A swarm of robots are overtaking John Deere’s Horicon, Wis., plant. Sometime this year, a fleet of new-generation automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are scheduled to begin zipping through the lanes of the company’s assembly line, hauling parts and materials across the plant in an efficient, automated buzz.

AGVs are nothing new to the market. But none of them has ever been quite like these. John Deere’s fleet will mark the latest deployment of OTTO 1500 —a fully self-driving, autonomous robotic vehicle built by a new player in the space, Kitchener, Ont., Canada-based Clearpath Robotics.

The machines are capable of transporting up to 3,000 pounds of goods through congested plant and warehouse environments without the need for drivers, supervision, or guidance infrastructure.

Traditional AGVs require a lot of work and a lot of free space to run safely and efficiently. In the past, this has meant tying them to magnetic strips or grids of barcodes crisscrossing human-free transport lanes. OTTO taps into the same sensor-driven, high-computing backbone that Google uses in its self-driving car to safely and efficiently transport supplies along the same plant and warehouse paths populated by workers and equipment.  Essentially, OTTO is off the track.

Clearpath's OTTO transports supplies along the same plant and warehouse paths populated by workers and equipment.
Clearpath’s OTTO can transport supplies along the same plant and warehouse paths populated by workers and equipment. (Source: IndustryWeek.com)

The key to the self-driving puzzle: the robot is smart enough to make critical decisions itself. Thanks to the high-tech backing it inherited from Google and the consumer technology industry, OTTO carries with it all of the sensors, computers, and internal logic capabilities to effectively plot courses, avoid obstacles, and safely interact with human coworkers in a way no other AGV has ever mastered.

Other Warehouse Bots:

Fetch Robotics has introduced a robotics system comprised of a mobile base (called Freight) and an advanced mobile manipulator (called Fetch). The robots are designed to work autonomously alongside workers, performing repetitive tasks such as warehouse delivery and pick and pack.

inVia Robotics has introduced a “goods-to-box” robotics system, which is designed to integrate seamlessly with WMS and ERP solutions. The solution is available through a Robotics as a Service business model where users pay monthly for each robot, which allows them to scale up or down to meet seasonal or fluctuating demand.

Locus Robotics has developed warehouse robots called LocusBots. Robots and warehouse associates work together in a manner designed to reduce travel time and increase productivity by utilizing a novel work process.

Vecna Technologies offers a fleet of robots with payloads from 5 kg to 2,000 kg, all of which can operate autonomously. An “autonomy kit” is designed to automatically receive prioritized work requests from a user’s WMS or MES, allowing the robots to operate as a team alongside their human counterparts.

>> Read more by Travis Hessman, IndustryWeek Newswire, January 6, 2017


A Brave New World of Warehouse Robots