One of the country’s largest machinery and equipment companies has introduced AI, or artificial intelligence, into their day-to-day operations at their Hunter Valley business.
WesTrac at Tomago has launched an AutoStore system that uses unique robots with memory technology powered by AI to understand where specific parts are stored in the warehouse before they go and retrieve the orders within 5 to 10 minutes.
Warehouse Operations Manager Natalia Trewin said the AutoStore system has made the distribution centre operate in a safe and efficient manner by using robots to pick up orders, keeping people out of harm’s way.
“WesTrac’s warehouse operates 24/7 to provide our customers with efficient service, and with the tight labour market, we needed a practical solution to fulfill our customers’ orders as quickly as possible,
“We decided to implement the AutoStore system, which is set up similar to a Rubik’s cube, with very densely packed plastic tubs sitting on top of each other in a large cube that robots dip down into to pull out needed parts.
“The system uses 24 robots, who are all uniquely identified with colours and names like Wall-E, Bumblebee and Pickeralla, that are capable of picking 500 product lines per hour.”
Natalia Trewin said over time, the AI-powered robotic system will adjust locations of the parts in the warehouse based on live usage data, so the most required parts are at optimal positions.
“Since these robots joined the WesTrac team, we have started looking at potential future growth thanks to their quick turnaround time, which includes increasing customer orders and boosting the scale of our operations.”
“We are entering a new and exciting era as AI becomes more advanced, and for WesTrac, using AI to provide better support for our customers was a no-brainer.”
Even better than making operations more efficient, the AI technology hasn’t taken away any jobs, it’s made more.
“We have an opportunity to diversify the kinds of jobs that they do day-to-day. So instead of having to pick parts for a full eight hour shift, they now can move around, pick parts, get through that work volume and move to other stations.
“We have also created other roles like maintenance roles and tech roles within the business,” Natalia Trewin said.