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Fetch Robotics is the first autonomous mobile robot (AMR) vendor to officially announce full compliance with the new ANSI / RIA standard R15.08. In making this announcement, Fetch is throwing down the gauntlet to the other AMR vendors. Fetch CEO Melonee Wise is one of the most outspoken industry leaders and she was instrumental in shepherding R15.08 to market as one of the key contributors on the R15.08 committee. During my recent podcast interview with Melonee about the R15.08 standard, she expressed her thoughts about what it takes to develop safe, collaborative mobile robot solutions.
R15.08 defines a new class of industrial mobile robots
Released on Dec 25th, 2020 by the RIA (Robotics Industry Association), R15.08 is the new safety standard for industrial mobile robots (IMR). In recent years, a growing number of manufacturing, distribution and fulfillment centers have begun using mobile robots for a variety of material handling tasks, from moving packages between workstations to transporting pallets across a warehouse. Prior to R15.08, however, there was no safety standard specifically designed for AMRs, which move autonomously through facilities and often need to avoid obstacles like heavy machinery and human workers. R15.08 provides technical requirements for the design and integration of AMRs, ensuring that AMRs protect facility operators and workers from injuries that can result in civil and criminal liabilities, regulatory fines, and higher insurance costs.
ANSI / RIA R15.08 also fills a gap in existing industrial safety specifications in that it defines a new class of IMRs where a manipulator is deployed on top as a payload for an AMR. Prior safety standards exist for automatic guided vehicles, fork trucks and for industrial robot arms, but R15.08 is the first standard to define the safety requirements for a “mobile manipulator”. Until now, vendors, integrators and end-users had to do custom risk assessments and try to bridge the gap between existing standards. Note that R15.08 attempts to define AMR payloads as a new term: attachment.
“The publication of R15.08 is a watershed moment for the AMR industry,” said Melonee Wise, CEO at Fetch Robotics. “Whereas previous safety standards were designed for industrial arms or automated guided vehicles, R15.08 is specifically designed to address safety concerns unique to fully autonomous robots. This new standard will set the foundation for safer workplace environments overall.”
The new standard provides a comprehensive framework to assess the safety of AMR systems, which are defined as both the AMR base and any additional accessories.
R15.08 specifies that if the original manufacturer or a third party adds an attachment to an AMR (creating an AMR system), it is considered a system manufacturer and therefore is responsible for the certification and safety of that device. As a result, the standard covers a wide number of manufacturing arrangements, such as when an AMR manufacturer sells the robotic base to an integrator who then adds an attachment (like a rack, cart, bin or arm) so the robot can complete workflows.
The standard also covers integrators that add attachments and stations to move items like pallets on or off of an AMR base. Specifying the coverage of R15.08 for both the AMR itself and the complete AMR system mitigates risk for end users, who prior to R15.08 may have been using an AMR that conformed to R15.08 with an attachment that did not conform to R15.08.
As the manufacturer of both its AMRs bases and its AMR accessories, Fetch Robotics can ensure that its AMR systems conform with the new safety standards, giving customers peace of mind when deploying the technology.
Customers are looking for vendor compliance
“Safety is our top priority in selecting and deploying automation solutions in our manufacturing and warehousing facilities,” said Harry Chase, Director of Advanced Materials at GE Appliances, a Haier company. “Fetch Robotics is our main provider of autonomous mobile robots. The fact that their AMRs conform to R15.08 gives us confidence they improve employee safety as well as help us achieve our efficiency goals.”
This announcement comes on the heels of Fetch’s release of its newest AMR, the PalletTransport1500, which supports cross-docking, returns and case picking workflows for contactless pallet transport in distribution centers.
I applaud Fetch for this announcement. Melonee Wise continues to be a market luminary, and she was influential in her participation on the R15.08 committee. I expect other AMR vendors to follow suit and begin to certify their products against the standard.
Note also that I am not enamored by the new term “attachment”, and I was disappointed by the use of this term in the standard. I’ll continue to use the more descriptive (and historical) term: “payload” for anything that is attached to an AMR and the term “cargo” for anything temporarily carried by an AMR, such as a box or a bin.