Whether an enormous uptick in demand or a broken link, supply chains have been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zac Boehm, Director of Innovative Systems at AHS, says many of the fulfillment optimization company’s customers have seen big spikes that are requiring robots and automation to help the supply chain operate more efficiently.

“Everybody is going online, because stores aren’t open,” he said. “A lot of the things our direct-to-consumer customers have to deal with now are even six to 10 times peak.

“So, essentially, what they have to do with the same facility and a similar amount of people is, let’s say, get 10,000 units out today. Then, tomorrow during the peak time or next week during peak time or during a Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday time frame, get six times that or 10 times that. They have to have a very flexible system.”

Of course, the business may regress to the mean when retail locations begin to open up again or when a product isn’t in as much demand. Yet, that doesn’t mean bulking up on robots who are sitting around gathering dust during off hours.

“A lot of our customers in (e-commerce) during their peak time frame are going to need 20 robots to complete a different task,” Boehm said. “Well, during their average time frame, they only need 10. So, are there other processes that are non-value-added that those robots could do and be tasked to do during those non-peak times?”

Often, the answer to that question is yes if the robots have the flexible technology that AHS can provide. Perhaps a robot who has been picking up items during peak hours can be utilized for trash haul-away or another task around the warehouse.

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