Kiva Systems blew my mind at IMHX exhibition

A few days ago, I wrote about how operators in an Amazon warehouse can do 18 miles on foot each day to pick items. I then went on to say that one of the biggest savings when companies put in a warehouse management system is to reduce travel time of their operators; this is especially true for big businesses.

Then, last month I met a gentleman at IMHX trade show who was over from the US checking out Europe for Kiva Systems, and whether it is a market they should launch in now, and if so how. The guy was full of energy. No surprise, I was soon springing around in admiration of this mind-blowing breakthrough from Kiva Systems. For online retailers, web shops, this IS the solution to pick smaller items at a MASSIVELY improved rate compared to humans. Over the last 3 to 5 years, I have only seen gentle evolutions, no revolutions, except this one from Kiva Systems.

These orange robots whizz around, don't have days off, mood swings seemed non-existent during the 'duracell-like' demonstration and picking errors were extinct.

This set my mind racing to my 8 year stint putting warehouse management systems into 95% of top 1000 retailers across EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa). Would they warm to Kiva Systems solutions? My thoughts are that leading online retailers with items like clothes, shoes, DVDs, books, cosmetics and pharmaceutical. Companies that are moving site or about to install conveyors and racking would also benefit as they can be up and running rapidly. This is not for pallet operations that I mostly saw, but that was before online retailers starting really booming in the last 3 to 5 years.

While Kiva Systems robot solution works with warehouse management systems put in, there are various methods to choose from. These include traditional walking picker which can be performed in zones. Then there is 'Pick to Light' where the shelves light up to indicate the items that need picking. This still needs racking and all the lights installed, so they are not mobile. Then there are conveyors and fixed robots. Again, not mobile and therefore not flexible. I will report back on these considerations on a future post.

For now, if you think you could benefit from the Kiva Systems robots, give us a call and we can see if it would work for your business.

Author: Jonathan Bellwood