Toyota automation forklift materials handling

Toyota's warehouse to go on autopilot in 2020

Toyota Australia, together with Toyota Material Handling Australia and Toyota Fleet Management, will be introducing a fleet of autonomous autopilot vehicles into its Altona warehouse from its operation start in 2020.
Manufactured in Sweden by Toyota Material Handling Europe, the fleet itself will consist of six Autopilot Tow Trucks (TAE500) and one Autopilot Reach Truck (RAE160), the flagship model when it comes to warehouse automation.
They will apply autopilot driverless technology to achieve mobility in conveyance, towing, lifting, and be able to autonomously place product throughout the warehouse and pick orders for customers.
All models in the range will also have the ability to be used in manual mode as conventional warehouse vehicles allowing complete flexibility in operations.
Built with the reliability and serviceability of their manual predecessors, the new hybrids will also include integrated navigation and leading safety systems.
The safety systems include scanners and obstacle detection devices which are designed to stop the vehicle and minimise the risk of a collision, ensuring protection for people, equipment, and infrastructure.
Fleet management, emergency-stop buttons, warning sounds, and lights will be standard across the range together with a blue LED warning light projected in front of the vehicle, to assist in noisy environments or when autopilot is approaching around a corner.
In addition to enhanced safety, Autopilot will also deliver energy efficiencies via Lithium-Ion battery technology, automatic charging, high vehicle utilisation, and low maintenance costs.
Toyota Australia vice president of sales and marketing Sean Hanley said the mobility company has a thorough understanding and appreciation of the importance of automation technology.
“Toyota Australia will continue to develop, progress, and employ these new ways of thinking whenever possible,” Mr Hanley said.
“We are extremely committed to delivering the highest level of reliability, performance, and productivity, and Autopilot ticks every one of these boxes,” he added.

MHD-robots-in-the-warehouse-DC-automation

Robots in distribution centres – from MHD magazine

Mal Walker

Don’t worry, contrary to the terrifying Daleks portrayed in the long-running Dr Who series, robots are not taking over the world or the universe! In reality, they are more analogous to the friendly droids of Star Wars’ 3-CPO R2-D2 and BB8. They are loyal and faithful servants to their human and non-human masters.
This is good news for distribution centre operators, because the Star Wars ‘droids’ have morphed into a new generation of reliable DC robots that are revolutionising the logistics world!
Research from market intelligence firm Tractica reports that the worldwide sales of warehousing and logistics robots reached USD1.9 billion in 2016, with growth in coming years its projected to reach USD22.4 billion by the end of 2021. Manufacturers of robots can therefore expect unit shipments to increase from 40,000 in 2016, to 620,000 units annually by 2021 (reference: www.tractica.com).
But who is buying robots? Traditionally, it was manufacturers with repetitive production processes, but the robotic landscape has broadened to include distribution centres, mines, hospitals, hotels, casinos, offices, mines and others. In fact, any application where a process can be automated.

Should you use them in your DC?

In this article, I will briefly touch on the 13 most common types of robots that are being used in distribution centres, along with their characteristics and uses. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it may help in working out what robots could be beneficial in your situation.
Firstly, how do you classify robots? Particularly as there are so many variants. The Tractica report lists the following four in the context of distribution centres.

  • Mobile robot platforms: automated guided vehicles (AGV) and autonomous vehicles.
  • Shuttle automated storage and retrieval systems: ASRS, featuring in-rack robots.
  • Industrial robotic manipulators: typical robotic arms that can be applied to countless applications.
  • Gantry robots: robots that run on overhead structures.

“If you are looking at robots as a solution, be sure to do your homework in terms of analysis, application and return.”

But what do they do, and how do you know if you would benefit from one, or more? To assist, I’ve developed a table that lists the types of robots and applications in warehousing facilities. Bur first here are some definitions that may be helpful.

  1. AGV

Generally used for transport of goods within a set path or circuit. May be guided by rails, lasers and sensors. These have been around for many years, but AGV technology has advanced and is far more affordable, reliable and applicable to many types of mobile equipment.

  1. Shuttle systems

Used within racking systems to place and retrieve stock. The racking maybe serviced by automatic conveyors or AGV, or manually by an operator.

  1. Autonomous mobile robots

These are free-path robots controlled to operate on the best put-away or picking path. Using sensors and cameras, they can navigate around a DC where people are working. They are ideal for goods-to-person and task-to-person applications.

  1. Stacker cranes

These are used in automated storage and retrieval systems for pallet handling. Yes, they have been around for many years, but they are a robot, nonetheless. They typically run on fixed-path rails systems.

  1. Mini-load stacker cranes

Related to the larger stacker cranes, mini-load cranes run on fixed rails installed within racking. They can achieve high rates of replenishment and picking and are now able to pick cartons, object and eaches to totes or conveyor belts.

  1. Industrial robotic order picker

Using conventional robots with articulated arms for picking and palletising/ depalletizing etc. has become common place. In recent years, visualisation technology has enabled robots to see and pick stock in units. If the robot does not have the right gripping device to pick items up, it merely changes to the right one, and continues picking.
And now some common operating modes:

  1. Goods-to-person

Where automation or a robot brings goods to a human for order picking purposes.

