Written by Freelance in Robotics
Dec 17 th, 2017
For the past three months, a fleet of seven robots have been moving around and climbing the shelves of Bordeaux’s Cdiscount warehouse robot developed. For the past three months, a fleet of seven robots have been moving around and climbing the shelves of Bordeaux’s Cdiscount warehouse. Developed by the French start-up Exotec Solutions, this breakthrough technology will be deployed in other warehouses of the e-merchant.
Amazon has been used to seeing robots working together moving independently in the storage area of a warehouse. The technical prowess of Exotec Solutions is even more bluffing. Not only are the robots of the French start-up able to work in teams in the middle of the shelves, but they are also able to cling to the racks to climb up to 10 meters high in order to recover the desired tank of products. “We have moved from two-dimensional displacement to three-dimensional displacement,” says Romain Moulin, CEO of Exotec Solutions.
This technology, called Skypod, seduced Cdiscount. “For three months, our system went into production at home,” says Romain Moulin. The French e-retailer has deployed this small-scale robotic device at its logistics center in Cestas, near Bordeaux. A fleet of seven machines is currently responsible for providing some of the references to the operators so that they can reconstitute the shopping cart corresponding to an order. Cdiscount now plans to deploy the technology in its other warehouses.
Thanks to Skypod, the merchant site intends to gain in productivity. The device would improve the performance of the preparation both in terms of cadence (400 product manipulations per hour, against 50 to 100 manually) and restocking (up to 100 product references arranged per hour).
Skypod also significantly reduces the hardness of work. “In a manual organization, an operator can travel up to 15 km per day.With our old Exo system (limited to two-dimensional travel, ed), the daily distance traveled was 4km.And there, with Skypod, we are at zero kilometer, “says the contractor. The device implies that the operators remain outside the storage area. “You can create a lot more inventory because it allows you to fill the warehouse to the ceiling,” says the contractor.
As for the mode of operation, the robots move in a coordinated way thanks to a control software called Astar. It relies among other things on artificial intelligence algorithms that allow assigning missions to robots. It is this brick that interfaces with the WMS (Warehouse Management Software) of Cdiscount. To find and move independently, each robot has a rotating scanner at the front. Each also has a pre-structured map of his environment. “Once we put the racks, the system can be operational in the half day,” says Romain Moulin.
Another advantage of the device: its flexibility. The system is sized according to customer needs and the fleet can range from a dozen robots to 400 units. “Our system can handle 10,000 references to 500,000 references,” says the contractor.
All these characteristics seduce. Exotec Solutions works with other e-retailers and retailers, whose identity remains confidential. Its technology also adapts to parts manufacturing lines. The start-up now has about twenty employees and is preparing to complete a second fundraising of several million euros to internationalize its business.
On the other hand, Cdiscount seems to build, brick by brick, its warehouse of the future. He is not the only one who wants to adopt the logistics 4.0 codes. The Casino Group (on which Cdiscount depends) will use the logistics platform and proprietary software of the British Ocado, the king of automation in food e-commerce. As part of this merger, a warehouse of last generation should enter service in the Paris region within two years. Monoprix will be the first brand of the French group to rely on these breakthrough technologies to improve its e-commerce business.
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