KNAPP and Covariant Partnership Advances AI Robotics for more Efficient Warehouses

Press information: Published on in Company, Technology

KNAPP, technology partner for intelligent value chains, and Covariant, a leading global AI robotics company, strengthen their partnership to further develop AI-powered robot solutions and expand their market presence. So far, KNAPP and Covariant have successfully implemented multiple projects together, with KNAPP’s picking robot – the Pick-it-Easy Robot – at the forefront of their endeavors. The robot’s ability to handle a wide range of items and suitability for various sector applications have proven their value in improving warehouse efficiency across numerous industries.

Several customers in North America, Europe and Australia, such as US pharmaceutical wholesaler McKesson, run their warehouses with an automation solution combined with the Pick-it-Easy Robot. McKesson can count on their Pick-it-Easy Robot as it works reliably around the clock. Powered by the Covariant Brain, a sophisticated artificial intelligence, the robot is able to recognize different packaging and characteristics on the medicinal products. The robot processes orders fully automatically, while fulfilling all the legal requirements to ensure patient safety. “US medicine packaging is very complex, posing a great challenge to fully automatic robotic picking. Getting there was not exactly easy, but today we can pick a large part of the product range with the Pick-it-Easy Robot,” says Todd Kleinow, Vice President of Strategic Distribution and Operations at McKesson.

AI-powered brain masters current challenges in picking

The demands for quality, efficiency and performance on logistics processes are increasing. The range of items is also becoming more and more diverse while cost pressure is intensifying. On top of that, space and qualified personnel are becoming increasingly scarce. Against this backdrop, fully automatic picking is the solution. The robot reliably handles items with different characteristics. Various grippers, AI-based object recognition and grip point determination from Covariant mean that the Pick-it-Easy Robot can handle a broad range of items for many applications in diverse sectors. By carrying out monotonous and physically strenuous tasks swiftly, around the clock, the robot permanently takes the strain off employees.

The right choice for a wide variety of items

The Pick-it-Easy Robot, powered by the Covariant Brain, grips items of various sizes, weights and shapes with ease, as well as items with different types of surface and packaging: from cubical, round and cylindrical items to bottles and polybags as well as items with transparent surfaces or reflective packaging. Another essential advantage is the gentle and space-optimized placement of the articles in the order tote. Thanks to its versatility, the Pick-it-Easy Robot can be used in a number of different industries, such as e-commerce, food retail, electronics, cosmetics, fashion and pharma.

Pick-it-Easy Robot handles customer orders at Obeta

The electrical wholesaler Obeta, with 28,000 customers and 64 branches throughout Germany, picks thousands of customer orders every day with the help of the KNAPP robot. Pick-it-Easy Robot, powered by the Covariant Brain, effortlessly picks up the articles and gently places them in the designated target totes. It is in operation for up to 14 hours a day. “We can rely on the robot to do its job without having to worry that it won’t be able to handle the workload, which is a huge benefit for us,” says Michael Pultke, Head of Logistics at Obeta in Berlin.

Learning with every grip

Especially the enormous range of e-commerce items makes it extremely difficult for robots to find the ideal grip point. The Pick-it-Easy Robot, powered by the Covariant Brain, has mastered this issue using its powerful camera system and AI-based object recognition software, enabling it to recognize objects and determine the ideal grip point and picking speed. Equipped with machine learning, the robot learns continuously while picking. It can also access collective intelligence from around the globe made available by cloud robotics, offering true added value to KNAPP customers. Whenever one robot learns, the knowledge it acquires is immediately available in all the other robot stations.

Automatic insertion of fashion items into pockets

At GXO Logistics in the Netherlands, the Pick-it-Easy Robot not only picks fashion items, but also fills pockets of a sorter system automatically. The company has had the most recent generation of robot stations in operation since July last year, as Mauro Ungheretti, Managing Director of GXO Logistics in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, explains: “Providing our customers with the latest innovations to boost their logistics and e-commerce operations is what we are all about. We are excited to use the first Pick-it-Easy Robot for the fashion industry in our warehouse in the Netherlands.”

The robot transfers the items one by one to a chute from which they slide into the pocket. During this process, the barcode of the item is read, with no loss in performance during its allocation to the pocket. Every item in the system can therefore be found and retrieved. This automation solution is not only suited for handling returns, but also performs spectacularly when it comes to loading pockets with super-fast-moving or discounted items. As a result, efficiency increases and employees experience less strain, especially during peak periods such as Black Friday.

“The deciding factor for having a future-proof warehouse is artificial intelligence. It stretches across all aspects of operation and has completely changed the way business is done,” says Peter Puchwein, Director of Innovation at KNAPP. “We share a close partnership with Covariant whose innovative power and vision we cherish. Thanks to our joint efforts in offering state-of-the-art AI technology, we ensure that our customers are ahead of the game.”

“Combining KNAPP’s industrial-grade robotics systems with Covariant’s cutting-edge AI is the key to delivering consistently high performance autonomous stations to our customers. Through our tight partnership with KNAPP, we will continue to bring innovative solutions to market. By expanding into multiple industries, our AI platform, the Covariant Brain, gets smarter everyday and guarantees our customers always have access to the best AI” concluded Peter Chen, CEO of Covariant.