Listening to NPR this morning, I heard about Zappos’ (the online shoe warehouse) new fetching robots. They fetch orders, cases, and/or pallets and bring them to the employees. Zappos employees are loving these new fast and efficient stout orange robots. These autonomous robots are designed by Kiva Systems from Massachusetts. The article on CNET best describes how these little guys work:
Retail items are kept in crates or moveable shelves, which Kiva calls pods, instead of on conventional warehouse shelves. Once you place your order, a robot is notified by a Kiva server over a Wi-Fi network. It then autonomously drives around the warehouse, picking up the pods containing your items and stacking them as part of its load. The robot then brings those pods to a warehouse worker at an assembly station who fishes out your items from each pod and places them in a box. The person then places your box on another robot that automatically knows where to go to have the box shipped from the warehouse. Another robot with other pods is already then waiting in line for the worker to pack the next order. [via cnet]
Zappos also noted on the NPR interview that the robots save on energy. People need climate control to work, but the robots don’t, the company saves plenty of energy by reducing heating and cooling in the warehouse where the Kiva robots work.