Laying the foundation for automated warehousing


Warehouses are being automated at a growing rate across Australia. Kevin Dare, Managing Director of the CoGri Group, explains how Face Consultants is helping businesses pair automated machines with warehouse floors tailored to their requirements.

The e-commerce explosion has led to more automated options in warehousing, such as Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) and Automatic Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) being used in the materials handling process. 

Kevin Dare, Managing Director of the CoGri Group, says the automation is only as good as the platform it  runs on.

“Automated warehouses pose different requirements for the floors to three years ago,” Kevin says. “There are many new robotics companies coming online now specifying their own floor requirements with very little regard to the construction industry’s ability to understand them, let alone build to them. A move to a standard specification approach is needed.”  

As part of the global industrial flooring consortium, the CoGri Group, Face Consultants helps Australian businesses understand the automated suppliers’ specifications. Face provides advice on flatness and carries out design reviews to ensure the design meets the requirements of the automated supplier. Staff work on-site to ensure a new development is being built as designed.

“Before the e-commerce era, specifying warehouse floors was relatively easy with regard to the equipment that operated on it. What rack leg load? How high is the racking? Wide aisle or Very Narrow Aisle?”

Over tens of years, both the logistics and construction industry have evolved floor standards that are fit for purpose and understood by both parties. Now, AGVs and AMRs introduce new challenges, with bespoke flatness requirements and additional characteristics never regarded as necessary with traditional materials handling equipment, according to Kevin. 

“Automation has placed a greater emphasis on floor flatness requirements and also testing for slip resistance, roughness, gloss rating and electrical discharge to prevent static build-up before a warehouse gets the green light for operations to begin,” he says.

Kevin says Face Consultants work to bridge the gap between the materials handling and construction industries by understanding the requirements of the former and having the capabilities to deliver for the latter.

“Robotics companies understand their equipment, but they don’t speak the same language as construction companies when providing the specification for the floor,” he says. “We not only develop equipment to tests floors, but we help develop these specifications so that the construction industry can easily understand how to deliver the platform.”

Despite years of experience working with some of the biggest materials handling businesses in the world, Face Consultants is still learning and adjusting to the challenges automation throws at the warehouse floor. 

For example, Kevin says some of the AMRs have characteristics that can accelerate the wear of the floor, as their casters snap into position when the robot moves off at right angles to the original line of travel.

“We’ve never seen this characteristic in the past and it’s causing greater wear and tear to the floor,” he says. “The materials handling industry has been comfortable for many years, but we now need to be aware of these new challenges.” 

Kevin says Australia has been late to adopt these changes compared to the rest of the world, but more businesses are beginning to flick the switch. He reinforces that the biggest challenge in this transition is providing floor specifications that the construction industry understands.

“Our work is very specialised,” he says. “Incorrect or over-specifications happen because even the best floor designers don’t always understand what’s required, deferring to what the construction industry can deliver rather than what the materials handling industry needs. This is where we help get the floor right the first time.”

For more information on Face Consultants, click here

For more information on CoGri Group, click here

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