  1. Task-to-person

Where a robot brings a receptacle and picking intelligence/information to a picker, so that the picker can pick the required goods to specific order bins on the receptacle. (Amazon makes use of task-to-person robots in some locations.)

  1. Goods-to-robot

Automation or robots bring goods to a robot for order picking purposes

  1. Person to robot

A person brings goods to a robot for specific orders or sortation and delivery by the robot to a consolidation or packing zone. These robots can typically include tilt-tray devices for feeding goods into staging bays or directly to cartons.
MHD-robot-in-the-warehouse-DC-automation-table
Now that you know the common types of robots and operating modes, the charts should make some sense in terms of application. What is hard to define is the cost for automation and robotics. This is complex and depends on many factors too numerous to cover here. However, the evidence suggests that robots are becoming cheaper, reliable and easier to justify than ever before.
If you are looking at robots as a solution, be sure to do your homework in terms of analysis, application and return. If you do, you may be relieved that Dalek’s will not conquer your operation. Instead, be pleasantly surprised that robots may be more economical than you realise.
Mal is manager, consulting with the Logistics Bureau, where he works with local and international organisations to guide them in specification preparation, establishment and review of outsourcing contracts. He holds qualifications in engineering, business operations and logistics. For more information contact Mal on 0412 271 503 or email mwalker@logisticsbureau.com.
You can read the rest of MHD magazine March-April issue here: 
https://issuu.com/theintermediagroup/docs/mhd_march-april_2019
 

Augmented-reality-in-a-warehouse

The warehouse of the future is getting closer

Warehousing pressures are driving substantial investment in augmented reality, voice technology, and people tracking. Spending on AR in warehousing alone will reach over US$23 billion by 2025.
Demand for warehousing facilities has been steadily increasing thanks to the strength of international trade and the continual growth of e-commerce. With customer expectations for rapid delivery rising, warehouses are struggling to process the increased volumes of goods passing through facilities in time. The problem is compounded by labour shortages and staffing challenges. The need to adopt technology to alleviate these issues is driving significant investment in augmented reality (AR), voice-directed picking, and real-time location systems (RTLS) for workforce analytics.
By 2025, global spending on AR in warehousing will reach over US$23 billion, US$3.3 billion will be spent on voice solutions, and RTLS will grow to 500,000 implementations for people-tracking across all verticals, according to ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies.
“Fulfilling higher order volumes is difficult when warehouses are struggling to hire and maintain staff, and automation is cost-prohibitive for many distributors,” said senior analyst at ABI Research Nick Finill. “Warehouses are therefore increasingly using digital tools that can empower the human worker, deliver efficiency gains, and also reduce the time it takes to induct new or temporary staff.”
Augmented reality is finally starting to gain mass appeal in industrial sectors, thanks to maturing technologies and demonstrable ROI from early adopters. Voice-directed technology represents a considerably older technology but is also undergoing a technological revolution thanks to deep learning-based voice recognition that vastly improves ease-of-use and reliability. Voice is being leveraged to assist the warehouse workforce by providing operational instructions in a clear and hands-free way.
The drive for digitally-enabled workforce productivity in the warehouse is incorporating the human worker into the Internet of Things at a rapid pace. The increased use of RTLS technologies, such as Bluetooth Low Energy, Wi-Fi tracking and RFID, are allowing warehouse operators to analyse productivity of the workforce as well as the movement of physical assets. Workers can be monitored in a way that respects privacy while generating valuable operational data that can drive workforce efficiency over time.
Companies such as RealWare, Kontakt.io, Panasonic, Lucas Systems and TopSystem are providing warehouses with a wide range of technology products that can provide incremental advantages. Driving productivity in this way can be an attractive alternative to more expensive automation projects, which is a concurrent trend in warehousing with the potential to transform operations in the longer term.
“The combination of multiple devices and technology can have a positive compound effect on workforce productivity,” concluded Mr Finill. “However, companies must be smart about how they integrate multiple technologies within the same stack to ensure they remain complementary and ROI is maximised.”
These findings are from ABI Research’s ‘Devices and Solutions for Workforce Productivity in Warehouse Logistics’ technology analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Intelligent Supply Chain service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Technology Analysis reports present in-depth analysis on key market trends and factors for a specific technology.

