From robotic projects to products

Imagine walking into a car dealership where no one knows the car’s price, specs, or delivery time. Strange, isn’t it? 

This is how warehouse automation and robotics are being promoted and procured today. In today’s market, every Fulfillment Center (FC) is a snowflake, and every logistics operation is a unicorn. 

The never ending story 

The seemingly endless defining, planning, designing, tendering, buying, installing, commissioning and supporting processes of a robotic system have significant negative impact on the overall value that can be extracted from such technologies

  1. Uncertainty - from the moment of engagement with the first vendor or consultant, many months will go by before a customer can know for certain what is the scope of the undertaking 
  2. Cost - perhaps the most critical fault is regarding the overall cost of the project, which can end up very far away from the cost of the tech itself. As the vendors create a custom-made project and design a solution around an understanding of the customer’s operation, every exploration hour is billed, every analysis priced, and projects can end up costing 5-10x more than the base cost of the hardware installed! 
  3. Time - the physical installation of complex, bolted-down automation can take months, and the projects around it - years. Even the physical installation of ground based robotics like AGVs and AMRs - which takes just weeks to complete - are wrapped inside projects that can take up to a year or even more
  4. Effort - automation projects usually engage entire departments within the customers' enterprise, with near-endless requests, sessions, reviews and overall occupied headspace that can’t be invested in anything else 
  5. Scale - when every project starts from scratch and is custom-made, then, despite the huge effort and resources dedicated to it, it has very little contribution to the scaling out and rolling out of further projects. 
  6. Risk - as every automation project ends up defining a different “box”, it has to run a parallel risk mitigation and risk management processes such as hardware redundancy scoping, fire compliance, operational risks, technical risks and more. 
  7. Vendor chaos - a typical automation project can end up tendering, reviewing, retaining, cooperating with, and paying to, over 20 different vendors. And this is before go-live. 

Accepting similarities 

The biggest paradigm shift is to understand that in 2024 - 62 years since the introduction of AS/RS systems - the industry has already “seen it all”. We have reached the maturity level of hardware and software which allows us as an industry to avoid starting from scratch and “hacking” every single fulfillment operation. 

This kind of logic will be good for 99% of fulfillment centers: 

  • Goals: everyone wants to optimize sales per space and storage per space while minimizing overall costs. That’s the foundational common denominator. 
  • Storage: most goods in a fulfillment center can be stored inside a standard bin. Goods which can’t, can be placed on movable shelving units. Using pallets in a fulfillment center is very rare. 
  • Density: If you need maximum SKUs per space, you can use double or quadruple-deep storage systems. If not, you can use less dense storage that is lower cost and can allow faster movement of goods towards picking, increasing throughput. That’s the only critical product tradeoff. 
  • Capacity: If you need to maximize throughput, you can use the max number of robots in a given space. If you have slower moving stock, you can save and use less robots. 
  • Picking: if robotic picking can be used for the type of goods you fulfill - leverage it. If it doesn’t fit - a manual picking station will do the trick. 
  • Other needs: sorting, consolidation, packaging, dispatch - all have standardized system offerings. 
The Finally Way

At Finally we champion the productization of robotic fulfillment

Get in touch to evaluate our SFC products.