September 17, 2020
As technologies in warehouse automation advance, so too do the flooring standards required for cost-effective and safe operations. Warehouse flooring expert Kevin Dare, MD of the CoGri Group, tells us why it’s vital to get the floor right first time, every time.
As a consortium of flooring specialists, the CoGri Group’s services provide design, testing, construction and upgrading of warehouse and fulfilment floors around the globe, ready for the robotics revolution.
“We had anticipated the early adoption of automated warehouse operations for e-commerce as soon as the first viable and affordable robotics were introduced,” says Kevin Dare. “But the wide-reaching effects of COVID-19 have changed the ballpark from one of ‘should-have’ to ‘must-have’ for e-commerce businesses internationally.”
He says that social distancing in day-to-day working practices is key to the new mix. “Until an effective coronavirus vaccine is introduced, human contact must be controlled, both in manufacturing and fulfilment. Not only that, but consumer demand has changed, with the ‘Amazon effect’ becoming an accepted norm for many. This makes next-day delivery for internet purchases a real necessity.”
Automated warehouses are where the incredible, ever-advancing world of robotics appears to have met its true purpose, he says.
“These are really exciting times we are living in. There are now technological advancements such as swarm robots, where robots make their own decisions yet work together as a team to prevent gridlock and collisions. They do this by using sensors to communicate with their neighbours, to determine whether nearby spaces within the warehouses are vacant or occupied. These are game changers for both manufacturing and warehousing as they adopt even more technologically advanced robotics. It has, and will, reduce human workers’ idle time considerably as they work alongside each other,” he predicts.
He is a fan of the increasingly prevalent human-machine collaboration model. “Companies such as Amazon, one of our customers, are already ahead in the collaboration between robots and humans. They have recognised that the two can work together, as opposed to one replacing the other, to produce a slick, economical process which picks, sorts, transports and stores packages. It will be so interesting to see how this will develop in the very near future.”
Automated options, such as AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles), AMR (Autonomous Mobile Robots) or ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems) all influence floor design, construction, and testing. Kevin Dare says that the warehouse floor is the most critical element of a building envelope because it affects the speed, safety and efficiency of the materials handling equipment that runs on it.
“Get the floor right the first time, every time,” advises Kevin. “Automated warehouses need floors that are ‘fit for purpose’ and require time and expertise to get right.”
Floor maintenance is essential to keep automated warehouses performing at their highest capacity. Robotics, AGVs, ASRS and even conveyors all put greater demands on the warehouse floor than ever before. Surface gloss, friction, abrasion resistance, levelness, flatness, surface resistivity, and roughness are critical factors which need to be addressed.
Kevin Dare warns: “Your floor’s performance can dictate how well your automated warehouse operates. New concrete floors deserve the best design or design reviews, with expert on-site Quality Assurance (QA) and supervision. Flatness testing and characteristic testing for new and existing warehouse floors are essential tools in establishing the correct working platform for your automated equipment. Corrective grinding, floor repairs and floor characteristic upgrades can then be used to bring the floor in line with the testing results for automation-ready logistics.”
The above article appeared in the September issue of Logistics Business Magazine.
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