Artificial intelligence gets political backing

Just weeks after launching its new $33 million Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A²I²), Deakin University has welcomed funding commitments from State and Federal Labor to establish a National Centre of Artificial Intelligence Excellence in Melbourne.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO said Deakin stands ready to work with the state and a future Federal Government to ensure the centre is best positioned to help prepare local and global communities for the jobs of the future.
“Deakin is committed to supporting the communities we serve and we know there will be an increased demand for AI technology by business, industry and in the wider community,” Professor den Hollander said.
“Deakin’s sustained commitment to AI with a $32.7 million investment in A²I², along with the strong support of state and Federal Labor, means we are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible between human interactions and artificial intelligence.
“Deakin looks forward to working with the State Government and a future Federal Government to participate in a process that will best locate the new National Centre of Artificial Intelligence Excellence.”
On Friday 12 April, Professor den Hollander joined Victorian Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade Martin Pakula to launch A²I² at Deakin’s Burwood Campus.
A²I² (pronounced A squared, I squared) merges the capabilities of the University’s Centre for Pattern Recognition and Data Analysis (PRaDA) and the Deakin Software and Technology Laboratory (DSTIL), bringing together all aspects of AI research and development from fundamental science to how it translates into commercial products for real-world application.
Professor den Hollander said A²I² had a particular emphasis on developing the partnership between the human user and the artificial intelligence (AI) system, and would explore how AI can present information that builds trust, is easily comprehensible, useful and timely.
“The ability of machines to imitate intelligent human behaviour is already part of our lives. Just ask Siri, Alexa or Google. AI is helping hospital trauma centres make faster, better decisions, and researchers develop improved materials for manufacturing,” Professor den Hollander said.
“Much is made of the potential for AI to replace human intelligence, but AI’s true potential lies in its capacity to enhance human abilities rather than replace them. We’re not building robots to take the place of humans, but we are creating technology that will work alongside people to help them make more informed and better decisions.”
Artificial intelligence-based concepts have proven valuable in the transport and logistics industry. See some examples here.

Automation is the buzzword – from MHD magazine

Paul May

Faster, cheaper, smarter. Feeling the squeeze from international competition, a growing number of Australian businesses are investing in warehouse automation to gain an edge.
Retail giant Coles is the latest to announce it’s bringing in the robots. In a bid to lower supply chain costs and increase competitiveness, it will pour almost $1 billion into two automated distribution centres in Queensland and NSW.
It’s jumping on a bandwagon that its main rival, Woolworths, got rolling last year. Woolies’ $562 million investment in a fully automated, 40-metre-high warehouse – the largest in the country – is expected to go live within weeks.
Both businesses are under pressure. Australian sales have tripled in six years at US giant Costco, which is now in the best financial position it’s been in since arriving on our shores more than a decade ago. German grocery retailer Kaufland is expected to further shake up the market by opening up to six sites starting this year. Amazon is also making inroads into the Australian market.

“The shift to automation is all about reducing costs and time to market in a highly competitive industry. But poorly understood and managed risks threaten to send these advantages up in smoke.”

Reducing costs and time-to-market are the order of the day. Coles CEO Steve Cain cited “lower supply chain costs” and enhanced “overall business competitiveness” as the driving forces behind Coles’ big spending.
It’s not alone. Warehouse and supply chain consultancy TM Insight predicts that automation will be the buzzword for the Australian industrial property market in 2019 as manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers look for more efficient ways to deliver goods quickly to customers. The consultancy has recently designed and delivered new hi-tech warehouses for the likes of Woolworths, The Reject Shop, Bunnings and Kmart.
Amazon’s entrance into Australian retail is already credited with encouraging Coles and Woolworths to move to a same-day delivery model for those who spend more than $150 and $300 respectively. In China, the country’s leading online marketplace, Alibaba opened a warehouse late last year staffed with more than 800 ‘automated guided vehicles’. It’s been designed to deal with China’s annual ‘Singles Day’ shopping festival.
New risk profile
Those managing automated facilities must balance their business interest in greater efficiency, increased profitability and fewer human errors with minimising new risks. The scale, speed and increased use of automation inside a modern warehouse alters the risk profile. Traditional warehouse fire protection strategies including using ceiling-only sprinkler systems must be revisited.
Large numbers of expensive robots in densely stacked warehouses pose a greater fire risk and increase the likelihood of it spreading faster. The use of open-top plastic containers, rather than traditional closed-top cardboard or wooden containers, is another trend that ramps up risk. These open-top containers capture sprinkler water that’s being used to fight fires and prevents it from flowing down through to the lower levels of the warehouse.
Risk managers must strike a balance that delivers effective mitigation without unnecessarily increasing costs or limiting storage potential, as this would negate the purpose of shifting to automation in the first place.
The human element
Working with a specialist partner significantly reduces risk. For example, FM Global data shows the difference between an adequate sprinkler system and an inadequate one – either non-existent or with insufficient design – is massive. The difference over a 10-year period can be as much as fivefold, with average losses rising to almost $AU6 million within inadequately protected facilities.
In a robotic warehouse, the cost of equipment alone is enormous. The gadgetry that now goes into a modern logistics facility can be worth three times the value of the real estate, according to TM Insight.
FM Global has invested heavily in developing warehouse fire protection guidelines. Based on five years of research, these guidelines are intended to help risk managers and warehouse managers minimise the fire risk associated with automatic storage and retrieval systems (ASRS).
In designing the Protection for Automatic Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) data sheet, we’ve discovered that it’s possible to:

  • Optimise fire protection through careful storage design choices.
  • Reduce the cost of fire protection systems including piping, pumps and water tanks.
  • Improve environmental sustainability by using less water.
  • Develop fire protection strategies which are based on evidence (full-scale fire testing) rather than guesswork.

