Autonomous Mobile Robots Both Complement and Challenge Traditional WMS Solutions

By Steve Banker

ARC Report Abstract


Autonomous mobile robots (AMR), a form of automated guided vehicles (AGV), are widely used in warehouses today.  While AMRs don’t require any major changes to a facility’s infrastructure to implement and operate, they must often first be led around a facility to enable them to create a map of the facility.  Other AGVs follow markers, magnets, or wires.  Laser-guided vehicles (LGVs) are more flexible than older forms of AGVs.  But even LGVs require precisely located targets to triangulate their position. In a large facility, it can take up to two months to survey target locations with adequate precision.

There are two types of AMRs: those with pick optimization logic, and those without it.  One type represents a challenge to traditional warehouse management system (WMS) suppliers; the other complements their offerings.

Two Types of Autonomous Mobile Robots

There are two types of AMRs. One type operates via fleet management software; the other focuses on pick optimization.

The fleet management solution specifies a path or paths that the AMRs will follow from point of origin to destination.  Often these movements will be simple loops but, in some facilities, a robot might start at one origin point, go to a destination, and return to a different origin.  During the course of a day, the robot might move between many origins and destinations. 

Autonomous mobile robots from Fetch Robotics amrssb.PNG

Pick optimization AMR robots, in contrast, are designed to operate in concert with human pickers and improve their productivity by reducing the amount of nonvalue added work they do.  For the most part, this nonvalue added work amounts to walking between aisles or zones to do picks.

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Keywords: Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR), Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV), Warehouse Control Systems (WCS), ARC Advisory Group.


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