Konica Minolta enters robotics with Mobile Industrial Robots

Martin Keetels and Thomas Visti.

Konica Minolta has formed a partnership with Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), a manufacturer of collaborative mobile robots, to bring a greater level of automation to its clients in Australia.
MiR manufactures robots that are used by companies to transport trolleys and goods in the manufacturing sector and move pallets in the distribution industry. Built-in sensors and cameras combine with technology so the mobile robot can collaborate safely with humans. No cages or designated human or robot areas are required.
National manager of robotics and innovation at Konica Minolta Martin Keetels said: “Innovation and automation have a significant role to play in manufacturing and distribution environments in Australia. Konica Minolta is excited to bring another level of automation to its customers.
“Australian businesses are requiring greater efficiency to remain competitive in the region, and globally clients are beginning to demand robotic technology. Robotics will be a growth and productivity engine of Australia’s future economy. With more than 150 service engineers in-house and the equivalent number in the channel that can potentially service robots, Konica Minolta is in a unique position to prepare our clients for the workplace of the future.”
The partnership was made official on a recent visit by Martin Keetels to MiR’s headquarters in Odense, Denmark. MiR CEO Thomas Visti hosted Martin Keetels during a two-day visit to the innovative facility.
Martin Keetels said: “I was incredibly impressed by the calibre of MiR’s management team and the market-leading robots. It’s a great combination to find in a partner and we are excited by what the future holds.
“Konica Minolta is committed to continued investment in this space through partnerships and by developing internal resources to deliver the best outcomes for its customers. Konica Minolta’s role is to work with robotics companies to support their growth by harnessing its capabilities of distribution, services, and maintenance while our partners continue designing, manufacturing, and supplying the robots.
“Konica Minolta’s robotics capability is just beginning with MiR, with many opportunities to extend across different industries and applications in the future.”
 

Where automation is the star – from MHD magazine

Swisslog is introducing to Australasia its new CarryStar fully automated order fulfilment system, which combines automatic guided vehicles (AGV), KUKA Star Robots and the latest Swisslog SynQ software for optimum efficiency, flexibility, reliability and sustainability.
The CarryStar will be displayed for the first time at CeMAT 2018 at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre from July 24-26 (Stand F12), along with live demonstrations of Swisslog’s new KMP600 AGV, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies, and the latest collaborative robots from its parent company, KUKA.
Swisslog and KUKA’s highly advanced technologies and automation are designed to improve efficiency and return on investment for industries such as e-commerce, retail, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, logistics, and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).
The scalable and modular, fully-automated CarryStar is suitable for small, mid-size and large layer and stack picking operations. With minimal fixed infrastructure required and the ability to grow as a business expands its operations, CarryStar is ideally suited to retail, FMCG and pharmaceutical companies looking for hygienic and efficient warehouse automation.
The fully automated process starts with a pallet infeed station, where KMP600 or KMP1200 mobile platforms (carry bots) receive the pallets and transport them to buffer positions or the picking area around a Star Robot.

“The highly customisable nature of the machine makes it suited to dynamic businesses, where order fulfilment needs may be constantly changing.”

