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By Matt Wicks, Chief Robotics Solution Architect
With the arrival of Honeywell Intelligrated’s next-generation robotic unloader, it’s finally possible to transform unloading from a labor-heavy, manual chore to an automated, refined process. But what could automated unloading mean for your bottom line?
Let’s start with the improvements you’ll see in performance consistency. Robotic unloaders don’t begin suffering from fatigue halfway through a shift, don’t need breaks, and don’t require constant supervision. The robot’s high performance and flexibility deliver reliable operation day in and day out. You’ll get valuable data to fuel continuous improvement, increasing your abilities to plan and balance your operation. And thanks to its advanced machine-learning capabilities, the unloader won’t start becoming obsolete the day you deploy it.
The robot also enables you to handle significantly higher volumes of product in the same footprint (or even a smaller one), and with greater efficiency. How much faster the robot can work will vary depending on the products your operation handles, but an average distribution center can conservatively expect the unloader to work more than twice as fast (possibly even faster) than a crew of human dock workers.
This in turn may mean that you won’t require as many receiving doors as before, especially if your unloader is equipped with the option to traverse between two or more doors.
Now let’s consider the implications for your workforce and human resources (HR) team. One of the most obvious benefits is that you can reduce your staffing burden. A single operator can manage up to five robotic unloaders, or run a smaller number of robots in addition to other tasks. What’s more, that operator doesn’t need to have a lot of sophisticated technical skills, just a basic level of operational and safety training. And the same simulation technology used to train the robot can be used to instruct operators in a safe, virtual environment.
This opens up new opportunities for management and employees alike. High-performing workers can take more desirable positions, relieving up to 80% of your current dock labor from unpleasant work conditions, improving their job satisfaction and your labor retention. You’ll also lower injury rates — reducing costly downtime and claims — and incur fewer HR complaints.
Finally, let’s look at the financial implications. Robotic unloaders offer you the opportunity for better visibility in your cost outlay. You’ll also reduce overtime and keep rising wages in check.
Here’s an example of how an average DC might benefit. Let’s say you currently have three dock employees, each unloading containers at a rate of $15 per hour. Let’s figure two to four thousand cases per trailer, and conservatively estimate that the robot can unload each trailer in half the time of a human crew (though I’ll tell you right now the actual rate can be a lot faster).
This scenario gives you a labor cost savings of $112.50 to $180 per trailer. If you unload an average of 15 trailers per day, five days a week, you’re looking at a six-figure annual savings: $438,750 to $702,000 per year. That’s pretty significant.
For more details on how robotic unloaders can finally make automation practical in your DC, download our Solve Loading Dock Challenges With Robotic Unloading white paper.
Sponsored content by Honeywell Robotics.