Honeywell and Otto automate North American warehouses

  • April 4, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Honeywell is working with Canadian firm Otto Motors to give warehouses and distribution centres across North America an automated option to handle some of the most labour-intensive roles.

Otto, a division of Clearpath Robotics, has also launched what it claims is the world’s smartest autonomous forklift.

The Otto Lifter is a smart autonomous forklift that drives nimbly in crowded and dynamic environments and can improve safety in warehouses and facilities. With sensors and autonomous driving capabilities, it can work alongside people, other vehicles, and existing infrastructure providing businesses with safer material handling.

The collaboration enables Honeywell customers to increase efficiency, reduce errors and improve safety by deploying Otto’s autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in their facilities. These AMRs provide productivity benefits by automating the movement of carts used to transport picked orders or returns and can travel over any floor surface smooth enough to handle a traditional cart pushed by a worker. Instead of spending more than half the day walking, workers can park carts in designated pickup locations throughout the facility and call robots to retrieve them.

These AMRs also offer a flexible way to transport pallets typically accomplished primarily with forklifts and conveyor systems.

“Supply chains continue to be stressed by staffing shortages and consumer demands driving expectations of speedy and accurate fulfilment,” said Keith Fisher, president of Honeywell Intelligrated. “Tackling the more dynamic, unstructured environments of today’s distribution centres calls for more sophisticated robots, and Otto’s AMRs have been proven to be deployed and adapted quickly to changing market conditions or peak buying seasons.”

The AMRs are smart enough to interact safely with human co-workers and other vehicles, find a different route if their original path is blocked, and respond to rapid changes in orders or logistics needs, all without human intervention. They can work with Honeywell automated products including its smart flexible depalletiser and automated storage and retrieval system, increasing efficiency and automation within the warehouse.

“Otto Motors provides autonomous material handling inside manufacturing facilities and warehouses and is the technology behind some of the largest deployments of AMRs in North America,” said Matt Rendall, CEO of Otto Motors. “Our relationship with Honeywell shows we partner with the very best integrators and tech leaders to provide business with industry expertise to automate a wide range of workflows in their facilities.”

While AMRs handle repetitive and often time-consuming tasks, increasingly scarce labour resources can be shifted to higher-value jobs. This delivers multiple benefits, such as boosting worker satisfaction, while reducing injuries and turnover rates.

The pandemic and its lasting effects on labour shortages is causing companies to reconsider the way they operate. A Honeywell study revealed more than half of companies are more willing to invest in automation because of the pandemic and its lasting effects. The same study showed companies see increased speed of tasks, greater productivity and increased employee use and productivity as the top three potential benefits from automation.

Robot sales in North America had their strongest year in 2021 as more industries look to automation to increase productivity and alleviate ongoing labour shortages, according to the Association for Advancing Automation. The industry association revealed that, while companies are expanding their applications of robotics and automation throughout their facilities, many first-time users are increasingly turning to robotics to stay productive and competitive.

The Otto Motors collaboration gives Honeywell customers a suite of fixed and mobile robotics, backed by expert systems integration, development and round-the-clock technical support.