Robotics Enabling Fully‐Integrated Logistics Lines for Supermarkets — REFILLS (Project ID: 731590)

Scenarios and Robots

REFILLS proposes to work on three scenarios:

  1. Store monitoring
  2. Collaborative shelf refilling
  3. Autonomous shelf refilling.

The first scenario will implement the acquisition of full information on location, stock and availability of goods within the store. This information will improve the backroom pre-sorting process. The second and third scenario are related to the actual “shelf refilling”. They differ in the level of autonomy of the robot, with corresponding required abilities and functionalities:

  • The collaborative shelf refilling scenario will include physical and cognitive help for the clerk, based on closed monitoring of the stacking situation, and will require safety measures when humans (clerks and/or customers) are present, especially during shop opening times.
  • The autonomous shelf refilling scenario will consider as a key result the robustness in robotic shelf filling, given the variety of items, and is proposed for operation during closing time.

It is expected that collaborative and autonomous shelf refilling will coexist in the future because fullautonomy is not expected to be achieved in an economic way for all items, so both cases need to be investigated.

To fulfil the three scenarios, the following Robotic modules are considered:

  • Low-cost passive-mobility Trolley modules for cartons and waste
  • A robotic mobile platform (Carrier module) for autonomous transport and navigation
  • A passive-mobility Scanning + Pointing module endowed with a pan-tilt unit for visual shelf monitoring and visual guidance of the clerk
  • A passive-mobility Handling module endowed with a manipulator arm and grippers, a pan-tilt unit and multiple sensors

The robotic modules are illustrated in the following figure 

To fulfil the three scenarios, the following Robotic modules are considered:

  • Low-cost passive-mobility Trolley modules for cartons and waste
  • A robotic mobile platform (Carrier module) for autonomous transport and navigation
  • A passive-mobility Scanning + Pointing module endowed with a pan-tilt unit for visual shelf monitoring and visual guidance of the clerk
  • A passive-mobility Handling module endowed with a manipulator arm and grippers, a pan-tilt unit and multiple sensors

The robotic modules are illustrated in the following figure

As shown in the figures, a carrier module can also drag a traditional roll cage or a Trolley module (Autonomous transport unit) to the required store locations, or carry a scanning + pointing module (Autonomous scanning unit) for store monitoring. A carrier can also position a handling module (Mobile handling unit) at required locations in the store for collaborative and autonomous shelf refilling. Another key aspect of this solution is that most of the robotic operations can actually be done when the shop is closed, which significantly reduces safety and cycle time requirements.

The possibility to operate during closing hours also makes the solution attractive even if the robots do not reach human equivalent performance by the end of the project.