L’Oréal and ForwardX deploy case-picking mobile robot with built-in scale

ForwardX Max AMR with integrated scale at L'Oréal's Smart Fulfillment Center in Suzhous, China.
The Max AMR with integrated scale at the L’Oréal Smart Fulfillment Center in Suzhou, China. Source: ForwardX Robotics

L’Oréal SA, which claims to be the world’s largest cosmetics group, needed accurate automated picking. The Paris-based company turned to ForwardX Robotics Inc., with which it had successfully collaborated in 2022.

The companies last week said they have jointly deployed a case-picking system featuring autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) integrated with an automatic weighing system in L’Oréal’s first Smart Fulfillment Center in Suzhou, China. ForwardX said its vision-guided AMRs will significantly enhance operational efficiency and reduce manual picking errors.

“This collaborative project with L’Oréal marks a significant milestone,” stated the company. “ForwardX’s case-picking AMR solution has now become a new standard for L’Oréal’s operations, enabling workers to focus on less physically exhausting, value-adding tasks, while ensuring highly accurate picking productivity.”

Robots help L’Oréal handle millions of orders

Modern warehouses face challenges in case picking due to diverse inventory, according to FowardX Robotics. Manual lift carts and forklifts are essential for handling small to medium-sized items. However, integrating AMRs with forklift operations can be problematic due to the danger of collision with forks, it said.

Founded in 1909, L’Oréal Group operates in over 150 countries and regions, with 150 subsidiaries, 42 factories, over 100 distributors, and 88,000 employees worldwide. The skincare and cosmetics company‘s Smart Fulfillment Center is a service hub, handling direct-to-consumer (D2C) and business-to-business (B2B) orders.

The Suzhou facility supports a variety of commercial clients, including e-commerce platforms, offline retail, and hair salons, providing services for 10 of the group’s brands, such as L’Oréal Paris, CeraVe, and Kérastase. L’Oréal said it spans 46,000 sq. m (495,139.8 sq. ft.) and uses the latest IT and automation, including HaiPick from Hai Robotics.

ForwardX claimed that its sensor-fusion technology allows its robots to perform obstacle recognition and and choose obstacle-avoidance strategies accordingly. This can minimize blind spots and ensure safe collaboration with workers and forklifts, it said.

The center deployed 43 of ForwardX’s customized Max 600-L AMRs to efficiently handle case picking and distribution. They help the center to process up to 50 million D2C orders and 17 million B2B customer orders annually, with an order-fulfillment efficiency of over 7,000 D2C orders per hour.

 L'Oréal expects to reduce picking errors and increase throughput with the custom Max AMRs.
L’Oréal expects to reduce picking errors and increase throughput with the custom Max AMRs. Source: ForwardX Robotics

Max AMRs measure weight for accurate picking

To achieve highly accurate picking at L’Oréal, ForwardX Robotics equipped Max AMRs with automatic weighing systems to swiftly verify picked items’ weights against expected values. The system then displays popup notifications on the interface screen to alert workers if any case exceeds or falls short of the total weight by a specified calculated amount, indicating deviations beyond an acceptable margin of error.

ForwardX explained that its f(x) Fleet Manager intelligently groups picking orders and dispatches the closest AMRs according to SKU size and location, optimizing routes for the shortest distance. The robots autonomously navigate to workstations to fetch empty pallets as directed by the system, planning optimal paths to picking aisles. At the same time, the AMRs send signals to manual forklift operators to replenish empty pallets.

Upon reaching the picking area, AMRs dock beside designated product shelves, while workers use PDAs to pick items, verify them by scanning barcodes, and print labels. After placing the goods on the pallet, the Max AMR’s scale checks the weight of the picked items to ensure accurate item and quantity selection.

After completing picking tasks, the AMRs autonomously unload at workstations and notify forklifts to retrieve pallets. They communicate with L’Oréal’s warehouse management system (WMS) to complete orders.

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ForwardX touts innovation

“By leveraging ForwardX Robotics’ world-leading case-picking solution, the Suzhou Smart Fulfillment Center demonstrates the beauty and personal care giant’s ability to handle orders with flexibility, efficiency and scalability, further cementing L’Oréal’s global leadership position in innovation and sustainable development,” asserted the Beijing-based company.

ForwardX said its AMRs and fleet management software help warehouse and factory operations achieve higher performance. It has more than 250 employees from top universities and leading enterprises around the world, as well as over 350 patents.

The company said it has deployed more than 3,000 mobile robots in over 150 facilities across four continents. ForwardX has received recognition including a 2022 RBR50 Innovation Award and Frost & Sullivan’s Best Practices Award.

Written by

Automated Warehouse Staff