Simple steps, such as having reasonable gaps between boxes, can make it so much easier and less costly to protect a facility from massive fire damage. Such gaps reduce the ability for a fire to spread horizontally and also allow sprinkler water to penetrate down to the seat of the fire.
The shift to automation is all about reducing costs and time to market in a highly competitive industry. But poorly understood and managed risks threaten to send these advantages up in smoke. As traditional distribution models are overturned by automation, it’s imperative that businesses also take a second look at how they are addressing risk.
Paul May is the operations engineering manager at FM Global. For more information visit www.fmglobal.com.
 

Hi 5 to I4.0 – from MHD magazine

Tom Rentschler

Many have written about the impact that Industry 4.0 will have on warehousing and distribution and why companies should embrace this fourth industrial revolution. But if you own or operate a small warehouse or distribution centre, you may be thinking: “How will Industry 4.0 help me?” or: “Isn’t this only for big companies?”
Yet many of the benefits of I4.0 will extend to small operations.
I4.0 includes technologies like the Internet of Things (machines talking to machines), big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, as well as collaborative robotics. And there are five very strong reasons why they will make automation a worthwhile investment for even smaller warehouse operations.

  1. True plug & play

Traditionally, automated material handling systems required a significant amount of project-specific engineering, control coding and software. Conveyor systems, for example, often need specific PLC code to optimise behaviour, such as priorities at a merging point. These ‘traffic rules’ are different for each layout and also depend on the user’s exact processes.
The costs of customising, installing and commissioning a system do not have a linear relationship to size. While the overhead may be a small proportion for large systems, on smaller systems those costs could represent up to 40% of the total installation.
By combining IoT principles with artificial intelligence and machine learning, this problem can be overcome. Imagine that you will simply place conveyor elements (or any other automated equipment) on the floor. Each element will automatically identify itself to all others and ‘connect’ to its neighbours, allowing the system to map itself and understand how it looks.

“All of these observations show that the real growth in warehouse automation will not only be with traditional, large systems.”

Meanwhile, applying big data analytics to the current, still manual operation will provide an understanding of the warehouse user processes. This allows the establishment of a first, base-line logic for running the new automated system. Once the physical automated systems are placed and used, machine learning will quickly determine how to use the equipment better and set the right traffic rules to match the system’s layout and user processes.
All this means that no more project-specific coding of controls and software will be required, significantly reducing the overhead costs to a level where automation becomes compelling for small operations.

  1. Smart systems can adapt to warehouses built for humans

Most warehouses, and certainly small ones, have been designed to be operated by humans. They have rows of shelving and people with trolleys walking through them to collect orders.  Until recently, implementing automation would require these processes to be completely replaced.
Automated systems, such as robots, used to require a very clearly defined environment that was free of unexpected interruptions. And whilst a manual warehouse may look very organised, there are many small deviations that are easy for people to deal with; just imagine a larger product overhanging a few centimetres into the next storage location, or a worker leaving their trolley in the aisle for a few minutes to use the restroom.
Changing a warehouse like that is a big step that could easily cause disruptions and risk. Yet a new generation of collaborative robots is emerging. These robots are not only safe to work alongside humans, but also use advanced sensors and artificial intelligence to adapt to changing circumstances.
Now companies can simply deploy one or two collaborative robots within their current operation. Humans can work alongside the robots, eliminating the need for drastic changes to the warehouse or the processes.
Over time, more robots can be added to gradually increase the level of automation.

  1. Small companies don’t want to stay small

Many of the small companies in the field of logistics plan to grow, sometimes very quickly. Most early-stage e-commerce companies have big ambitions, but exactly how fast, or in what direction they will develop is uncertain. This means any automation will need to be flexible so the company can start small, but scale fast when growing.
New technology such as autonomous mobile robots are perfect for this scenario. You can start with only a few. Due to peer-to-peer communication and intelligent software these vehicles are easy to implement, providing payback even in small numbers. Still, when the time comes to expand, this is as easy as buying (or leasing) more vehicles, placing them in your warehouse and powering them up.
The new vehicles will identify themselves to the existing ones and the entire fleet will adapt and optimise itself to make best use of the new robot-colleagues.
Another example of easily designing for growth is the Hasbro distribution centre in Preston operated by Toll. The modular sorter and conveyor are easy to expand as the need for product picking and despatch grow. In the meantime, the operation benefits from reduced costs and can handle more retail fulfilment cartons than you would expect from a traditional style warehouse.

  1. Smart distribution networks will help keep warehouses small

This may seem contradictory to the previous point, and indeed it applies to a different group of companies. E-commerce is pushing the boundaries of delivery times. Same-day delivery is increasingly an expectation and offered by many companies in larger population areas. By default, this requires products to be stored close to consumers in areas where there is often little space to build a warehouse.
To help keep warehouses small and still keep service levels high, Industry 4.0-related science is being used. Predictive shipping is one example, where goods will be shipped from a central warehouse to a smaller urban warehouse even before you order it. This concept relies on big data to understand and accurately predict customer behaviour.
The other method is distributed order fulfilment. A specific product may be available within the customer’s area at any number of locations. These locations could be the seller’s urban warehouses, a third party warehouse, a store, or even awaiting pick-up at the home of a customer who wants to return it. By connecting all these sources in a real-time network, the most efficient source location for the product can be found. Again, big data and artificial intelligence will manage the complexity of this process, while blockchain technology will allow secure transfer of data and money between potentially competing providers.

