San Jose, CA., March 2, 2020
Fetch Robotics announced today a new robotic workflow tool which simplifies the creation and execution of the robot fleet management processes. The new Fetch Workflow Builder is a drag-and-drop development toolkit based on the popular, and open source visual programming environment, Blockly. Now non-programmers can setup and maintain their Fetch workflow, with minimal programming knowledge. The Blockly environment is a Google open source project.
Programming a Fetch AMR Just Became Easier
With the new Workflow Builder it is now easier than ever before for Fetch Robotics clients to design, install and maintain their robotic fleet. As we predicted in our “Predictions for the next decade of Mobile Robots” article (January 2020), the battle for software dominance is just starting the AMR market, and ultimately the AMR market will eliminate the classic systems integrator and replace them with Robotics Service Providers (like Fetch Robotics). The Fetch Workflow Builder is proof that it’s getting easier to deploy and program an autonomous mobile robot, without the need to hire expensive programming resources.
Figure 1 – The Workflow Builder graphical programming interface based on Blockly. Image courtesy of Fetch Robotics
As shown in Figure 1, the Fetch Workflow Builder inherits the intuitive and graphical representation of the program’s code from the Blockly programming language . What Fetch has done is extended the Blockly language with AMR specific workflow directives that encapsulate a complete block of robot control logic. Behind each block may be thousands of line of code. However, all of that complexity is hidden by the Blockly programming interface. The Workflow Builder is an intuitive extension of the basic Blockly visual language.
The other advantage for Fetch is that thousands of middle school and high school kids are getting exposed to Blockly programming in their STEM classes. For adults who have never programmed, the Workflow Builder interface can be learned in an afternoon.
“Our customers have long desired to get the richness of integration without the onerous requirement of actually having to do the integration,” said Melonee Wise, CEO at Fetch Robotics. “We are excited to introduce Workflow Builder and empower our customers to quickly deploy automation in their facilities and iterate the workflows until perfect. Workflow Builder allows even the most risk-averse organizations to feel confident with their investment in money and time.”
Figure 2 – The Workflow Builder is easy and intuitive to learn. Image Courtesy of Fetch Robotics
Workflow Builder Runs on Any Browser
The Workflow Builder can run in any browser on a smartphone, tablet or computer. In addition, Workflow Builder “programs” are stored as simple SVG files. The SVG file can be opened and be printed from any browser (whether the Workflow Builder app is installed or not). This architecture reduces software conflicts, versioning and eases the system support issues for Fetch. The entire architecture of Workflow Builder is simplified with Fetch’s Robots-as-a-Service (RasS), cloud based software solution.
Fetch is promising that the Workflow Builder will give customers a platform that enables them to develop and deploy their own automation in days, and then own future revisions. All of this without the need for help from a systems integrator or even Fetch resources.
Figure 3 – Integration to the warehouse software stack. Image courtesy of Fetch Robotics.
Integration Across the Stack
The other innovation that Fetch is promising soon is the release of Workflow Builder “partner blocks”. Encapsulated in the partner blocks will be integrations to existing software tools and services such as warehouse management systems or warehouse execution systems. In addition, there will be integrations to floor level devices such as barcode readers, RFID readers, mobile printers and networked call buttons.
With the cloud-based services provided by Fetch, newly developed blocks will be available immediately to the entire Fetch AMR population. These “over the air” updates are one of the advantages of a cloud-based architecture that derives it’s value from the enterprise and consumer software world. This also demonstrates how manufacturing and warehouse software development is finally catching up to the rest of the enterprise software world.
Here at the Mobile Robot Guide, we are excited to see this new software solution from Fetch. Melonee Wise, along with VP of Product, Stefan Nusser, have always been huge advocates and supporters of open source projects. Thus, this commercial implementation of Blockly is a natural fit with the Fetch software development philosophy. This Is one of the most innovative AMR product launches yet this year, and it threatens to disrupt the way that AMRs are programmed and maintained for a long time.