These KUKA high-performance Star Robots are the workhorses of the CarryStar system, and can pick approximately 200-300 layers or stacks per hour to form mixed or rainbow pallets, depending on the requirements to fulfil the order. Once complete, Swisslog’s Carry AGV then transport pallets to the pallet wrapper where it also will be labelled, and finally to the dispatching area to be sent to the required destinations.
Productivity and sustainability can be enhanced by negative picking, which allows for the conversion of source pallets into order pallets to minimise wastage. The entire system is driven the intelligent SynQ software, which not only manages the system, but collects valuable data and uses this to recommend further efficiencies.
“The CarryStar provides an insight into the factories of the future. It’s an automated pallet-to-pallet transfer of goods system that needs minimal fixed infrastructure to operate, making it suited to companies looking for hygienic and efficient warehouse automation,” said Swisslog Australia senior consultant Paul Stringleman.
“The highly customisable nature of the machine makes it suited to dynamic businesses, where order fulfilment needs may be constantly changing. It also helps growing businesses, because modular units can be added on as the business expands,” Mr Stringleman said.
Benefits
Scalable: The modular and scalable design allows for growth in line with business growth. In addition to needing only minimal fixed infrastructure, it does not require any conveyors, which adds flexibility when updating or expanding operations. CarryStar is well-suited to small, mid-size and large layer and stack picking operations.
Flexible and sustainable: CarryStar’s safe and energy-efficient design provides excellent traceability of expiry dates and batches, as pallets are scanned when they enter and leave the system. Source pallets are converted into order pallets to enhance productivity and minimise wastage.  With minimal fixed infrastructure required (i.e. it does not use conveyors), CarryStar is flexible, hygienic and cost-efficient warehouse automation.
Efficiency: Both quality and quantity are increased with the CarryStar, as one robot can palletise approximately 200-300 layers or stacks every hour, with error-free operation.
Reliability: Fully controlled by SynQ software, CarryStar reduces picking errors. The high redundancy of the Carry AGVs’ performance allows the process to be managed effectively at any time.

“SynQ manages CarryStar to create an intuitive, efficient, data-driven and error-free operation.”

Components
Carry AGV: An innovative and automated picking system designed to efficiently move the pallets around the CarryStar. These mobile vehicles combine Swisslog and KUKA’s extensive experience (KMP600 and KMP1200) in automation systems, hardware and software intelligence. The vehicles navigate using a grid of QR codes to deliver stacks to the Star Robots through the infeed, move the pallets around the robots, and to buffer positions, and subsequently deliver the racks to the outfeed for shipment. These AGVs are intuitive and safe, simultaneously reduce picking error rates and maintaining efficiency.
Star Robot: These are chosen based on SKU, volume and the type of picking that will be completed (crate stack, carton and tray layer or mixed SKU stack picking). These six-axis robots are available in different payload capacities to suit different warehouses and stock picking needs.

SynQ software: The machines are managed by Swisslog’s intelligent management software, SynQ. In addition to the core processes that are used to manage the AGV, SynQ also provides access to analytical tools. These tools evaluate and make smart decisions in a warehouse, based on gathered data. SynQ manages CarryStar to create an intuitive, efficient, data-driven and error-free operation. SynQ also manages energy-efficiency levels by using un-sequenced order data by SKU and pallet, manually re-sequencing this data for CarryStar by SKU and order pallet to result in minimal product pallet movements that are communicated to the Star Robots.
The CarryStar process

  1. Goods arrive in homogenous pallets.
  2. Pallets are automatically stored in the pallet storage area.
  3. The pallets move through an infeed into the CarryStar solution area.
  4. Once inside, the Carry AGVs move the pallets around the robots and/or to buffer positions depending on where they are required to be positioned.
  5. If in the buffer position they remain there until required and if so the Carry AGVs move the pallets to the correct position.
  6. Alternatively, the pallet is positioned around the Star Robot, where pallets are picked (crate stack, carton and/or tray layer).
  7. The Star Robot layer or stack picks the pallets depending on whether a single SKU, mixed or rainbow pallet is required.
  8. Once pallets are complete, the Carry AGV’s move the pallets to the pallet wrapper, whereby the order pallets are labelled before they leave the CarryStar area via the outfeed station to the dispatch/shipping area, then loaded securely on a wrapping machine and wrapped efficiently. Carry AGVs then move the secured pallets to the pallet labeller where they are labelled using SynQ’s intelligent software.
  9. Once complete, the Carry AGVs move the pallets to the outfeed where they are ready for dispatch.

For more information call +61 416 865 553, email ruby.wannous@swisslog.com or visit www.swisslog.com.
 

