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ABB's FLexBuffer Is Scaling up its Customer Experience

Food and Beverages | Monday, January 17, 2022

FlexBuffer’s flexible storage management software adds to the system’s versatility by optimizing it for buffering, storing, and sequencing tasks.

FREMONT, CA: With the debut of its FlexBuffer, application cell, ABB is responding to the growing consumer demand for variety and quick delivery. FlexBuffer offers a highly adjustable multi-functional solution for handling several activities such as sequencing, buffering, storage, and order aggregation for logistics, healthcare, food and beverage, consumer packaged products, restaurants, and retailers.

Labor shortages and the requirement to provide flexible, fast direct-to-consumer (D2C) delivery services are among the issues that operators in various industries are encountering in satisfying consumer expectations for faster delivery of an expanding range of items. The key to addressing these issues is automated products handling, but most systems on the market today are huge, expensive to install, and lack the flexibility to provide the buffering and order sequencing capabilities that businesses require. These issues are addressed with FlexBuffer.

FlexBuffer is a versatile and cost-effective multi-functional system for efficiently processing a wide variety of customer orders. It consists of an ABB robot, a suite of grippers, a software package, storage racking, and infeed and outfeed conveyors that feed and dispatch goods and software that connects with WMS, ERP, and AMS systems manages incoming orders. The software regulates the storage and retrieval of mixed items, preventing accidents and maximizing storage capacity. The robot uses information from the software to place things in the correct rack places based on the order in which they must be delivered.

When items need to be collected, the robot may pick them up in the proper order and set them on the outward conveyor, ready for delivery. By ordering goods in pre-defined sequences, companies can meet delivery deadlines and fulfill customized orders with the correct item weights, temperatures, and other order-related variables.

The FlexBuffer can also assist businesses in forming an Order Consolidation Buffer (OCB), which allows goods to be temporarily stored before being processed. Both single and mixed item variants of the FlexBuffer are available. The single-item version is designed to handle ordinary shipping boxes. In contrast, the mixed item version adds flexibility with an adjustable gripper that can handle objects such as parcels, trays, and crates.

FlexBuffer can carry up to 50kg in the total payload. The solution has a storage capacity of 600 totes and can sequence at a rate of 500 cycles per hour. FlexBuffer’s flexible storage management software adds to the system’s versatility by optimizing it for buffering, storing, and sequencing tasks. The software ensures that operations can quickly be scaled up to meet changing demands because it can operate single or many FlexBuffer cells. This scalability is especially beneficial for smaller facilities that require more adaptable and flexible storage and retrieval solution, such as retail outlets, pharmacies, hospitals, and fulfillment centers.

Customers may track the progress of their order at any time using the program, which helps to fulfill the increased demand for live order tracking. ABB offers a wide variety of value-added services aimed to improve the performance, uptime, and durability of FlexBuffer and its modular cell portfolio to ensure customers can reach maximum productivity.

Fully Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are now available from ABB, allowing logistics operations to be much more flexible. ABB is a firm that can offer a complete portfolio for the next generation of flexible automation, thanks to its recent acquisition of ASTI Mobile Robotics Group (ASTI), a prominent global manufacturer of AMRs.

FlexBuffer’s advantages have already been demonstrated in a variety of applications around the world. A pharmaceuticals storage and bin-picking application at China’s Shanghai 7th Hospital, an automatic retail store for Chinese mobile communications firm Huawei that allows customers to pick up their mobile phone orders via an automated booth, and an order picking system for British retailer John Lewis & Partners are among the pilot installations.

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