Complex Made Simple

Automation and robotics to power the regional warehousing industry

The Middle East has been slower than other markets in adopting automation solutions, however, the pandemic brought about a revolution in e-commerce and companies had to quickly scale up operations

One way for regional companies to improve their warehouse productivity is by using collaborative robots A robotic solution can match the production capacity better, at higher speeds, while also enhancing safety Some products across different industries are hard to palletize manually, for example, 5 gallons water cans

By Navin Narayan, CEO, Acme Intralog

As per a 2021 MHI Annual Industry Report, 53% of global companies will increase their investment in robotics and automation. The Middle East has been slower than other markets in adopting automation solutions, however, the pandemic brought about a revolution in e-commerce and companies had to quickly scale up operations to meet increasing demand. We see bigger companies embracing the trend for automation a lot faster than smaller ones as larger companies in pharma and retail sectors already have some automated solutions along their supply chain yet tend to face a bottleneck when it comes to their end of line.

This is where robotic palletization and automation solutions can fill the gap and handle a significantly higher throughput faster, more accurately, and safer at a lower cost than teams of employees working in multiple shifts.

As the e-commerce industry in the region experiences exponential growth rates, it becomes imperative to enhance the efficiency and safety of warehouses to ensure smooth operations. One way for regional companies to improve their warehouse productivity is by using collaborative robots (cobots) that can work with employees to complete repetitive tasks. This allows employees to focus on more revenue-generating work and avoid tasks that can cause health issues like lower back injuries. Cobots can skyrocket warehouse operation speeds and at the same time generate a quick return on investment.

A lot of smaller companies are not yet on board with automating their end of line as their throughputs are more manageable and probably also due to the perception that a substantial investment is required to automate manual processes, particularly when it comes to robotic solutions. Yet robotic palletization can provide even smaller companies with significant competitive advantages.

 

The investment for a basic yet efficient robotic solution typically pays off within 3.8 years on average, for larger installations, this period shortens. As a rule of thumb, if a robot replaces just 3 headcounts, the return on investment is already higher when implementing automation. Robotic palletization is not just about the robot itself. It is the system around the robot, using the right gripper and connecting conveyors which create real competitive advantages.

While requirements differ depending on industry and type of products being handled, robotic solutions can cater to all and solve challenges for any client. Just to name a few examples:

1- High capacity: FMCG companies typically produce a vast quantity of products every day, operating 24/7. This requires approximately 2-3 shifts and a lot of people per day when palletizing manually. A robotic solution can match the production capacity better, at higher speeds, while also enhancing safety standards.

2- Hygiene factors: while companies within the food and beverage industry often have similar needs as FMCG, safety and hygiene play a big role as well, maybe even more so since COVID. Particularly when palletizing liquids or fragile goods, robots are a lot more accurate, preventing damage and therewith avoiding interrupting the process for cleaning after a leakage.

3- Size and weight challenges: some products across different industries are hard to palletize manually, for example, 5 gallons water cans, or heavy products that come in sacks like cement or rice. Robotic solutions improve the process tremendously, they only differ from other solutions in terms of the model of the robot, gripper, and conveyors.

4- Special care products: when handling chemicals, lubricants, or toxic products, the safety for employees and maintaining packaging fully sealed is key. The precision in picking and moving that robots offer allows for the highest safety standards.

Robotic systems tailored to individual needs are the way forward to allow both big and smaller companies significantly optimize their end of line and be more competitive.