Automation: Moving from Luxury to Necessity

Addverb Technologies

Satish Shukla, Co-Founder & Head - Marketing & HR, Addverb Technologies
Satish Shukla, Co-Founder & Head - Marketing & HR, Addverb Technologies, shares details of the company’s highly advanced intra-logistics automation solutions and plans to go global with their technology.

What are the latest trends in India’s supply chain and manufacturing sector?
There have been some key triggers in the last 5 years which have changed India’s supply chain and manufacturing sector, such as the rise of E-Commerce and it’s spread into every nuke and corner of the country. The internet data revolution, growth of organized retail in major towns and cities, and implementation of GST has led to consolidation of small warehouses into mega distribution centers. The high real estate prices in cities forced consumer warehouses to move outside the city which led to supply and demand fluctuations. These triggers necessitated a flexible supply chain to accommodate the demand surges and reliable warehousing operations that help in fulfilling the requirement within stipulated timelines and in an accurate manner.

As operations scale up, it is critical to improve the productivity of people working in warehouses and factories; people are also becoming more conscious about doing more productive work. So, in line with this, demand for automation solutions such as autonomous mobile robotics, automated guided vehicles, picking technologies like Pick to Light, Pick by Voice and Pick by Vision based systems, warehouse software etc, is increasing as these can improve productivity drastically vis-a-vis manual operations. Also, the packaging robots, once constrained to the assembly line, are being used in warehouses for applications such as bin picking, pick & place, while mobile robots are being used for multiple applications of material transfer in warehouses. More importantly, during the last 5 years, due to the technological advancements, automation has emerged as a necessity more than a luxury.

How is automation impacting e-comm- erce in the post-pandemic world?
Right now, the availability of workforce in warehouses is limited as most of the working class left for their hometowns due to the fear of Covid-19. Even after their return, due to social distancing norms, factories and warehouses will not be able to deploy a full force. Hence, in order to operate at full capacity, the need for automation is more than ever. These include AMRs that move material from one place to other, driverless forklifts, IoT that provide visibility etc.

Also, it is essential to maintain a minimum number of touches on the product while it is inside the warehouse. Automation systems like the Goods to Person technologies such as shuttles, ASRS systems and the respective software provide the desired solutions.

The rise of e-commerce, especially for essentials such as grocery and medicines, necessitated that the warehouses be located nearer to the customer, that is, inside the cities, which led to the rise of micro fulfilment centres. These MFCs are mini distribution centres, enclosed in an area of 2k to 10k sq.ft.; they help deliver the orders to customers within 2 hours of an order placement. To minimize the operational expenses of these MFCs and to fulfil the customer expectations of a < 2-hour delivery, MFCs need to use automation, which is a big boost to the automation industry in the post-Covid world.

What are Addverb’s intra-logistics autom- ation solutions for the manufacturing and supply chain industry?
Addverb Technologies is a global robotics and industrial automation company offering intra-logistics automation solutions to make the manufacturing and supply chain industry future-ready. Dynamo, our in-house built autonomous mobile robot, is used for material movement of different payloads from 100 kg to 1000 kg in warehouses and works in collaboration with humans. It moves at a speed of 1.5 m/s and is guided by LIDAR based natural navigation. Its 2-stage sensor-based navigation mechanism, one to slow down and another to stop the robot in case any obstacle/human intervention in the environment, coupled with a warning and alarm signal, makes it very safe to work along with humans.

The robot’s movement is completely autonomous wherein a map of the entire layout is fed at the beginning by taking it for a walk, after which it starts working by finding out the shortest and less congested path for a given mission (movement operation). This entire operational set-up procedure takes less than 20 minutes, and a fleet of bots will be ready to perform material handling operations. Some of the exceptional features of Dynamo, which make it a must-have for material movement, are as follows:
  • Robust: It can operate in harsh environments like deep-freeze or hazardous areas.
  • Dynamic Planning: In case of an obstacle it will find an optimal path to reach the target.
  • Easy Integration: Seamless addition to existing assembly/production line without changing the present layout.
  • Flexible Movement: Allows free roaming unlike conveyors and requires lesser space than conventional forklifts, allowing for narrower aisles.
How is Addverb’s picking solution helping businesses improve their customer SLA?
One of the major objectives of operating a warehouse or running a fulfilment operation is to increase the dispatch accuracies and to improve inventory accuracy. Our picking solutions help the customer to keep inventory levels accurate and improve the dispatch accuracy by 99.9%. The real-time update of stocks and the resulting accuracy levels help businesses in optimising their cost of operations by more than 15%, on an average.

