Intrinsic + Vicarious

The Vicarious business has been acquired by Intrinsic, a robotics software and AI company at Alphabet. Learn more about our shared mission here.

Replace Pick-to-Light Systems with Smart Robots Powered by Neuroscience-Inspired AI

The Vicarious wall picking solution is the industry’s first and only wall picking solution to replace manual pick-to-light systems.

Posted March 2021 Back to Resources

Replace Pick-to-Light Systems with Smart Robots Powered by Neuroscience-Inspired AI

Pick-to-light has been the industry standard for e-commerce fulfillment centers for some time. It works with a light affixed to a stock unit shelf which indicates to warehouse employees that an item in a specific location needs to be picked to fulfill an order. A fulfillment center has thousands of different SKUs, and ensuring those SKUs can be found quickly to fulfill an order is an important part of getting products out the door in what the consumer deems a reasonable time.

When COVID-19 hit, e-commerce fulfillment was kicked into overdrive due to the number of smaller orders. On top of this, consumers want their order as fast as possible – often within 24 hours of ordering. According to an analysis by Adobe, the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdowns resulted in a whopping $183 billion boost to e-commerce shopping in 2020 compared to previous years. In order to keep up with increased demand, companies are trying to figure out how to introduce more automation to help cover the mostly manual work of pick-to-light.

However, pick-to-light is difficult to automate for traditional machine learning-powered robots , primarily due to the complexity of the overall process. In general, it is very difficult for traditional robotics to handle items that are presented in an unstructured manner, which is something that is common in e-commerce. In a fast-moving warehouse, items on a wall shelf are not always presented in a consistent way but are still expected to be picked from with 100% accuracy. Items, especially smaller ones, can be simply dumped into a bin, which causes problems for traditional automation.

In addition, walls used for pick-to-light systems have numerous different shelves which often change based on consumer demand. The same item may be in a completely different place on the shelf at a different time, or there could be completely different products day to day. 100% accuracy in picking items is very important for successful pick-to-light operations, which becomes impossible for traditional automation to accomplish due to frequent changes in item placement.

Another challenge presented in automating pick-to-light with traditional machine learning-based AI is the impossibly large amount of training data needed to accurately identify and handle items. When SKUs change as frequently as they do in these fast-paced settings, it has the potential to become extremely time consuming to train AI technology. Time is very valuable in e-commerce, and it should be spent fulfilling orders instead of training an AI system.

Vicarious has created a solution to help automate e-commerce fulfillment in pick-to-light applications. It all starts with our superior vision technology, which can learn new objects easily and quickly. Our robots can learn new objects in less than 8 hours, giving customers the ability to pick and place items from a limitless inventory. Vicarious robots can also be mounted onto a slide, enabling access to a wider range of items on multiple different shelves throughout a facility. This is especially important in today’s e-commerce-centric environment where order volumes are so high and the number of items picked from is so vast.

Vicarious’ vision technology can also easily identify and handle objects in an unstructured environment once learned. This allows items to be presented in a manner that best fits the process in your facility. Vicarious robots can pick and place objects from wall shelves to a tote or bin on a conveyor and even utilize Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) technology. Our robots also seamlessly integrate with Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), allowing a facility to have kit-to-order flexibility.

Flexibility even extends beyond software integration. Our state-of-the-art vision technology is hardware agnostic and can work on any robot using any gripper. This means that whether our robots need to pick and place shirts or pants for retail fulfillment, smaller items for kitting, or virtually anything else – we have you covered. We understand that every facility has different processes or hardware, and we custom-tailor our solutions to your process so it truly works for you.

The Vicarious wall picking solution is the industry’s first and only wall picking solution to replace manual pick-to-light systems. Companies across the world are joining Vicarious at the cutting edge of robotics research and design. Reap the benefits of modern automation with no strings attached.