By Cody DeBos
Anyone that’s ever been in a warehouse knows that forklifts are an essential piece of equipment. Even so, they aren’t perfect. Estimates suggest that there are nearly 35,000 forklift-related accidents every year that result in serious injury and nearly 62,000 resulting in minor injuries. There are also around 85 forklift-related deaths annually.
Recently, companies have turned to automated solutions to keep employees out of harm’s way. These take a number of different forms. A new robot from San Jose-based startup Fetch Robotics is one of them.
TechCrunch notes that the company’s PalletTransport1500 is designed to replace forklifts in warehouses. The bot could usher in a safer and more efficient future for the logistics industry.
Amazon has shown what is possible in the realm of automated warehouses. The e-commerce giant fulfills hundreds of millions of orders every year. That wouldn’t be possible without the help of some sophisticated robots.
Amazon’s stock-moving robots are arguably the best in the game. However, Fetch shouldn’t be overlooked. Its latest robot is an impressive feat of engineering that is designed to negate the need for human employees and traditional forklifts.
Each PalletTransport1500 unit is capable of lifting 2,504 pounds and automatically balances the weight as it moves. According to a Fetch press release, the robot is able to perform a number of tasks, ranging from cross-dock moves to warehouse transportation. Each unit is equipped with LIDAR sensors so it can navigate autonomously through the warehouse.
To build its latest warehouse robot, Fetch utilized Honeywell’s Momentum software. This allows the pallet-carrying robots to perform all the functions a human could and then some.
Today’s consumers expect a lot from warehouses. Two-day and same-day shipping are some of the biggest goals being pursued by major retailers and small businesses alike. If a customer can order online and get their product in such a short window, companies are able to keep up with the likes of Amazon and Walmart.
Of course, highly automated warehouses are the only way to make these rapid shipping times possible. Solutions like the PalletTransport1500 from Fetch are one piece of the puzzle.
Honeywell Robotics CTO Thomas Evans recently said in a press release, “To compete in the fast-paced, high-stakes world of e-commerce, modern distribution and fulfillment center operations are introducing increasing levels of automation.”
“Too often these automated systems operate independently, performing very discrete tasks and processes. This collaboration with Fetch to have a turnkey solution with Momentum gives those in the e-commerce industry a competitive advantage that will optimize productivity, increase operational safety, and provide significant return on investment,” he adds.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the transition to automated solutions. As warehouses scrambled to stay afloat while employees weren’t allowed to work, robots became an ideal solution. Once the pandemic begins to subside, companies will be able to take a step back and rethink their automation strategies. That won’t lead to a decrease in robots, however. It should trigger a massive wave of adoption.
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that technology is here to stay. For companies like Fetch, that is a good thing.