Digitization, Industry 4.0 and Smart Logistics are just some of the buzzwords used to describe the future of our economy. But what trends, technologies and developments are behind them? How are they used in intralogistics? And above all: where is the journey going?
From a very limited discipline that has primarily dealt with classic warehousing, a dynamic industry has grown: the intralogistics of tomorrow should be smarter, faster, more supported and more intuitive. One driver is the increasing Internet trade with ever smaller order quantities at higher order frequencies. But global competition, individualized mass production, distribution and an expanded understanding of processes also play their part in the fact that sophisticated material flow solutions have long since conquered intelligent factories and will continue to do so. Here are the most important trends and developments at a glance.
IT, Cloud & Co. - Material flow in real time under control
Integrated software is and is becoming increasingly important in intralogistics. On the one hand, to analyse, strategically optimise and automatically control all flows of goods, information and resources. On the other hand, in order to collect important data and key performance indicators from which secure decisions can be derived. The real-time control and visualization of complex material flow processes makes tomorrow's warehouse more efficient than ever. The development goes from a central in-house IT to a cloud-supported warehouse management system. With the advantage that the collected data can also be used across locations and synergies are created on the basis of big data analyses. Cloud technology can also be used to flexibly absorb short-term or seasonal peak loads, as it enables flexible adaptation of the IT infrastructure.
DTS - more automation through driverless transport systems
The triumphal march of e-commerce will also further advance the use of intelligent transport robots and systems. For the time being, however, only in large distribution centres where the technology is more cost-efficient due to the sheer mass. The challenge here is to create an open infrastructure so that individual components from different manufacturers can also be controlled via a common transport control system. Clearly, the industry is not yet where it should be, for example. Automotive production has long been a pioneer, but there is also a clear trend in intralogistics towards progressive automation using driverless transport systems.
Working better with Augmented Reality
In the future, employees will have visual aids that provide them with information and support them in performing the respective work steps correctly. In tomorrow's distribution center, data glasses, tablets and the like will be standard. This means that information can be retrieved anywhere in real time and from any location, even without a stationary workstation. It is important to pick up and take along your own employees when introducing such cyber-physical systems. Only if new technologies are functional, practical and reliable, and at the same time easy to operate, will they be accepted.
In intralogistics, huge amounts of data are generated. And someone has to hold the strings. In the future, artificial intelligence will play an increasingly important role in optimising transports with the help of prescriptive analytics or in predicting failures through predictive maintenance. The same applies to visual recognition - fully automatic image recognition is used so that driverless transport systems can control themselves independently and scan barcodes.
Robot colleague - collaborative work
In the future, people and machines will work more and more together in cyber-physical systems instead of just side by side. The collaborative robots support their own employees especially in very monotonous, ergonomically unfavorable and stressful work steps in order to maintain their health. The robot will not replace humans, but will be a good colleague for them. While machines are unbeatable in terms of precision, speed and endurance, humans still have inimitable intelligence, sensitivity and flexibility. The great challenge in collaborative work is and will continue to be to comply with the required safety regulations in the common workspace in order to virtually rule out any risk of injury.
IoT and increasing networking
Networking between data and transport logistics is becoming increasingly important. And the Internet of Things (IoT) will offer flexible logistics solutions in the future that can only be guessed at today. It is about the complete networking of all objects involved in the transport chain: In the factory of the future, a smart container orders its own transport and automatically integrates itself into the transport control system. This in turn calls for the most suitable DTS. And if you look at the development towards batch size 1, distribution centres without intelligent, flexible and smooth transport logistics will be less and less functional in the future.
The degree of digitization is rising
Not only intralogistics, but the entire economy is on the right track to break away from old patterns and to further modernise as part of industry 4.0. The degree of digitization is rising. Intralogistics processes are becoming more and more efficient, even in medium-sized companies, and will bring added value along the entire value chain. Interroll has also implemented digital business processes and is continuously developing its own products in order to adapt them to intelligent Logistics 4.0 solutions. Look forward to 2019 - it will certainly be exciting!