A “dark warehouse” is an environment where most of the work of storing and moving goods is performed by a fleet of robots guided by an automated control system. The name comes from the idea that there is so little human involvement, there isn’t even a need for lights – hence, a “dark warehouse.”
While human workers may still be involved – in steps like the receipt of goods, for example – many of the simpler elements, such as storage, picking, and packing can be achieved through a fleet of robots. These robots can operate in isolation, either following pre-designed routes or by utilizing infra-red sensors or ultrasound “echolocation” to avoid equipment and each other as they work.
The “needs” of a robot workforce are few, beyond a regular power recharge. The layout of stored goods can reflect the frequency of their use as well, to ensure speedy picking of the items most often used.
Operating a dark warehouse saves more money than just the electricity for the lights. While some human staff may still be required for maintenance of the robot fleet, that number will be far fewer than staffing a typical warehouse. With no need for packers, pickers, and lift drivers, overall labor costs are cut dramatically.
Simply put, robots are… well, robots. They do not require a lunch break, never arrive late for work, and are not susceptible to the aptly named “human error.” They are efficient and highly productive – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Additionally, a dark warehouse can be optimally designed for the efficient use of physical space. The footprint of the warehouse can be much smaller, and with the stacking of stored goods and precise movements of the robot workforces, broad well-marked travel lanes – and the need for slower travel speeds to move goods – can be eliminated.
A stacked grid system is easy to scale. Growing an existing dark warehouse operation is as simple as adding additional grid rows as space allows.
The demand to increase efficiency in warehouse management is at an all-time high. Taking advantage of automation technology allows you to focus on enterprise growth, with integration with the right warehouse management system a critical step in the process.