Warehouse work is notorious for its hazards, even for the best personnel. In fact, a shocking 70% of warehouse injuries happen to experienced, well-trained employees.
This is true even at online commerce packing warehouses responsible for collecting, sorting and delivering goods to customers. It’s estimated that the warehousing and storage industry sees as many as 15,000 workplace-related illnesses and injuries every year.
Repetitive warehouse tasks like picking objects up and putting them down can quickly become strenuous and lead to injury. Slips, trips and falls are also disproportionately common for warehouse workers; these injuries result in 95 million missed days of work each year.
To help improve the safety, ease and overall efficiency of e-commerce warehouses, Fetch Robotics recently unveiled Fetch and Freight — two robots that work in a tag team to take over the menial, repetitive task of collecting and delivering stock.
According to GizMag.com, Fetch and Freight aren’t meant to replace warehouse workers — rather, they were designed to act as a coworker for warehouse workers and allow workers to focus on more complex tasks, improving overall productivity. The robots run on the ROS open-source robot operating system and are even equipped with anti-collision systems that allow them to work alongside humans.
Fetch Robotics designed these robots to accommodate consumer demand for increasingly-speedy delivery of goods purchased online.
“Consumers are increasingly acting like impatient toddlers when it comes to delivery; they want their purchases and they want them now,” Rob Coneybeer, Managing Director at Shasta Ventures, explained.
Fetch, an advanced mobile manipulator, is designed to pick items off of shelves, while Freight, its partner, is a mobile base that holds the items Fetch selects in a plastic crate, the MIT Technology Review reports. Freight can also be programmed to follow workers, who can drop items into the crate themselves and send the robot to its next destination by a simple tap on a smartphone.
If the same technology were to be applied to industrial floor sweepers or floor scrubbers, these machines would work independently, allowing warehouse aisles to stay free of obstructions and slip, trip and fall hazards without requiring a worker’s supervision.
Fetch and Freight’s creators expect the robots to appear alongside real warehouse workers within the next few months.
What are your thoughts on using robots to assist warehouse workers with physically-strenuous tasks? Have any other questions about renting industrial floor scrubbers to prevent slips, trips and falls? Let us know in the comments below.