Meet your cobot: the robot co-worker

Warehouse automation company Vanderlande has developed a ‘cobot application’ (a robot physically capable of working alongside human operators) together with the Finnish trading company in assembly and fastening materials, Würth Oy, and its logistics software partner (Leanware Oy) in a shared pilot project. The cobot is now operational at Würth’s logistics centre in the town of Riihimäki, just north of Helsinki.
Robotic technology has long been used in the warehousing industry for the automated movement of goods. However, the SIR (Smart Item Robotics) is unique, with its utilisation of a robotic unit that is able to work harmoniously in the same area as a human operator and is abe to smartly ‘pick and place’ individual items. In this way, the project addresses one of the key challenges in the market, which is the continuing lack of available and skilled workers.
One of SIR’s most significant strengths is its ability to handle various products without SKU teaching. In addition, intelligent stacking enables the efficient positioning of goods, while products are handled smoothly and securely.
After a lead time of less than two months, SIR has been integrated into Würth’s daily operations alongside Vanderlande’s flexible storage, retrieval and transportation system, ADAPTO, to seamlessly pick products for its customer orders. It can be controlled using the same Leanware system interface as other processes in the Riihimäki logistics centre and represents Vanderlande’s Smart Item Robot to be used in live operations.
“In practice, SIR is now entering school, where it will develop greatly,” said Würth’s logistics manager Terhi Vesala. “In the beginning, we will learn what type of products the cobot can handle, how it can better enhance the picking process on site, and the most logical division of work. We are striving for total efficiency in human and cobot cooperation, so that the strengths of each can be optimised. In other words, we are experiencing what this robot is truly capable of.”
“This pilot project will give us invaluable experience in the continued development of robotic technology,” added Terry Verkuijlen, executive vice president Warehousing and Parcel at Vanderlande. “Thanks to the logistics expertise that exists in Finland and the close partnership we enjoy with Würth, Riihimäki had the ideal conditions in which to bring SIR to life. Of course, this is an early stage in its development, so we will be proactively monitoring the situation, and working closely with Würth and Leanware to further optimise SIR’s capabilities.”
 

Will robots cause ‘catastrophic’ problems?

Failure to regulate artificial intelligence will result in catastrophic social and ethical problems, the Transport Workers’ Union is warning.
Widespread loss of jobs, wage polarisation and horrific road incidents, where machines are allowed to decide who dies in a crash, could unfold if the current unwillingness to consult and regulate continues.
“Economics is driving the push for artificial intelligence, not voters and not the community. There is no input into the introduction of this technology onto our roads and into our homes which is taking ethical or social issues into account. We need a debate on this issue and we need regulation,” said TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon.
Almost 40% of Australian jobs – 5 million jobs – will be redundant in 10 to 15 years, according to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia showed. A German study* recently warned about the possibility of wage polarisation due to automation eliminating middle-skilled jobs.
Meanwhile, there is concern over the programming of driverless technology to make ethical decisions. The German government has developed ethical guidelines which state that driverless cars must be programmed to avoid injury or death of people at all cost. The Singapore government is developing a voluntary governance code for the ethical use of artificial intelligence and personal data.
“Do we want a machine deciding to save the occupant of a car by ploughing into a crowd of people? Should a computer be programmed to crash into an elderly by-stander on a pavement or kill the child who has just run out onto the road? These are the issues other countries are examining and dealing with. In Australia we cannot allow wealthy companies to decide these issues for us,” Sheldon added.
Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have made it possible for autonomous vehicles to be tested on their roads. But a recent poll shows scepticism among the public: Australians were less optimistic than average about using driverless technology, according to an Ipsos survey of 28 countries. One in six Australians say they would never use a driverless car.
* Germany – Re-imagining Work White Paper, 2017
 