  1. Small companies are entrepreneurial – but may have limited cash

Investing in automation requires a long-term vision, combined with an entrepreneurial approach. This is even more true when investing in new, ground-breaking technologies. This mindset is often found at small-to-medium size companies or founder-owned companies. Decision processes can be shorter, which can make it easier to realise a vision. This is why small start-ups are often at the forefront of adopting new technology.
Cash may be a challenge, and investing in automation typically requires serious capital investment. But here new technology may also help.
Traditional automated systems have been highly customised and demanding to install, remove or change. Uncertainty about the company’s future, linked to an asset with very little value outside of that company, will lead to expensive financing.
‘Plug & play’, self-learning and high flexibility also implies that it will be just as easy to re-use equipment somewhere else. This re-use capability will reduce financing risk, making it less expensive. It will also support different models such as rental or leasing.
All of these observations show that the real growth in warehouse automation will not only be with traditional, large systems. While those systems will always be there and also become infinitely smarter, they will be fewer in quantity compared to the thousands of small warehouses that have historically been too small to automate.
With Industry 4.0, size will not matter anymore.
Tom Rentschler is head of marketing for Swisslog WDS Americas. For more information visit www.swisslog.com.
 
 
[No captions. Don’t have to use the second pic.]

The automation intersection – from MHD magazine

Logistics in Australia and New Zealand have arrived at an automation intersection. Which way will the industry go?

We’ve reached a crossroads in Australia and New Zealand about advanced robotics technology. No longer can businesses ignore its potential or claim it’s only taking off in other markets.
Hexa Research claims the worldwide warehouse robotics market will reach USD 6 billion by 2025, off the back of 7% compound annual growth from 2017. It’s a global trend worldwide – but not one reflected down under. The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision (ACRV) shows that only 1% of robotics companies that have tried to raise research and development capital in the last decade are Australian.
This is odd when you consider the desire for robotics infrastructure close to our shores. Countries across East Asia, developed and developing, are expected to increase their robotics demand over the next three years, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). From Japan to Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand’s regional trade partners are embracing supply chain automation. So why haven’t we entrenched robotics as a natural part of the Australian and New Zealand logistics sector’s evolution, too?
The rise of robotics – but why is it slow to take off in Australia and New Zealand?
IFR data shows the global average density of robots in manufacturing and the logistics supply chain reached 85 per 10,000 employees in 2018. And despite Asia-Pacific’s reputation as slow adopters of advanced robotics technology, density here is only slightly lower, at 75 units per 10,000. This is due to Asia’s interest in automation. China is the world’s largest purchaser of robotics, while Taiwan ranks sixth (IFR). Hong Kong and Singapore’s position as regional trade hubs also make them fertile ground for automation start-ups.
In Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, interest is just picking up. Aside from major global retailers such as Amazon’s use of drones and autonomous mobile robots (AMR) to streamline supply chain efficiency, the Australian and New Zealand logistics sector is yet to really fully embrace the idea of automation as a help, not a hindrance. Much of this reluctance stems from the fact that there are not enough local suppliers who can integrate robotics into the existing framework of logistics or supply chain infrastructure.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ analysis of automation’s potential long-term impact shows there is little risk to many transport and logistics roles over the next ten years. The report suggests that, while robotics will reduce manual picking and transport roles, automation will instead alter positions. In effect, robotics will be less about replacing human workers and more about logistics enterprises upskilling workers into value-added roles.
KPMG echoes this position, claiming the role of a joint human-robotics workforce will be with human workers monitoring and adding intuitive customer-focused skills to the data-driven role of robots. This collaboration with ‘cobots’ doesn’t mean the end of jobs. Instead, it improves the capacity of a given role with higher throughput rates stemming from streamlined physical labour processes and maximised storage space.
Taking the leap into robotics-aided logistics sector
Whilst a 2018 McKinsey study shows Asia-Pacific still leads the world in the percentage of businesses with no plans to automate in the future, the curtain is falling on that era.
So far Cohesio has helped deploy the logistics robots in two major Australian businesses. The projects:

  1. The retail conglomerate

Our first success with the Geek+ robotics was with a leading retail business. With a presence in both Australia and New Zealand, the client wanted to innovate its supply chain and logistics picking, packing and storage.
We started by consulting on the critical requirements for the robotics installation, determining how the technology would fit in with existing warehouse management infrastructure. Our engineers and technicians mapped out the existing warehousing space and developed a blueprint grid for our robots to learn.
The project was completed within five months, from first consultation to final deployment – less than half the time it takes to integrate legacy fixed logistics infrastructure

  1. The consumable goods supplier

This food supply chain enterprise experienced significant growth in the last two years and decided now was the time to get onboard with implementing robotics technology.
The supplier already had voice technology integrated into its picking and transit process and thought of robotics as a natural next step. We sat down with the logistics team to assess suitability, to see if robotics really was the logical choice. Once a comprehensive plan for the deployment and integration process was developed, we began customising the Geek+ robotics equipment to their needs. The project is expected to be completed by October 2019.
An automation culture shift: the key is change management
Change management is the most essential part of an automation roll-out. You need to get buy-in from your whole supply chain network on the amazing potential of robotics and how it will help day-to-day productivity. This helps to remove the stigma around the technology. Partnering with an enterprise that is equally committed to your business goals, including managing the evolution of your operations into future, is invaluable. Automation is as much a state of mind as it is cold hard steel.

