Q&A on robotics with Graham Maggs, Mouser Electronics
Electronic Specifier spoke to Graham Maggs, Vice President Of Marketing And Business Development EMEA about robotics in Mouser's vast warehouse system. In this Q&A, Graham discusses the various approaches to automation, the role of humans in the process, and other areas of robotics and logistics.
How does Mouser currently utilise robotics within its vast warehouse system?
At Mouser, automation and robots work hand-in-hand with humans. Working together improves productivity and efficiency. We will still need more people to work in our distribution centre (it is always expanding at the moment!), but the automation makes us work smarter.
In terms of robotics, our distribution centre has recently installed an AutoStore system, which is a unique and simple solution that uses robots and bins to quickly process orders. It provides better use of available space than any other automated system thanks to its unique design that enables direct stacking of bins on top of each other and storage of multiple part numbers in a single bin. The small robots travel on a grid system on top of the AutoStore, picking and transporting part numbers to the relevant locations.
We also employ vertical lift modules (VLMs) to help staff process orders quickly and efficiently. VLMs are essentially giant vertical filing cabinets, complete with shelves and an automated extractor to bring the components to the employee’s workstation. With 120 VLMs, Mouser now has the largest VLM installation in the world. VLMs increase efficiency and floor space and can reduce an employee's walking time by 45 per cent or more.
What other automation does Mouser use within its warehouse system?
In addition to the massive VLM installation, Mouser's distribution centre features multiple Ultipack and I-Pack machines – a sophisticated automated system for boxing, sealing and labelling shipments that can process up to 14 orders per minute. We also use an OPEX Perfect Pick system for consolidation.
With automation & robotics becoming more integrated into warehouse systems worldwide, what role do humans play within the Mouser warehouse?
Because we deliver single quantities of components, we will always rely on employees for the special handling that those small orders require. Our adoption of start-of-the-art automation acts primarily as a means of boosting efficiency, productivity, accuracy and speed. These new systems can also be a positive driver of more sustainable operations and improved customer satisfaction, too. As sensing and robotics technology improves, we will be adopting even more automation technology, helping to increase our efficiency and ease of working for our warehouse team.
What are Mouser's future plans regarding warehouse automation?
Mouser’s massive global distribution centre is located on the 78-acre campus of our corporate headquarters in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in Texas. It currently handles a vast inventory of more than 1.1 million unique stock keeping units for products from over 1,200 manufacturer brands. Processing tens of thousands of orders weekly – most within 15 minutes – and maintaining a strong commitment to customer service, Mouser employees are handling the technological advancements with great success.
As the company continues to grow, we will be expanding the distribution centre even further, connecting the buildings through a series of walkways between the two spaces. It is an exciting time for Mouser Electronics, and we look forward to sharing more updates about our warehouse later this year.