associated with purchasing and implementing AMRs. This includes the cost of AMR hardware, software, integration, training, and maintenance.
  4. Forecast Operational Benefits: Estimate your potential operational benefits that AMRs can provide. This may include labor savings, increased productivity, improved efficiency, reduced errors, and optimized space utilization. Use historical data, industry benchmarks, and input from relevant stakeholders to make realistic projections.
  5. Quantify Intangible Benefits: Consider intangible benefits that may result from the implementation of AMRs, such as improved workplace safety, enhanced employee morale, and better customer satisfaction.
  6. Assess Risks and Mitigation Strategies: Identify any potential risks and challenges associated with AMR implementation, such as technical issues, integration complexities, and workforce resistance. Develop mitigation strategies to address these risks and minimize their impact on the project’s success.
  7. Calculate Return on Investment (ROI): Compare the projected benefits of AMR implementation against the upfront and ongoing costs to calculate the expected ROI. Use financial metrics such as net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR), payback period, and ROI percentage to evaluate the investment’s financial viability.

AMR ROI will vary based on the facility, application, and AMR type. Some AMR OEMs have provided metrics based on industry research and customer case studies.

As a rule of thumb, Autonomous Mobile Robots can create a 2x to 3x increase in productivity by reducing labor costs and increasing process accuracy. AMR manufacturers like THIRA Robotics provide an AMR calculator to estimate your ROI which is helpful in decision making.

To learn more about AMRs and how to integrate them into your facility, contact DISHER. We would love to have a conversation with you to learn about your needs and challenges and how we can best solve them together. Come and meet our team and see some high-quality, high-value AMRs in action at Automate in Chicago, Booth 4055.

THIRA ROBOTICS has selected DISHER as their USA integration partner.