Are you ready for robotics?
A comprehensive robotics deployment might not be ideal for every logistics enterprise. Voice technologies and legacy warehousing infrastructure have stood the test of time for a reason. But refusing to consider automation as a viable means of improving operations is no longer an option. The world is progressing, and Australia and New Zealand’s regional trading economies with it. Hexa Research shows that Asia-Pacific, perennial automation laggards, will be close to matching Europe in robotics market revenue by 2025.
We need to be part of the change and shape automation to suit the our national tastes. The ACRV Roadmap claims the missing pieces restricting national growth are knowledge about the right technology, and robotics experts to lead the integration.

Cohesio’s partnership with Geek+ is one of the first commercial robotics business tailored to the Australian and New Zealand markets to meet the needs of national organisations and customers. The diverse technology and engineering team can help companies build out and implement scalable robotics that suits their operations, now and into the future.
Are you prepared for a new mechanised world and ready to join the automation evolution with a robotics solution for your business? The time is now.
For more information call 1300 66 93 94, email info@cohesiogroup.com or visit www.cohesiogroup.com.

Conveying equipment market worth over USD 34bn

According to a new research report by the market research and strategy consulting firm Graphical Research, Conveying Equipment Market size was valued USD 34 billion in 2017.
The expanding construction industry, which itself was worth nearly USD 9.5 trillion in 2015, will positively impact conveying equipment demand over the coming timeframe. Surging applications in the automotive industry for manufacturing and shipment of vehicles will generate heavy demand for conveyor systems, in turn influencing the market size. In addition to this, rising e-commerce and the food & beverages industry, which in turn demands simultaneous production and delivery of goods, will also be lucrative sectors contributing towards conveying equipment market growth.
Stringent government regulations to ensure employee safety is another vital factor fuelling the industry size. For instance, OSHA (occupational safety and health administration) has restricted human exposure to harmful work environments, which has made it mandatory to install these systems across such work spots, thereby boosting the industry’s growth trends.
However, tight supply of raw materials such as steel, polyester, cotton, rubber and coated fabrics over the coming years may inhibit industry progress.
Bulk handling conveyors are estimated to register a CAGR of around 2% over 2018-2024. These are mainly used for loading and unloading of goods. Some of the bulk handling products include belts for coal, ash handling systems, coal handling systems, rotary air lock, truck loading machine, rotary air valve, truck loaders, and rotary feeder. Countries such as China and India, where coal is used as a fuel on a large scale, will contribute significantly towards bulk handling conveyors’ market growth.
Conveyor system market share for durable goods is projected to surpass USD 15 billion by 2024. The growth can be attributed to the growing industrialisation and shifting focus towards bulk production to minimise production time and costs.
Conveying equipment market size for non- durable goods will register a CAGR of around 1% over 2018-2024, driven by increasing demand across food & beverages industry.
Geographically, the market is segmented into North America, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Europe, and MEA.
APAC conveying equipment market size is estimated to grow at a CAGR of around 2.5% over 2018-2024, driven by favourable regulations, increased infrastructure spending and growing industrialisation across this region. India and China are estimated to drive the region’s growth.
US conveying equipment market will witness a significant growth over the forecast timeframe, catalysed by the expansion of the automotive and aerospace industries across this region.
The European market is poised to grow noticeably over the projected timeframe, driven by the growing automation in automotive and manufacturing industries. Germany and France will be the major revenue pockets.
Key industry participants are Sandvik, Dematic, Rexnord, Nordstrong Equipment, Intelligrated, Daifuku, Webster, Richards Wilcox, Hitachi, FMC Technologies, and Siemens.
The report can be viewed here.