Addverb’s voice- and image-based picking technologies are one of the newest offerings in the India’s supply chain and manufacturing industries. How do they improve workflow performance and accuracy?
Addverb’s robust products based on industry 4.0 technology enables us to design innovative warehouse and intra-logistics automation solutions. Our Voice Picking system, Khushi (Pick by Voice) offers paperless hands-free order picking and fulfilment solutions that gives high accuracy and productivity. Upon activation, Khushi gives verbal instructions to the picker on which location to go, how much quantity to pick, a double check on the product picked, and then the location of the next order. If an operator can pick up to 60 items in an hour when he is using pen and paper to search and locate the item, the same operator can pick up to 240 items in an hour if he is using a Pick-By-Voice. It can be installed on any Android smart phone and is available in 14 Indian languages. Khushi is enabled with speech to text and vice-versa algorithms enabled with AI & ML. It continuously interacts with the picker during the picking that makes the picker to be more engaged in the job. It also showcases the dashboard of various performance indicators, helping pickers to keep a track of how they are performing vis-a-vis their peers.

Quimo, our pick by vision system, is another Person to Goods picking technology designed to enhance the productivity of the pickers and the overall order picking accuracy. This augmented reality system offers hands-free operation with 100% error-free picking and improves quality control. It is best suited for large DCs with thousands of orders processed daily. Vision Picking glasses comprise an integrated navigation system that guides the operator through AR and provides the shortest travel path to reach the destination. An integrated camera in vision picking glasses optically displays order information, providing the source and target locations. They are connected with an existing network for real-time inventory management and updation with the stocks accordingly. Pick by Vision fits the requirement for fast picking environments, enabling workflow improvement and process optimization.

How has Addverb grown to become a 100-crore company within a span of 3 years?
All the six co-founders (Sangeet Kumar (CEO), Prateek Jain (COO), Neeraj Sharma (CTO), Bir Singh (Chief of BD), Amit Kumar (CIO), and I, were working with Asian Paints and setting up some of the most automated factories in the world. This helped us understand how technology was disrupting manufacturing. Indian manufacturing got a boost in 2014, when India embarked on the ‘Make in India’ campaign. As we all had a passion for technology and had seen first-hand how robotics and automation can help manufacturing and also due to the dearth of robotics players to serve businesses in Indian conditions, we decided to start our own Robotics & Automation venture. The aim is to help businesses embrace automation and industry 4.0 for their supply chain and manufacturing operations, and thereby achieve flexibility, scalability, and improved operational performance.

Addverb Technologies

Despite multiple challenges, being a young company against the decade-old industry behemoths, we worked our way slowly - customer by customer. In the initial two years, we chose to do a pilot implementation for the customer and delivered the results with the promised level of customization, which gained us the customers’ confidence, and subsequently, helped us bag big orders.

Keeping the customers at the center of everything, we study their problems and requirements, do innovative solutioning, and world-class manufacturing. Our dedicated team of engineers and aftersales personnel have helped position our company as the preferred automation partner of major industry players like HUL, Reliance, Flipkart, CEAT, and J&J, to name a few. We raised a seed funding of 10 million USD in 2018 with a view to build a world-class manufacturing facility where robots would make robots.

How have Addverb’s solutions helped product manufacturers, suppliers and customers impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic?
The biggest challenges that Covid-19 brought was a complete stoppage of transport of raw materials from suppliers to manufacturers and the final goods to customers. There has been shortage of labour as people left for their hometown. There was no contingency plan as most businesses were not prepared to handle the unprecedented crisis of such a scale. While certain industries offering essentials like groceries, FMCG, and medicines saw a demand surge, industries like entertainment, travel, luxury shopping etc took a hit. The markets saw reduced consumer spending as the uncertainty in the market made consumers spend only on the essentials. And as the economy came to a standstill, liquid cash in the market has become unavailable.

To meet the increased demand amidst the handicapped supply chain, automation has emerged as the leveling point and with it, various distribution concepts such as micro fulfillment centers arose. Till now, the concept of MFCs was restricted to some advanced countries, but they are now mushrooming in India.

With a diverse automation product portfolio, we can design multiple solutions for MFCs. Some of the major components that can fulfill the customer order fulfillment within an area of 2k to 10k sq.ft. and within 2 hours of order placement are Dynamo - our autonomous mobile robots, Quadron – our carton shuttle bots, Veloce – our multi-purpose vehicle, Box-it- our picking stations, and the web of smart conveyors.

Also, to successfully fight the pandemic and assist the frontline warriors of Covid-19, we have designed and deployed Decimator – our disinfectant mobile robot across hospitals, and quarantine centers. With its navigation capability and computer vision, Decimator moves from place to place and sprays UV rays in 360 degrees. It can also be used to disinfect public places such as shopping malls, airports, railways stations, schools etc. With 50mj/cm2 UV light, it kills the virus/bacteria/fungi to 99.99% and helps in reducing facility acquired infections by keeping the surroundings clean.

What are your goals and plans for FY 2020-21?
The last three years have been very eventful for us. We have on-board clients from various sectors and have deployed our automation solutions across the country. We strongly feel that this is the time to take Indian technology to global markets. We have opened an office in Singapore and have completed a couple of big-ticket automation projects in Europe. Our global footprint is expanding rapidly, and we aim to make a stronghold in global markets in the coming years. India continues to be our focus area and we will continue to provide affordable robotic and automation solutions, thus leading to higher adoption among Indian companies, and we will also penetrate the education, hotels, and airport industries.

Lifting & Specialized Transport, October-December 2020

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