Over the past decade, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) have emerged as one of industrial robotics’ most high-profile success stories. Smarter, more mobile and more collaborative than
their traditional automated guided vehicle cousins, AMRs help companies improve productivity, increase throughput, cut costs and improve ergonomics for human workers by taking over repetitive manual goods collection, transport and drop-off tasks. But AMRs are just part of the story when it comes to mobile robot deployments.
To successfully perform real-world transport applications, AMRs have to be able to pick, move and drop off goods from conveyors and other machinery. Despite widespread misconceptions to the contrary, AMRs can’t perform such tasks on their own because AMRs are platforms for mobile applications, not complete out-of-the-box solutions.
To fully unleash the power and potential of an AMR platform, it must first be fitted with mobile robotic equipment (MRE) – the hardware, such as top rollers/conveyors, lifters, and cart and rack solutions and docking stations and the accompanying software, that is required to bring these elements together in a safe and effective way.
MRE is more than a set of accessories for mobile robots: It’s the end-of-arm-tooling (EOAT) of the mobile robot world. EOAT completes industrial robot platforms in the same way that MRE completes mobile robot platforms, readying them for use in real-world scenarios. When the appropriate MRE is fitted, AMRs can safely receive goods from conveyors, for example, carry them to a drop off point and unload them onto a pallet or even another conveyor.
Ed Mullen, vice president of sales at AMR pioneer Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), North America, puts MRE into context. “Without top modules, carts and other mobile robotic equipment, AMRs couldn’t do what they’re meant to do,” he says, “which is easily, efficiently and safely perform multiple material handling tasks across manufacturing facilities and warehouses.”
For example, a leading European electronics manufacturer deployed six MiR200 AMRs fitted with MRE to address inefficiencies in its intralogistics operations. The company selected three ROEQ TMC300 top modules, 15 ROEQ 300E easy-pull-out carts and 10 easy-locking docking stations. The patented fastening mechanism on the carts was a major selling point as it enables precise and safe connection to the robot and the dock.
Additionally, ROEQ Assist software provides the manufacturer with continuous tracking so that at any given time, workers can check to which robot or dock a particular cart is connected. Overall, the software deployment enhanced safety, improved performance and increased the overall efficiency and throughput of the company’s material handling processes.
Making an assist
ROEQ does more than supply industry with top rollers and other hardware – the company also provide complete systems that allow rapid, safe and effective deployments. With this
completeness in mind, ROEQ developed the Assist software, which runs on the MiR graphical user interface and is designed to simplify deployment and ensure compliance with relevant safety regulations governing the use of mobile robots.
The Assist software makes for quick and easy application deployments and includes pre-coded missions designed to meet end users’ application requirements. For example, pre-defined footprint features in the Assist software ensure that the footprint of an AMR deployment is correct and that safety zones are properly defined so that the AMR can be activated safely and automatically whenever a robot is on its mission. This software layer is the final piece in a complete, ready-to-use AMR solution.
Building on extensive knowledge of MRE and an up-close understanding of today’s goods transportation requirements, ROEQ has been able to pioneer new MRE solutions. For example, last year the company unveiled GuardCom technology for improving safety and performance when transferring goods between AMRs and conveyor stations. It works together with a range of ROEQ top roller modules and uses coded light sensors to ensure the safe transfer of goods (unlike competing systems that use less reliable WiFi for communication). In 2021, GuardCom was included in Robotics Business Review’s RBR50 Robotics Innovation Awards.
Today more than ever, goods and packages require collection, transportation and delivery. And with labor shortages hitting hard, inflation spurring cost cutting measures and an air of uncertainty surrounding the global economy, it’s crucial that manufacturing and warehouse facilities select and deploy the safest and most efficient AMR and MRE solutions.
Achieving these goals with a minimum of downtime means finding MRE that is ready to go out of the box, quick to integrate with an AMR, easy to operate and compliant with safety standards. Only professionally engineered, standardized MRE is guaranteed to provide all these features.