The secret to online customer satisfaction

Retailers who move quickly to invest in next-generation customer service technology are more likely to lead the battle for sales in a tightening economic environment, according to two of Australia’s most innovative online retailers.
The insights come as the search for Australia’s favourite online retailer kicks off, with the Australia Post ORIAS People’s Choice Award providing online retailers with a platform to elevate their brand, gain industry recognition, build trust, and grow customer loyalty.
One of last year’s winners Koh, credited the updating of its customer service software – ahead of many of its competitors – with helping it double revenue over the past 12 months.
Founder Adam Lindsay, who recently launched the eco-friendly cleaning products company into the UK, said the focus was on giving both existing and new customers what they want.
“If you don’t service existing customers properly, you’ll have to deal with a leaky bucket – and therefore spend more time and money on acquiring new customers,” Mr Lindsay said.
Kogan.com, which took out the 2018 Award for best large online retailer, reiterated its commitment to embracing data-driven insights to improve its customer service capability.
Director of customer care Daniel Beahan said Kogan.com considered itself a statistics business masquerading as an e-commerce company.
“Data is key to unlocking our customer expectations and it is our mission to understand the wants and needs of our customers better than any other online retailer,” Mr Beahan said.
“Company growth relies on us delighting our active customer base time and time again, and our mission remains to make the most in-demand products and services more affordable for all Australians.”
Last year’s winners highlighted a customer-first focus, an ability to change and be nimble, the importance of personalisation to create a tailored customer service experience, the continued embrace of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to drive awareness and advocacy, and the harnessing of data and analytics as all being key to online retailers.
The launch coincides with an Australia Post report that found the number of purchases online has grown by more than 20 per cent for the year, with online shopping now making up 9 per cent share of traditional retail spend in 2018.
Australia Post general manager of enterprise Andrew Chamberlain said Koh and Kogan.com exemplified e-commerce-savvy businesses that embraced innovation to enhance online experience, ultimately driving customer loyalty and sales.
“In considering potential winners of the Australia Post ORIAS People’s Choice Award, one of the key things consumers look at is a personalised experience that supports ease of purchase – an area in which both Koh and Kogan.com are excelling,” Mr Chamberlain said.
Registrations for the Australia Post ORIAS People’s Choice Award for 2019 are open now, with applications to close 31 May. Voting takes place from 1 May-31 May.

Health support – from MHD magazine

The pharmaceutical industry
The pharmaceutical industry is a knowledge-based, technology-intensive industry that comprises bio-medical research, biotechnology firms, originator and generic medicines companies and service-related segments, including wholesaling and distribution.
The volume of the global pharmaceutical market has more than doubled in the past ten years. By the end of 2016, the global sales volume was estimated to have risen to nearly $A1.5 trillion.
In a snapshot from the CSIRO in 2017, the Australian medical technologies and pharmaceutical sector provided 48,000 jobs in total, across 50 pharmaceutical companies, 400 biotechnology companies and 500 medical technology companies.
And the importance of this industry is growing. Australia’s pharmaceutical market is set to rise to over $A25 billion by 2020.
This industry seeks to deliver medication and related health services that meet the best possible health and economic objectives, including timely access to medicines that meet appropriate standards of quality, safety and efficacy.
The simplified logistics and shortened supply chain of the 1930s, where most pharmacists were still mixing powders and vials and making tablets in their own pharmacies for delivery to customers, made it much easier to meet these objectives.
Today, medicines are distributed through a complex supply chain, which can be disrupted anywhere along its path, from manufacturing to dispensing. The pharmaceutical supply chain is a core part of Australia’s healthcare system, making medicines readily available to all Australians, regardless of location.
SSI SCHAEFER develops and implements supply chain solutions that cater for the future growth of pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. SSI SCHAEFER order fulfilment systems support everything from traditional wholesale distribution to omni-channel logistics, including fast-paced e-commerce requirements.

Pharmaceutical wholesale
Pharmaceutical wholesalers procure, distribute and sell a wide range of pharmaceutical and medicinal products. These products include prescription medicines, pharmacy-only medicines, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, other healthcare products and veterinary pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceutical wholesalers in the Australian market generate $A14.6bn in annual revenue and employ around 13,000 staff.
Although the principles of a pharmaceutical supply chain are similar to other products and industries, there are very specific issues and characteristics that make it different. Within the supply chain there are a number of rigorous regulatory requirements, such as international customs and importation hurdles, complex transport and storage needs, massive SKU proliferation, and significant pressure to maintain continuity of supply.
Pharmaceutical supply chains are not only important for hospitals, practitioners and consumers, but are also important from social and political perspectives. The impacts of disrupted supply can be felt widely and quickly, and have serious ramifications. It is crucial that medicines be delivered at the right time to the right person in standard conditions. Improper distribution of medicinal products not only affects brand reputation, customer satisfaction and company profits, but can also disrupt the healing processes of patients and negatively impact public health.

“Consistent, reliable service levels are clearly paramount, as is the compliance with regulatory requirements.”

Factors that contribute to unanticipated shortages of medicines include manufacturing faults, logistical failures and unexpected or unpredictable disease outbreaks. Additionally, unexpected safety signals may require recalling of batches with a consequential scarcity of remaining supplies at short notice.
With notable unexpected shortages, the vulnerability of the supply of medicines is exposed. Supply may be restricted or delayed anywhere in the supply chain from manufacturing to the dispensary. The high margins on pharma products, coupled with the limited patent lifespans, mean pharmaceutical companies must significantly focus on maintaining supply.