The future is Android

Today’s warehousing professionals face big changes in the way warehouses, distribution centres and the entire supply chain operates – from the increase in customer service requirements to more facilities and larger spaces – but one of the most pressing challenges the sector is facing is Android adoption, with Windows Mobile and Windows CE nearing end of support.
Ruggedised handheld computers have been the ‘de facto’ hardware platform for data collection and processing across a variety of workflows in virtually every industry. Organisations rely on these devices to conduct business-critical applications and operations in real time. However, the dominant OS supporting this ecosystem of devices is quickly approaching its end of life, leaving current customers with no clear migration path. To put it another way, no matter which OS platform an enterprise looks to deploy next, each application will require recoding and rework, as it will not be compatible with modern mobile platforms. Moreover, these legacy devices fall well short of today’s mobile standards across all performance, functionality and usability criteria, hampering business operations.
Mobilising and integrating manual business processes and workflows using modern mobile development platforms and tools is not only complex but can also be costly, as many legacy applications used in warehouse deployments are now being abandoned, and new mobile applications require a high degree of specialised skills and additional software.
One of the most complex elements of modernising and migrating aging/legacy mobile applications typically surrounds the manual nature of the integration work, which frequently involves time-intensive and costly manual coding. Many large enterprises have traditionally supported this through internal teams, and they are now sitting on often millions of lines of custom code with no clear documentation, that ultimately needs recoding, to leverage next-generation platforms.
Is the cloud the answer?
Alternatively, companies are having to engage larger ERP or WMS providers to migrate their legacy applications to more modern web-based applications. This is proving to be an extremely costly and disruptive process, and often these high costs come with a low return on investment as it requires new servers, infrastructure, application modifications, full project teams of numerous people, and lengthy implementation timescales – in some cases, years.
Furthermore, while the end-of-life OS systems are pushing forward the migration to Android, organisations need to recognise a critical component of today’s digital transformation strategies is migrating legacy mobile applications to take advantage of more sophisticated and functional modern mobile solutions and their intuitive interfaces.

“Mobile applications also reduce training time and will be instrumental in helping with knowledge transfer.”

While it may sound like an IT Armageddon, the industry has been aware of the OS end-of-life timeframe so players like Ivanti have developed the tools to easily help organisations migrate to Android.
Speed up the transformation
With Ivanti’s Velocity, rapid modernisation to Android couldn’t be easier. Users simply plug in an existing device running a legacy system and Velocity automatically updates the Windows “green screen” to a touchscreen application using an automated online tool. It’s a quick and clean transition taking a matter of minutes, while preserving the investment in legacy applications. Importantly, both onboarding and training time is reduced.
The experts agree
Skywire, which specialises in delivering and supporting enterprise mobility programs across a wide variety of industries including warehousing and distribution, has adopted Ivanti’s Velocity system and sees it as a key component in its product portfolio.
“With the latest release of Velocity, the migration in the DC/warehouse from legacy windows to Android technology can be implemented with the lowest risk and with the maximum return on investment, without the redevelopment of your applications,” said Skywire CEO James Shepherd.
Modern mobile programs can deliver productivity and greater efficiency to critical processes such as inbound/outbound handling, storage and inventory control, pick and fill. These programs not only offer the opportunity to leverage your present IT infrastructure, but also the ability to gain access to your legacy systems such as “green screen” telnet clients on a modern mobile platform.
Zebra Technologies is another of Ivanti’s key partners and according to Zebra sales engineering manager ANZ Daniel Park, the new Rapid Modernisation tool from Ivanti will enable warehousing customers to quickly migrate operating systems.
“Old telnet and web applications will be converted into a familiar touch-enabled user interface, further unleashing the prowess and innovative designs of Zebra’s range of Android mobile computers with Android. This will be a game changer for our distribution centre and warehousing customers who are looking to modernise their mobile computing fleets.”
As millennial workers become the dominant age group in warehouse environments, they will expect modern mobile applications and companies with the latest systems will attract a higher calibre of talent. Mobile applications also reduce training time and will be instrumental in helping with knowledge transfer, a key advantage in a sector with high turnover and an above average number of seasonal workers.
Cohesio Group, another of Ivanti’s partners, helps companies build a roadmap for their technology upgrades. CEO Nishan Wijemanne said companies should view the transition to Android as an opportunity.
“We encourage companies to take a strategic approach to upgrading technology and consider how they can fully optimise their processes and workflows beyond the move to Android,” says Wijemanne.
With today’s warehouses more complex than they were ten years ago and customer service requirements on the increase, optimising warehouse performance is critical. The right technologies offer opportunities for efficiency gains across the spectrum of daily warehousing workflows including inbound handling, storage and inventory control, pick and fill and outbound handling.
This is where voice technology can make a big difference. While voice has been in use for about 30 years and has been evolving more quickly in recent times, Android OS will accelerate the speed of adoption and late adopters may pay the price.

