A Chinese firm has developed a fully-automated warehouse that is run completely by robots and has minimal input from humans.
The roles of picking, lifting and moving heavy items are done by machines that are controlled and instructed by ‘robot controllers’.
Briefcase size ‘controllers’ are key to the system and act as an operating system for the warehouse.
They do the ‘thinking’ and decision-making processes and instruct other machines to perform certain actions.
This reduces the need for all robots to be manually ‘taught’ and streamlines the process, making it more efficient, the manufacturers claim.
Mujin, a start-up from the University of Tokyo, is developing this technology in the hope of achieving full automation.
It received widespread attention in June when it partnered with Chinese manufacturer JD.com and unveiled its new-era warehouse.
The 40,000-square metre (430,000 square feet) facility in Shanghai is staffed by 20 industrial robots that perform all the duties a human worker would normally be responsible for.
‘My goal is to automate warehouses in America and make a lot of success stories there,’ Mujin’s American co-founder and CTO, Rosen Diankov Diankov told CNBC.
‘But will people value that, and are there enough people with expertise to do it? That’s why we started in Japan.’
Mr Diankov believes fears of robots taking jobs from people don’t reflect the reality of the workplace.
‘Introducing robots creates more jobs, and history has shown that’s been the case,’ he said.
‘Companies that have embraced automation, like Toyota — it’s the biggest car company in the world now.’
‘The approach is like that of a train, plane or rocket — you don’t want it to be self-learning, just predictable when it goes from A to B,’ Mr Diankov added.
‘That’s how you create innovation, with perfectly predictable systems.
‘That’s what we’re trying to do with robotics. I like to call this machine intelligence, not artificial intelligence.’