Thanks to the high demand and the ongoing specialization of mobile robots, fleets are becoming more diverse — causing many issues in the robotics industry.
With diverse mobile fleets comes an extended need for communication between the different types and brands of robots. Interoperability refers to the ability of computer systems or programs to exchange information. At the moment, there is a clear lack of industry-wide adoption of interoperability practices — especially when it comes to mobile robot fleets.
The need for interoperability is driven by two main factors: the growing demand for mobile robots and the diversification of robotic fleets. In this article, we will discuss how a universal fleet management system can address these interoperability challenges.
Growing Demand for Mobile Robots
With the tremendous growth of the robotics industry, the global robotics market is now estimated to reach USD 209.38B by 2025, growing at a 26% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). While such market growth offers many opportunities, it also comes with quite some challenges — especially with the ongoing adoption of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs).
With this increasing demand for mobile robots, it is no surprise that many warehouses around the world are automating their facilities. In fact, the warehouse automation market is projected to reach a value of USD 30B in 2026 at a 10.41% CAGR during the forecast period — up from USD 15B back in 2019.
Robotics Diversification Trend
With technological advances, mobile robots are seeing new levels of specialization as they are now capable of serving more specific use cases. The growing demand and diversification of mobile robots will result in manufacturers not being able to keep up with the demand. This means that companies will need to buy robots from multiple manufacturers to fulfill their operational needs.
This will result in even more diverse mobile robot fleets. We can already see now that many warehouses, hospitals, logistic centers, and factories are deploying different types of robots from different manufacturers. They could have a specific type of robot for lifting heavy items, one from a different brand for lifting small items, another one for security, one for cleaning, etc.
As for now, this can cause real problems for warehouse operations. Each manufacturer supplies its robot with its own operating system and when one of their robots is introduced to a fleet with robots from other manufacturers, these robots would not be able to communicate with each other. It is of great importance that as robots become more autonomous, they need to begin to communicate effectively to avoid collisions, serious accidents on the work floor, delays in operations, and so forth.
Interoperability Pain Points
In their recent report “Robotics Interoperability: A solution to the communication issues of diverse mobile robot fleets”, Meili Robots have included a case study that explores the pain points of interoperability.
The project was carried out at a Danish hospital that has deployed different types of mobile robots from different brands. The project aimed to test, adjust, and customize a fleet management solution. It was no surprise that the outcome showed that the robots’ own independent control systems were unable to integrate with the hospital’s logistics system or the operating systems of other robots within the fleet.
This proved that there is a need for a universal fleet manager that offers a full overview of the entire fleet — meaning all types and brands of robots — with detailed information on the individual robots as well as data analytics features. It is crucial that, in order to avoid collisions or other accidents, third-party robots’ routes, speed, locations, etc. can be controlled in a leveled way. This will also optimize operational efficiency.
If you would like a more in-depth analysis of the importance of interoperability in the robotics industry, you can download the full report for free here.
A Universal Fleet Management System for Mobile Robots and Its Benefits
What Is a Universal Fleet Management System?
A universal fleet management system is a system that can perform the complete and centralized management of a fleet of mixed vehicles. These vehicles can be of different types, brands, or sizes — in this case, a fleet of mixed mobile robots.
These types of systems can include multiple important features such as task management, fleet monitoring (the location of each robot, statuses, battery levels, missions in progress, etc.), route planning, traffic control, and/or data analytics. Some advanced systems also incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring their functionalities to another level of automation, making their systems smarter and more effective while at the same time saving operational costs and energy.
3 Major Benefits of a Universal Fleet Management System
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, there are three significant advantages of a universal fleet management system that are worth taking into consideration. Let’s take a look at them.
Increase Operational Efficiency
With a universal fleet management system like Meili FMS, you can easily detect disruptions or other issues as they occur and notify the prospective robots in real-time. Via the comprehensive overview that comes with a universal fleet manager, you can not only respond to problems more quickly and remotely, but you can also reduce the downtime of your robots significantly while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of your fleet.
Optimize Operational Safety
Traffic control is one of the most essential features of a fleet management system as it enables your entire fleet to detect other robots, forklifts, human workers, and blocked areas — making it easier for them to detect and predict bottlenecks. For example, rather than driving right into a predicted bottleneck and causing collisions, the robot can now automatically create a new route, divert, and reach its destination in a safer and more efficient way.
Accelerate Sustainable Operations
It happens too often that robots are driving around a facility without a payload, wasting lots of energy. Through its smart tasking algorithms, a universal fleet manager like Meili FMS provides you with an automated task allocation feature. This allows you to assign tasks to the right robots at the right time and eliminate unnecessary fleet idle time — thereby, saving lots of energy and improving your sustainability records.
Evidently, the robotics industry is facing a major challenge: the demand for robots keeps growing while robots are also becoming more and more specialized — meaning that due to their unique, individual operating systems, they cannot communicate amongst each other.
In order to enable this communication and prevent operational delays, accidents, and collisions, a universal fleet management system is needed. Not only will this optimize operational processes and increase profits, but it will also help scale businesses to the next level.