Last week we shared with everyone a short video we made to demonstrate a new innovation in warehouse automation we are calling “Follow Me” (see it again here). It’s a drive engine mounted on one of our mobile-powered carts – but with a twist. Rather than start and stop using physical controls, the “Follow Me” feature enables the cart to follow the operator at their own pace, starting and stopping as they do. We were drawn to looking deeper into this because of the potential for hands-free applications, especially for picking in conjunction with a voice-collection system or for other tasks like inventory or inspection and maintenance.
We were curious what our readers thought about it, and wondered what their ideas might be from a short, first impression. Here’s what they had to say:
Q1. Having seen the "Follow-me" technology in the video, what is your FIRST impression on how likely you see this technology playing a role in your facility in the future?
We found two surprises here in the responses. The first being that an even 30% of them indicated they would be “likely or very likely” to see this technology deployed in their facility. The other surprise was that exactly ZERO respondents indicated “Not likely at all”. From “first impressions”, it seems everyone can visualize some type of application for this in their facility.
Q2. Do you have areas in your facility where "hands-free" work would improve productivity, worker fatigue or safety?
There are no surprises here actually, just a confirmation for us that beyond “paper-free”, a “hands-free” workflow is something we should aspire to. But is that realistic? What are some potential areas that we could imagine being “hands-free”?
- Picking – a pick cart using “Follow-Me” technology paired with a voice collection system could have a radical impact on pick rates, fatigue levels and warehouse velocity.
- Inspection/Maintenance – a cart like the QC Series equipped with tools or other devices used to inspect and test on the floor (i.e. like airplane engines), can allow the inspector to have their hands available for working with the parts they are looking at while keeping their monitor and tools handy at all times.
- Inventory – like picking, a solution that also leverages voice technology would speed the inventory process by allowing the operator to have both hands free to move product around if they are not visible front and center. A small cart like the ECO Series would follow the operator with their workstation to record variances and provide the ability to relabel where necessary.
What about our readers? They had their own vision for potential solutions too:
Q3. Whether it be in your facility or another, which types of processes do you think could benefit from a "Follow Me" application (check all that apply)?
Our readers seemed to have the same idea we had, and with a few we didn’t think of. Receiving made a strong appearance in second, but with most of our customers using our products in Receiving we probably should have expected this.
When asked about “additional inspirations” readers had some great responses and ideas as well – though with some reservations:
- “Neat product, I can see this being impactful in areas that have a lot of clear floor space and wide lanes to move in. Auditing processing locations comes to mind.”
- “Looks like a winner for a pick cart. I assume it could be scaled up for a larger and heavier pick cart.”
- “The remote power feature is important, the hands free is a fantastic addition. We would use for label printing for cycle counting purposes which we are doing all the time.”
- “I love the idea! Realistically, it appears to be something that will likely be too expensive to implement for not a huge return.”
- “I am intrigued but not sure exactly how this would work in our facility. It is something I will be thinking about for future improvements.”
- “Reverse the application where the human follows the cart. Obviously this requires a routing application for the cart to follow. A picking path as an example.”
- “It’s cool just a bit gimmicky All depends on price point”
And our favorite:
- “Having a cold drink following me would be handy.”