Amazon Announces Winner of Robotic Picking Challenge

Supply Chain Industry Update: Amazon Announces Winner of Robotic Picking Challenge

From the warehouse to the sales floor, supply chain automation is on the rise. As Walmart prepares to implement drone-managed inventory, Amazon is looking to perfect a robotic picking and binning system.

From June 30, to July 3rd, 2016 Amazon held a robotic picking contest as a part of Robocup, in Leipzig, Germany. 500 teams from 40 countries competed in challenges ranging from robotic soccer playing to disaster recovery tasks.

This was Amazon’s second such contest during which robots designed by 16 teams picked and put away 12 items on simulated distribution center shelves like those currently carried in their warehouses by Kiva robots. The shelves were not moved during this challenge. Unlike the contest in 2015, won by Team RBO from Berlin, the shelves contained more items in harder to reach arrangements. Each team had 15 minutes to pick and stock as many items as possible.

The winner of both phases of the challenge this year was Netherlands based Delft Robotics, which utilized artificial intelligence and 3D scanning to direct a gripping suction arm.

Kanter van Deurzen of Delft told ZDNet “I believe our critical success factor was that each individual component was of an industrial standard. Robotics, especially combined with dynamic path planning and 3d vision, requires a multidisciplinary approach.”

Robotic picking is still slower than the human version, but as teams share technology and learn from one another, automation of complex warehouse tasks may not be far from realization.

While some fear the robots are coming for their jobs, Supply Chain Digest reported Amazon hopes that robots will enhance efficiency by working with their human employees rather than replacing them.