Decontamination Robots In The Supply Chain?

Decontamination robots have become a logistical must-have for promoting safety and labor efficiencies during the global coronavirus pandemic. 

With the COVID-19 outbreak, safety has become the top priority for companies, including and especially manufacturing operations. There have unfortunately been a lot of corporate lapses in worker safety, leading to virus outbreaks in factory settings or even protests against some of the top employers. Organizations are being forced to note the impacts of how this pandemic is hitting their workforce and adjust their forward-thinking plans for safety and productivity. 

Robots and automated machines have quickly stepped in to fill in the gaps where humans can’t during the pandemic. There’s been a surge in the implementation of all sorts of machines, from decontamination robots to more sterile production devices.

Considering implementing your own decontamination robots in the warehouse? Reach out to the Innovation team at Redwood Logistics and let us help you navigate the process from start to finish.


Manufacturing Shifts From COVID-19

In a study by PWC, more than half of manufacturers stated that COVID-19 is going to impact their operations. There’s worry about how this pandemic and employee illness will affect the workforce and productivity. To fill in gaps and make advancements to meet these concerns, a lot of manufacturers are looking to automated robotics as a solution. 

Rather than shutting down, some logistics operations are hoping to use robots to meet the concerns the pandemic has raised. This includes: 

  • Decontaminating surfaces in the warehouse
  • Decontaminating packages before delivery 
  • Augmenting the workforce so employees can call out sick or be locked down
  • Supporting health and safety measures, like social distancing
  • Remotely observing work operations (fewer employees/managers on the floor)
  • Offering people-free delivery options
  • Handling infectious materials safely

Robots are becoming a key player to handle almost every aspect of this crisis. Texas A&M’s robotics team found that as of April 20, 2020, robots were being used worldwide for a variety of uses including public safety, clinical care, infrastructure, non-hospital care, and supply chain automation. Some robots are even disinfecting public areas and monitoring traffic flow. Singapore deployed robot dogs that encourage social distancing and broadcast public service messages. Some can even use heat-sensing to identify infected citizens. 

The rate of implementation, usage, and creation of new robot functions has exploded in the past two months. In a world where humans can no longer come in contact, robots are making contact for us. 


Decontamination Robots Moving to the Warehouse

One of the most fascinating widespread adoptions of automation has been decontamination robots. What was previously only found in hospitals and a few plants and warehouses is now becoming a popular trend for nearly every logistical center. It’s been around for 50 years in sewage plants and hospital rooms, but now these bots are increasing in implementation and usage at unprecedented rates. Some automation companies, like UVD Robots, are even seeing a 4x growth in the number of decontamination robotics orders. 

These robots use UV light to disinfect surfaces quickly and effectively. This UV light has a particular wavelength that’s able to destroy the DNA structure of microorganisms, creating a germ-free environment. They’re highly effective, killing almost every germ it comes in contact with. 


How do decontamination robots work? In most cases, a company will use 360-degree UV lights on autonomous mobile robots (AMR). The bots can then be teleoperated or roam autonomously to get the job done. The bot moves around the room to sanitize quickly, effectively, and at all angles. They can steer themselves, and they can even use sensors and SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) to memorize and respond to their surroundings. If there’s something in the way, it can move around it—and disinfect it. 


Benefits of using decontamination robots 

  • UV robots can decontaminate surfaces as well as kill airborne particles (which are where a strong portion of germs are). Human cleaning alone can only get the surfaces. 
  • Robots are much faster than people. With a bot, a hospital room can be completely disinfected in 10 minutes. An entire warehouse could take hours, if not days, for complete disinfection by humans; with robots, it’s a couple of hours at the outside. 
  • It’s a lot easier (and more effective) for robots to disinfect nooks and crannies—that humans don’t even think to clean.
  • Humans operate the robots remotely, so there is no loss of jobs in the process. 


Concerns with decontamination robots 

  • The UV light can damage human eyes and skin, so they can’t be used in conjunction with humans. They require remote regulation. (This is a positive, too.)
  • Most robots have a maximum height limit of disinfection. This means they’re not always effective in larger warehouse settings with tall shelving. However, they’re still useful for ground level and employee level decontamination, which is the most critical at this stage. 
  • Robots require upkeep, like rebooting, recharging, and disinfecting the robots themselves. Like any other technology, they need thoughtful implementation processes in order to be effective. 

Of course, no solution is 100% perfect. However, decontamination robots are constantly improving and getting more effective and efficient with each update. 


Robots to Maintain Social Distancing

Decontamination robots aren’t the only robots fighting the pandemic in warehouses. As companies are adjusting to social distancing rules, robots are able to step in to help support these efforts.

For example, a lot of warehouses are using robots to transport materials between humans. This is helping to reduce contact while maintaining (and even boosting productivity). Robots are essentially becoming the “glue” that reduces distance while minimizing the risk of contamination between people. 


Are Robots the Future? 

Prior to COVID-19, robots were already in the works to take over the supply chain. Now, the robotics implementation is happening at a much faster rate. Global emergencies always push technological changes, and this accelerated adoption of robotics is just the start of what’s to come.

All manufacturers, whether or not they’re shut down during the pandemic, are looking for long term solutions to the issues we’re now facing. Automation is stepping in to better prioritize worker safety and health while also ensuring the highest rate of efficiency. We anticipate that robots will be at the forefront of the recovery phase of COVID-19 and beyond. 

If you’re looking for ways to keep your operations running healthily while prioritizing worker safety, you’ll want to consider implementing new technologies throughout your supply chain. 

Redwood Logistics can help. For years, we’ve been creating custom solutions for companies just like yours. We offer the most advanced tech and human-based services to ensure you’re meeting the highest safety and productivity standards. 

We know right now is an uncertain time. That’s why we’re offering FREE consultations for businesses looking to manage and grow during/after COVID-19. Reach out to us to schedule your free consultation.