Managing energy efficiency and small order fulfilment are two of the greatest challenges facing modern logistics operations, according to new reports from automation and intralogistics experts, Swisslog.
In Goods-to-Person Solutions: Solving the Challenges of Small Order Fulfillment and Energy Efficiency in Automated Distribution Facilities experts provide detailed insights into the impact of smart automation technology in both ambient and temperature controlled warehouses.
As a leader in robotic, data driven and flexible automated solutions, Swisslog is dedicated to helping companies improve the efficiency, productivity and cost effectiveness of their intralogistics operations.
Intralogistics is evolving from large, rigid systems into modular, flexible, and software-driven solutions – robot-supported and self-optimizing. Swisslog is at the forefront of these Industry 4.0 initiatives and provides innovative solutions for the Retail/E-Commerce, Pharmaceutical, Food & Beverage and Automotive industries.
Combined skills of man and machine
The first of the whitepapers addresses the challenges facing fulfillment operations in the rapidly growing e-commerce industry. The report concludes that an omni-channel or dedicated e-commerce fulfillment center utilizing a streamlined, highly-efficient automated goods-to-person solution can expect to see a doubling or tripling in picking activity over conventional manual-based picking methods.
Providing extensive knowledge and insight into the options available to distribution centers facing the challenge of small order fulfillment, the report discusses Swisslog’s latest innovation, AutoPiQ, and how it enables direct cooperation between pickers and robots. When networked with automated goods-to-person warehouse systems, such as CycloneCarrier, AutoStore or CarryPick, AutoPiQ is able to assist human workers with picking tasks, permitting workers to focus more on value-added services.
“We see a much more willing attitude on the part of logistics executives toward accepting automated goods-to-person solutions,” explained Jeff Ross, Vice President Implementation for E-Commerce/Retail, Swisslog WDS Americas. “The technology has definitely advanced over the past five years. It is very clear that these high performance systems can deliver the productivity they require.”
Several options for energy efficient automation
While automation has offered endless benefits to operations around the globe, some are concerned with the increased energy demands required to run the systems. A second whitepaper addresses these concerns and looks at how businesses can benefit from automation while remaining energy efficient.
The report finds that refrigerated warehousing, while an expanding sector, is the most energy intensive. Energy is one of the largest expenses for the sector, second only to labor costs. Goods-to-person solutions, Swisslog says, can recuperate energy from the braking and lifting of carrier vehicles, and this, combined with energy sharing technologies, can see energy use reduced by up to 20 percent.
“The most efficient shuttle and robotics systems have been engineered to reduce carrier weight and optimize weight/payload ratios for lessened energy requirements,” the whitepaper states. “Since these systems provide dense storage capacity, they are also ideal for minimizing refrigeration energy costs, when compared to manual small quantity picking in traditional refrigerated warehouses.”
The whitepaper also highlights how positioning power monitoring devices throughout materials handling equipment gives logisticians the ability to measure, visualize and track energy consumption throughout the distribution facility in real time. “This provides an unparalleled level of transparency into energy usage, and allows the distribution systems to operate in a very energy efficient manner,” says Swisslog’s Samuel Schaerer, Controls Development Manager with Swisslog Warehouse and Distribution Solutions’ Technology Center, located in Buchs, Switzerland.