Imaging Systems are Leading the Way for Warehouse Profitability

When you walk into today’s modern warehouse you will see vision-guided vehicles moving shelves, self-docking to recharge, and navigating complex areas by themselves. You’ll notice as orders come in, machine vision and imaging systems help the products move quickly from the warehouse to the recipient’s address through identification, sorting, packaging, and shipping applications. Machine vision and imaging systems are enabling technologies at the forefront of these exciting technological advancements.

Vision for Tracking

Barcode readers are described as “the bread and butter of imaging applications in the warehouse.”

Warehouse automation seems simple at first glance since the primary need is accurately reading a barcode and guiding a package to a destination; however, getting a large volume of packages to move quickly and accurately is a challenge, and success begins with leveraging information.

A collection of technology tracks packages on their paths through a shipping facility. Barcode readers are needed to recognize characters, sensors must detect either the presence or absence of a package, dimensioners scan the package to determine its volume, and machine vision cameras capture accuracy in labeling among other content.

Vision for Handling

While cameras, lighting, and cables are still purchased as separate components based on the application, there is a growing trend toward seamlessly integrating these components into a final solution, such as the autonomous vehicles from Fetch Robotics.

Handling packages efficiently means a positive return on investment. A company that invested in autonomous vehicles from Fetch noted that the machines traveled 1,000 kilometers in six months, a distance that employees no longer had to travel. In the article from Materials, Management and Distribution magazine, Robots proving ROI in California DC, the money spent to buy the vehicles was recouped in a few months.

Expect imaging to “become ubiquitous” as noted in the article Changing the face of machine vision? from Imaging and Machine Vision Europe.

As embedded vision becomes more widely used in warehouses, imaging will indeed be “everywhere.” Dedicated inspection stations may become obsolete, since vision systems will be built into robots and other autonomous vehicles being deployed in a variety of applications.

Vision for Profitability

The price of imaging technology has fallen steadily over the past several years. As a result, vision is more accessible now than ever before and innovation in the space is leading to many new applications. Linking a robot and vision system together has always been a challenge, but today’s vision systems offer sophisticated solutions to customers interested in installing vision-guided robot systems. 

Machine vision component markets are still thriving as well, because not every application is best suited for an all-in-one solution. When handling advanced 3D algorithms, for example, the memory requirements are intensive and having a machine vision system with a processing unit separate from the robot controller can work best.

A brief video in the Why I Automate series, available through the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), touches on machine vision.

“Wherever a human being needs to look, 99% of the time we can do it with a camera,” says Integro’s Starke Farley, Sr. Sales Engineer. In the video, he says a client implemented a complete machine vision system and relocated the few human inspectors to other parts of the company’s operations. Inspection throughput increased by 600% in a year.

Imaging systems take many different forms and as the applications expand, it’s important to stay on top of the trends and developments to deploy them in the most valuable way. Start with the many resources available through A3.