The challenges
Consistency. End-user customers demand the highest standards of quality and with zero-fault tolerance. Consistent, reliable service levels are clearly paramount, as is the compliance with regulatory requirements.
Regulation. The foundations of Australia’s pharmaceutical supply chain have shifted over recent years due to global and local factors. The NMP (National Medicines Policy) commits to providing timely, Australia-wide access to affordable medicines that meet appropriate standards of quality, safety and efficacy, while maintaining a responsible and viable medicines industry.
Internationally, the industry is moving towards the new Goods Distribution Practice (GDP), which is similar to the Good Wholesaling Practice, but extends the requirements around handling, transportation and traceability. Incorporating these will add challenging logistics hurdles that demand significant investment in existing Australian infrastructure.
Pack variety. There is a significant variety of packaging in the pharmaceutical industry – a vast array of box sizes and dimensions, packets and satchels, glass vials and jars including liquid dosage, plastic bottles etc. Also, packaging must be safeguarded throughout the logistics chain to maintain perfect appearance, not only for aesthetics but also for clarity of essential identification.
The rise of generics. Over recent years, the percentage of generics in the market has been steadily increasing and they are estimated to account for about 90 percent of all prescriptions by 2020 9 This continues to significantly contributes to SKU growth with wholesalers.

“Supply chain visibility is considered of major importance and a significant challenge facing the industry.”

An increasing number of prescriptions. Alongside the rise of generics, there has been an overall rise in the number of prescriptions, in the vicinity of 6.8 per cent in 2015. As the demand for medicines continues to grow, more accurate forecasting and inventory management have become increasingly important.
The rise of cold chain logistics. With demand for cold chain logistics growing, it has become increasingly difficult for pharmaceutical companies to manage fluctuations in demand for temperature-dependent medicines, which can result in exceedingly high inventory costs due to the cooling requirements. This can be of high concern in the Australian market, particularly evident during the hottest January on record that we experienced this year.
The European GDP guidelines extend adherence to storage conditions, as indicated on the packaging, to the transportation leg of the journey. The compliance requirement has long been adhered to with cold chain products – generally anything below 8°C. However, it is new for the majority of the products found in most medicine cabinets, often labelled for 25°C. For example, in practice, the GDP guidelines now apply to about 80% of pharma products in the EU.
Supply chain visibility. Many products are highly sensitive and require end-to-end documentation. Visibility is the ability to track and trace prescription medication. It is also essential to monitor and comply with expiration dates. Supply chain visibility is considered of major importance and a significant challenge facing the industry. Management’s ability to achieve a nearly risk-free environment is primarily enabled by visibility technology that introduces intelligence into every step of the healthcare supply chain.
Storage locations. Storage and picking of pharmaceuticals dictates significant variety and different environments. There is also a need for dedicated storage areas for different types of products such as OTC medications and products, narcotics and hazardous chemicals. Some items require cooling, and others must be held in secure storage.

Order fulfilment systems
SSI SCHAEFER draws on a wealth of expertise and technologies to facilitate the continuous and efficient supply of products in the pharmaceutical industry. SSI SCHAEFER’s order fulfilment systems, whether manual, semi, or fully automated, can flexibly be adapted to the increasing requirements and demands of this industry sector, and include:

  • Carton and tote bin conveyor and handling systems for efficient material flow.
  • High productivity ‘goods-to-person’ order picking systems.
  • ‘A-frame’ fully automated product dispensers.
  • Product and order verification scanning machines.
  • Automatic storage and retrieval systems for tote bins and pallets.
  • Warehouse management software for manual or automated warehouses delivering:
    • Serial number tracking through automatic recording of data.
    • Expiry date management through stock monitoring and automatic early expiry date detection.
  • Automatic-guided transport systems.
  • Robots for both picking and pallet loading.
  • RF, voice or light directed manual picking to order cartons or pallets.
  • Plastic tote bins for product storage and order delivery.

“Synchronisation between the collector belt and the order totes ensures a continuous stream of automatically picked products, up to 10,000 items an hour.”

Goods-to-person systems

SSI SCHAEFER goods-to-person high productivity picking systems eliminate walking by automatically retrieving products from an automatic storage system and conveying them to an operator at an ergonomically designed pick station. Order totes or cartons are also automatically conveyed in and out of the pick station, allowing the operator to continually fulfil orders without moving from the station. A combination of displays and light curtains ensures high accuracy and productivity. Operators can pick individual items, shelf packs or small cartons at the station.
A-frames

SSI SCHAEFER A-frames automatically dispense pharmaceutical products onto a collector belt that runs through the centre of the A-frame and automatically delivers the collected items into an order tote or carton. Synchronisation between the collector belt and the order totes ensures a continuous stream of automatically picked products, up to 10,000 items an hour, making the A-frame ideal for dealing with fast moving small items in peak times.
Warehouse management software

SSI SCHAEFER’s warehouse management software, WAMAS, intelligently manages the end-to-end processes in both manual and automated distribution centres. WAMAS ensures tight integration between the various automated subsystems and operational processes, and is rich in the functionality required for pharmaceutical distribution, including:

  • Batch-lot & product ID tracking.
  • Check weighing.
  • Order cubing.
  • Route prioritisation.
  • Order consolidation.

WAMAS manages and controls all intralogistics processes including efficient and flexible order processing, goods movement, and resource optimisation, along with the provision and analysis of logistics performance data so critical to the supply chain visibility required by the pharmaceutical industry.
SSI SCHAEFER is a strong partner to the pharmaceutical industry, having worked with many of industry leaders over the last 20 years. Contact SSI SCHAEFER directly for case study evidence. For more information, call +61 2 8799 3600 or visit www.ssi-schaefer.com.
 
 
 
 

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