Automation

Addverb helping businesses embrace automation and Industry 4.0: Sangeet Kumar

There have been some key triggers in last 5 years that have changed India’s supply chain and manufacturing sector.

Addverb Technologies is a global robotics and industrial automation company offering intra-logistics automation solutions to make the manufacturing and supply chain industry future-ready.

The founders come from IIT/ NIT backgrounds, and have decades of experience in setting up most automated factories and warehouses in the country. With a vision to disrupt the Indian manufacturing and supply chain industry, the home-grown company has today become a pioneer in implementing state of the art Industry 4.0 solutions across manufacturing and supply chain companies.

Here, Sangeet Kumar, Founder and CEO Addverb, tells us more. Excerpts from an interview:

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DQ: What are the latest trends in India’s supply chain and manufacturing sector?

Sangeet Kumar: There have been some key triggers in last 5 years that have changed India’s supply chain and manufacturing sector. The rise of e-Commerce and it’s spread into every nuke and corner of the country after internet data revolution, the growth of organized retail in major towns and cities, the implementation of GST, which led to the consolidation of small warehouses into mega distribution centers, the high real-estate prices in cities, which forced the consumer warehouses to move outside the city, and the supply and demand fluctuations.

These triggers necessitated a flexible supply chain to accommodate the demand surges and reliable warehousing operations that help in fulfilling the requirement within stipulated time and in an accurate manner. As operations scale up, it is critical to improve the productivity of people working in the warehouses and factories and people are also becoming more conscious about doing more productive andmeaningful work.

In line with that the demand for picking technologies like Pick to Light, Pick by Voice and Pick by Visionbased systems and mobile robotics applications to move material, is increasing as these can improve the productivity as compared to manual operations by almost 10-20 times. Also, the packaging robots, once constrained to the assembly line, are making way into the warehouses for different applications such as bin picking, pick-and-place, etc. Then, mobile robots that are used for multiple applications of material transfer inside the warehouses. More importantly, during the last 5 years, due to the technological advancements, automation has emerged as a necessity more than a luxury.

DQ: How can the Dynamo, Addverb’s AMR, work alongside humans in warehouses, and do materials movement?

Sangeet Kumar: Dynamo, our in-house built autonomous mobile robot is used for material movement of different payloads from 100 kg to 1000 kg and works in collaboration with humans. It moves at a speed of 1.5 m/s and is guided by LIDAR based natural navigation.

It’s 2-stage sensor mechanism, one, to slow down, and another, to stop the robot, in case there are any obstacles/human intervention in the environment, coupled with the warning &alarm signals makes it very safe to work with humans. The robot’s movement is completely autonomous where in the map of the entire layout is fed at the beginning by taking it for a walk& then it starts working within it by finding out the shortest and less congested path for a given mission (movement operation). This entire operational set up procedure takes less than 20 minutes and a fleet of bots will be ready to perform material handling operations.

The exceptional features that make Dynamo stand out are:

Robust: It can operate in harsh environments like deep-freeze or hazardous areas.
Dynamic planning: In the case of an obstacle it will find an optimal path to reach the target
Easy integration: Seamless addition to existing assembly/production line without changing the present layout.
Flexible movement: Allows free roaming, unlike conveyors, and require less space than conventional forklifts, allowing for narrower aisles.

DQ: How is Addverb ensuring adequate social distancing on shopfloor using robots?

Sangeet Kumar: We have a huge variety of automation solutions that can mechanize various functions of a warehouse, right from inbound to the final dispatch to the customers. At any point, the major objective is to automate the repetitive, mundane, and heavy jobs. For the inbound palletization we use telescopic conveyors, which transfer crates at a speed of 2 m/s and require max one person to unload the truck.

From there, we use articulated robots/ gantry robots depending on the speed required, or the nature of the inventory do palletization. We transfer these pallet loads using either pallet conveyors or driverless forklifts to the dense shelving pallet storage system where Cruiser & Multi-pro, our mother shuttle and child shuttle duo will do the storage and retrieval.

We also provide other ASRS systems such as crane based multi-load ASRS, crane-based unit load ASRS system, traybased ASRS system etc., and all these ASRS systems are completely automatic. The retrieved pallets can be either depalletized or decanted and the material kept in crates can be transferred through mobile robots/a web of smart conveyors to the carton storage dense racking system, where Quadron, our carton shuttle does the storage and retrieval of carton loads and retrieved crates will be transferred to the picking stations, where a picker does the order picking and packing operation.

Then, these packed order crates will be scheduled for dispatch as per the routes, delivery time, truck carriers, etc. Along with the above systems, we also provide multiple automation systems such as goods to person picking technologies through spider bot picking, cobots picking, conventional storage of c-class items through Veloce, a multi-purpose vehicle.

All these systems require very minimal human intervention and can work in perfect symphony under the instructions of our warehouse software such as Mobinity, Optimus, etc. These are the range of solutions we are providing for automating the warehouses, either the customers can go for the automation of their whole facility or some parts of it can be automated – the modular and the plug and play nature of our products allow us to easily customize the solution as per customers’ need.

DQ: How have the executives set up a profitable company within a span of three years without any VC funding?

Sangeet Kumar: All the six co-founders (us) were working with Asian Paints and setting up some of the most automated factories in the world. This helped us experience how technology was disrupting manufacturing. Indian manufacturing got a boost in 2014, when India embarked on ‘Make In India’ campaign.

As we all had a passion for technology, and had seen first-hand how robotics and automation can help manufacturing, and also due to the dearth of robotics players suitable to serve businesses in Indian conditions, we decided to start our own robotics and automation venture.

The aim is to help the businesses embrace automation and Industry 4.0 for their supply chain andmanufacturing operation. They can also achieve flexibility, scalability, and improved operational performance. Despite the multiple challenges, being a young company, against decade oldindustry behemoths, we worked our way slowly and customer by customer. In the initial two years, we always chose to do a pilot implementation to the customer and delivered the promised results with the promised level of customization, this gained us the confidence of the customers.

This not only helped us bag big orders, but also helped us to spread the word across, which brought ussome more orders and gave us a credibility. Keeping the customer in center of everything we do, keen research into the problem, innovative solutioning, world-class manufacturing coupled with the best and passionate team of engineers for executing.

A dedicated aftersales team positioned us to be the preferred automation partner for some of the industry players like HUL, Reliance, Flipkart, CEAT, J&J, etc., to name a few. We raised a Series A funding of 10 Million USD in 2018 with a view to build a worldclass manufacturing facility.

DQ: What are the big changes and challenges faced by the logistics sector during Covid-19, and how is Addverb Technologies addressing them?

Sangeet Kumar: The biggest challenges Covid-19 posed for the logistics and the intra-logistics sector are:

Transport: It was completely closed in all three modes – sea, road, air; both domestic and international. This resulted in complete stopping of transport of raw materials from suppliers to then manufacturers and the final goods to customers.

Shortage of labour: As most people left for the hometowns, there was very less availability.

Lack of strong continency plan: Many businesses have not been prepared to handle this unprecedented crisis and at this scale. Certain industries like essentials such as groceries, FMCG, medicines, etc., have seen a demand surge, and some other industries like entertainment, travel, luxury shopping, etc., took a worse hit.

Reduced consumer spends: The uncertainty prevailed in the market and made consumers spend averse,except on the essentials. As the economy came to a standstill, there is no availability of liquid cash in the market.

While some industries had an adverse blow due to the shutdown of the economy and the lockdown, some other industries flourished, especially the groceries, F&B, pharma and FMCG. To meet increased demand and handicapped supply chain, automation has emerged as the levelling point. With it, various distribution concepts, such as micro fulfilment centers arose.

Till now, the concept of micro fulfilment centers was restricted to some of the advanced countries. Now,they are mushrooming in India. With a diverse range automation product portfolio, we can design multiple solutions of micro fulfillment centers.

Some of the major components that can fulfil the customer order fulfilment within an area of 2k to 10k sqft and within 2 hours of order placement are Dynamo – our autonomous mobile robots, Quadron – our carton shuttle bots, Veloce – our multi-purpose vehicle, Box-it: our picking stations, and the web of conveyors.

Also, to successfully fight the pandemic and assist the frontline warriors of Covid-19, we have designed and deployed Decimator – our disinfectant mobile robot across hospitals, and quarantine centers. This can be used across multiple public places such as shopping malls, airports, railways stations, schools, etc., to disinfect with UV rays.

With 50mj/cm2 UV light, it kills the virus/bacteria/fungai to 99.99% & helps in reducing the contraction of facility acquired infections by keeping the surroundings clean. With the natural navigation capability and the computer vision Decimator moves from place to place and sprays UV rays in 360 degree.

DQ: What are your business goals for FY 2020-21 and plans for the next year?

Sangeet Kumar: The last three years have been very eventful for us. We have onboarded clients from various sectors and have deployed our automation solutions across the length and breadth of the country. We very strongly feel that this is the time to take Indian technology global. We have opened up an office in Singapore and completed a couple of big-ticket automation projects in Europe.

Our global footprint is expanding rapidly, and we aim to make a stronghold in global markets in the coming years. India continues to be our focus area and we will continue to provide affordable Robotic and automation solutions thus leading to higher adoption among Indian companies and we will also penetrate the education, hotels, and airports industries.

DQ: How is Addverb’s picking solution helping business in improving customer SLA?

Sangeet Kumar: One of the major objectives of operating a warehouse or running a fulfilment operation is to increase the dispatch accuracies and to improve inventory accuracy.

Our picking solutions help the customer to keep inventory levels accurate and also improves the dispatch accuracy upto 99.9%. The real-time update of stocks and the resulting accuracy levels helps business in optimising their cost of operations by more than 15% on an average.

DQ: Elaborate on the Addverb’s voice-based picking technology ‘Khushi’, and image-based picking solution ‘Quimo.

Sangeet Kumar: Addverb’s robust products based on Industry 4.0, enables us to design innovative warehouse and intralogistics automation solutions. Addverb’s Voice Picking system, Khushi (Pick by Voice) offers paperless hands-free order picking and fulfilment solutions that gives high accuracy and productivity.

Upon activation, Khushi gives verbal instructions to the picker on which location to go, how much quantity to pick, and a double check on the product picked, and then the location of the next order.

If an operator can pick up to 60 items in an hour when he is using pen and paper to search and locate the item, the same operator can pick up to 240 items in an hour if he is using a Pick-By-Voice. It can be installed on any Android smartphone, and is available in 14 Indian languages, including Hindi andEnglish. Khushi is enabled with speechtotext and vice-versa algorithms enabled with AI and ML.

It continuously interacts with the picker during the picking that makes the picker to be more engaged in the job; it also showcases the dashboard of various performance indicators, helping pickers to keep a track of how they are performing vis-a-vis with their peers.

Quimo, our pick by vision system is another Person to Goods picking technology designed to enhance the productivity of the pickers and the overall order picking accuracy.

It is an augmented reality system,offers hands-free operation with 100% error-free picking and improves quality control. It is best suited for large DCs with thousands of orders processed daily.

Vision Picking glasses comprises an integrated navigation system that guides the operator through ARand provides the shortest travel path to reach the destination. Integrated camera in vision picking glasses optically displays order information providing the source and target locations.

They are connected with an existing network for real-time inventory management and updating all the stocks accordingly. Pick by vision fits the requirement for fast picking environments enabling workflow improvement and process optimization.

DQ: What is the imperative need for shop floor and warehouse automation in the post-pandemic world?

Sangeet Kumar: Right now, the availability of workforce in warehouses is limited as most of the working class left for their hometowns due to the fear of Covid-19. Even after their return, due to social distancing norms, factories and warehouses will not be able to deploy full force. Hence, in order to operate at full capacity, now there is the need of automation more than ever – AMRs that move material from one place to other, driverless forklifts, IoT that provide visibility etc.

Also, it is essential to maintain minimum no. of touches on the product while it is inside the warehouses,so automation systems can be used for that, like goodsto-person technologies such as shuttles, ASRS systems and the respective software.

The rise of ecommerce, especially for essentials like groceries, medicines, etc., has necessitated the warehouses to be located near to the customer that is inside the cities, which led to the rise of micro fulfilment centres. These MFCs are mini distribution centres, enclosed in an area of 2k to 10k sq.ft., and can help deliver the orders to customers within 2 hours of order placement. To minimize the operational expenses of these MFCs and to fulfil the customer expectations of < 2-hour delivery, MFC need to use automation. That is a big boost to the automation industry in the post-Covid-19 world.

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