January 28, 2022
Japan’s NEC Corporation has announced the development of a control technology that doubles the efficiency of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in warehouses while maintaining a high level of safety. NEC said it plans to put the technology into practical use by March 2024, and to have it installed in NEC’s cooperative AMRs in Japan.
NEC said that when robots have been introduced to automate transport work, it has been necessary to reduce traveling speed to ensure safety, making it harder to improve transport efficiency. Because companies have needed to construct passageways and areas dedicated to mobile robots in order to accelerate speed while ensuring safety, it has been difficult in some cases to introduce robots into existing warehouses.
As a response, NEC said it developed “risk-sensitive stochastic control technology” that can control AMRs and meet safety demands. The company does this by utilizing models that can express uncertain factors that vary from one site to another, such as sensor measurement errors and differences between simulation results and actual robot movements. In addition, the new technology has adopted methods that have been used in actuarial finance, NEC said.
As a result, robots will be able to autonomously determine when to travel at high speed, and over the shortest distances, when traveling in low-risk locations without workers, objects on the floor, or other obstacles. Conversely, robots will travel at a low speed when using routes that are determined to be high-risk locations. When comparing transport work between a robot applying this technology and a conventional robot, NEC said it confirmed that the work time was halved and the transfer efficiency could be doubled while ensuring safety. The company added that safety and efficiency can be achieved without dedicated robot areas, making it easier to install in existing warehouses.
NEC said it will continue to develop these technologies through onsite demonstration experiments, aiming for early installation in AMRs for several industries.
For more details on the technology, visit the NEC website here.