Symbotic: Reimagining Warehouse Automation through Advanced Robotics

CIO VendorChris Gahagan, CEO The modern day industrial robot is truly a work of marvel straight out of the pages of science fiction. From navigating through thousands of Stock Keeping Unit (SKUs), to efficaciously maintaining cumbersome storage and shelving processes, robots not only simplify warehouse management but also bring a marked increase in productivity. Additionally, the dramatic increase in the volume and velocity of orders is compelling organizations to rethink their automation and fulfillment strategies, leading to more and more warehouses investing in robotics to manage orders. All said, investing in the optimal bot that can seamlessly integrate with an existing warehouse system often poses as a challenge for most supply chain managers. Reimagining the processing power and technology implementations in traditional distribution centers, Symbotic has developed proprietary autonomous robotics, and innovative software to deliver an advanced automation solution. “Symbotic is a combination of symphony and robotics, and we foster the harmonious orchestration of sophisticated software and robots to meet the warehouse management and automation needs of customers,” explains Chris Gahagan, CEO, Symbotic.

The Power of Warehousing Automation

As market drivers such as SKU proliferation, e-commerce, fuel costs, and faster delivery demands create a need for more efficient warehouse operations, most CIOs are challenged with implementing innovative solutions while lowering maintenance and resource costs. “In order to stay competitive, organizations are resorting to automation which simplify operations and escalate speed and accuracy,” remarks Gahagan. Employing a disruptive and technologically advanced approach to automating warehouses, the solutions designed by Symbotic constitute the agility to adapt to omni-channel as well as future volume projections. “Placing equal emphasis on operations and innovation, we create solutions only after gauging the impact of market trends, helping optimize upstream and downstream material flow and costs, and create in-house benefits today and through the next decade,” adds the CEO. As an example, to diminish upstream cost, the company stores clients’ slow movers within the Symbotic system at the same or greater density as full pallets, allowing procurement teams to buy partial pallets instead of excess inventory.

Symbiotic’s solutions are designed as modular components, and are scalable and flexible in accordance to a customer’s existing warehouse infrastructure and operational flow. The system is designed to handle peak throughput, while still allowing cost savings during slower seasons.

Our solutions are designed as modular components, and are scalable and flexible in accordance to a customer's existing infrastructure

A client not only has the discretion to choose components based on their current projected volume, but can also add more components in-line with future requirements. The company’s inventory structure doesn’t consist of any mechanical or electrical parts and negates the need for replacing motors.“Within the structure, we prefer to store raw cases to maximize density, but we can handle break packs and totes,” states Gahagan. Symbotic’s extensive each picking module enables users to handle raw cases, split case, totes, and inventory spikes all within the same system with enhanced agility and ease-of-use.

Driving robotic warehouse automation, Symbotic uses autonomous mobile robots to pick and place inventory within the system and randomly access any-case at any-time in any-sequence at the speed of 25 miles per hour. The use of bots makes it possible to conduct “lights-out operations” and repurpose conventional warehouses to achieve unprecedented storage density through patented inventory handling. “Our robots give us the ability to build pallets in store aisles or stop sequence, including end caps and display pallets while adhering to a client’s stacking requirements,” explains Gahagan. In addition, since the robots are equipped with onboard monitoring in case of any maintenance issues, they are replaced within minutes for preventative maintenance without impacting overall system throughput.

Simplifying Operations with an Integrated Software System

Whether a client is seeking fully automated or semi-automated solution, Symbotic’s palletizing and depalletizing options constantly drive efficiency and simplicity through a robot-based case sequencing operation. “Owning extremely sophisticated and patented algorithms, our clients are always impressed with our ability to yield stable and dense pallets,” says Gahagan. Recognizing a growing need to build network efficiencies in grocery stores, Symbotic’s pallets are built around the planogram to be store-friendly and aisle-ready. Mobile bots are used to dynamically store and retrieve different SKUs to supply pallets, which result in optimal palletizing coupled with a high flow rate.

Combining their solutions with business oriented software; Symbotic delivers a seamless experience for the supply chain by integrating with existing systems without causing any interruptions. The company builds an integration layer, tailored for each customer that acts as a translator for prevailing Warehouse Management Systems (WMS).

Moreover, facilitating intelligent decision making, Symbotic’s reporting dashboards allow real-time insights and trend analysis of system operations.

Keeping in mind the market requisite for cost effective automation solutions, Symbotic delivers three viable financial models—capital avoidance, capital recovery, and capital efficiency. The capital avoidance model allows companies to repurpose their existing facilities as the Symbotic system is designed to retrofit and reinvent existing warehouses. This eliminates the need for purchasing new facilities or maintaining multiply facilities.

The Symbotic system also renders 30-40 percent additional capacity without expansion. As Symbotic’s system optimizes density, under the capital recovery model, customers have the privilege to combine two warehouses into one—allowing them to recover capital and increase throughput. “Our model enables customers to expand and exceed their operational demands while recovering capital from unnecessary facilities,” notes Gahagan. In one instance, Symbotic’s client was exceeding their warehouse capacity. The customer was in the process of building a second warehouse, but after opting for Symbotic’s solution the client was able to combine twice the operations in a single warehouse. “The cost of our system was also a fraction of what it would cost to build the new ware-house,” states Gahagan. To top it all, the client increased their operational efficiency as the new system offered more automation and additional capacity in the same warehouse with less labor.

"Our robots give us the ability to build pallets in store aisle or stop sequence, including end caps and display pallets while adhering to a client's stacking requirements"

The capital efficiency model provides customers with “Symbotic as a Service.” This model allows clients the ability to use the system where Symbotic owns and operates the system from storing inventory to delivering customer order pallets at a cost per case that is lower than a client’s current operating costs.

Ultimately, Symbotic’s wide range of services creates the leeway for customers to choose a model that best fits their investment abilities.

As the global manufacturing landscape undergoes a transformational shift, supply chain leaders are increasingly entrusted with the onus to execute a profitable strategy that is resilient amid the economy risks and demand fluctuations. While several international customers deal with high real estate costs and increased traffic in and around urban areas, the complexity of poor space utilization and exorbitant hardware solutions further add to a CIO’s woes. Moving ahead, Symbotic will continue to address the loopholes in warehouse management and automation by further innovating their solutions.“Fusing our proprietary software with additional enhancements, we plan on delivering ground breaking warehouse management solutions simplifying material handling from manufacturer to store shelf for years to come,”ends the CEO.

- Sandeepa Majumdar
    December 18, 2015