“What will be required for seamless integration with your warehouse management and control systems, or other software?”

Closely watching this evolution has been Ivanti, which has developed its Speakeasy voice technology that sits on top of the Ivanti Velocity application and can be implemented in 30 days. Voice lets workers interact with apps while keeping their hands free to pick product and their eyes focused on navigating safely the environment around them.
Ivanti’s APAC area director Simon Storey said: “Voice technology has been around for a number of years but with Android, voice adoption hasn’t been as aggressive as expected. Building on the foundation of migration and rapid modernisation, Ivanti Speakeasy offers the capability to add voice wherever voice makes sense. With Ivanti Speakeasy, there’s no longer a requirement to have dedicated voice hardware and software when implementing Android voice programs with Android.”
While historically voice has struggled beyond warehouse picking, with the advent of Bluetooth headsets, the value of voice is only going to be greater in the very near future.

Make the move
So what advice does Ivanti have for those companies looking to make the move to Android?
Consider the processes involved with integration with your existing systems. What will be required for seamless integration with your warehouse management and control systems, or other software? What are the ramifications of changes to any of these systems? And finally, make sure you can easily integrate systems now and in the future and are not limited by custom integration software.
For more information call 02 8287 3500, email contact-anz@ivanti.com or visit www.ivanti.com.au/solutions/industry/logistics.
 
 
 

Automate x 3: your MHD article for this week

Antony Bourne

The Internet of Things (IoT) is being built into the product design, manufacturers are adopting a more service-centric business model, and 3D printing is reaching the tipping point of realising business benefits on a large scale. These are the three game-changing predictions that will dominate discussion in 2018.

  1. By the end of 2018, over 50 percent of manufacturers will be building IoT technology into the design phase of their products

When you think ‘IoT’, is your first thought newly affordable, available sensors being added to products after they’ve been manufactured? If it is, well I believe 2018 will change that perception as IoT takes a decisive step forward in its evolution. If we think of IoT as a product’s nervous system, 2018 will see it grow from picking up signals at the periphery to being the brain of the product, constantly sending, receiving, growing and gathering information, from the centre of the product throughout its lifetime, in the process enabling new services and revenue streams.
Manufacturing is one of the markets most heavily impacted by IoT today. According to Global Market Insights, IoT in the manufacturing market was valued at over US$20 billion in 2016 and will grow at more than 20 per cent estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2017 to 2024.
Current IoT investments that are unique to the manufacturing environment are taking place in three major initiatives:

  1. Smart manufacturing to increase production output, product quality or operations, and workforce safety as well as lower resource consumption.
  2. Connected products to impact product performance, including collecting detailed information on products in the field, remote diagnostics and remote maintenance.
  3. Connected supply chains to increase visibility and coordination in the supply chain, tracking assets or inventory for more efficient execution.

We will see IoT being included as a part of the design process in all three of these initiatives. Manufacturers are realising that by engineering IoT technology into products and equipment already in the design process, you will be able to monitor not only the equipment’s performance to predict when it needs repair, but also how and when it is being used – which provides game-changing competitive advantages.
By the end of 2018, more than 50 per cent of manufacturers will be building IoT technology into their products from day one – already thinking forward in the design phase and asking themselves what services and revenue this product can generate throughout its lifetime.
In fact, where will our revenue be coming from in the next five years? It’s a good question and it leads us to my next key prediction…

  1. Servitisation speeds ahead: by 2020 most manufacturers will earn over half of their revenue from services

With the manufacturing industry becoming more and more commoditised, the need to differentiate yourself is key to survival and profitability. We now see that a large number of manufacturers are shifting to a more service-centric business model – the buzz word is ‘servitisation’.
Servitisation is a way for a manufacturer to add capabilities to enhance their overall package in addition to the product itself. One famous example is Apple, which did this a few years ago when it had gained the majority of market share with the iPod and introduced iTunes to increase loyalty, differentiate itself and generate more revenue. You may think that it will never apply to your business, but companies are now reaping the benefits of servitisation across many different sub-segments. For example, Philips provides Schiphol airport outside Amsterdam with ