Based in San Antonio, Texas, Plus One Robotics makes vision software for robots in warehouses and distribution centers. They give robots the eye-hand coordination to pick and place objects using 3D and AI-powered perception. One of their innovations was created to solve the problems of a mixed pallet - they call it the PickOne Mixed Depalletizing Solution.
What is a mixed pallet?
In a warehouse and in shipping, goods are commonly placed on wooden pallets to aid in their stable transportation. A pallet filled with items of a similar size and shape, and with a regular or known pallet pattern is fairly easy for a robotic arm to handle. But as the landscape of shipped goods continues to expand, these types of relatively simple pallets are becoming less common.
As e-commerce grows, customer demand requires logistics centers to handle daily shipments that change constantly. As a result, a pallet will get stacked with a variety of items, resulting in a mixed pallet. The stacked items on the mixed pallet might be different sizes or contained within different types of packaging, from boxes and cans to soft-sided items wrapped in plastic. Since the mixed pallets are often stacked in a non-uniform way, removing items from a mixed pallet, called depalletizing, can be a challenge.
Challenges of a mixed pallet
Understanding a mixed pallet is a pretty easy task for a human. Given an assortment of items, it’s easy to understand how to pick each item up and where to put it. While it might be an easy task, it’s not an easy job. The repetitive and physical nature of the job is hard on the human body and mind. It ends up being a position with a high turnover rate and a high rate of injury.
Mixed depalletizing solution
Plus One Robotics created a smart warehouse robotic solution for depalletizing mixed pallets called the PickOne Depalletizing Solution. Using AI data, PickOne software commands a robot on how to pick each item and then verifies correct placement. PickOne is the brains for the robot’s “hand-eye coordination” to perform a range of picking and placing tasks in e-commerce fulfillment and warehouse distribution centers.
Human-in-the-loop remote robot supervisor
While PickOne makes these robots smart, they still aren’t as smart as humans. For example, new packaging, highly reflective plastic wraps, broken packages and many other exceptions can confuse a robot. Plus One created software for humans to manage the robot and address the confusion.
In fact, with Plus One’s software called Yonder, humans can manage a team of robots from just about anywhere. Yonder provides exception handling, so when a robot isn’t sure what to do with a package, the human manager is alerted. The human can give directions from a remote location and the robot can get back to work. The AI is constantly learning, so that the next time the exception is seen, the robot knows what to do.
When looking for a platform for their solutions, Plus One had challenging requirements. The computer needed to be highly reliable and powerful to support a high powered GPU and enough USB data lanes for up to 20 Intel RealSense cameras. In addition, some of their customers require the hardware platform to have a UL listing.
“The OnLogic Karbon 804 met all of our requirements. The compact yet powerful solution supports our needs today with room for expansion. Additionally, the location of OnLogic production facilities in the US and the Netherlands saves us time and money when it comes to shipping solutions and supporting our customers around the world.”- Shaun Edwards, Chief Technical Officer at Plus One Robotics
PickOne with Yonder is showing a great success rate. For example, one client implementation began at a pick accuracy rate around 85% out of the box and using PickOne and Yonder to collect data about the new and unusual items, they increased the accuracy rate to 94% in three weeks and 98% in six weeks.
What’s next for Plus One?
Plus One recently opened their European headquarters in the Netherlands which also happens to be the location of OnLogic's EU headquarters. This proximity will save costs and time as OnLogic systems can be built and shipped directly from our Netherlands office to Plus One’s newly opened Netherlands office to support their growth.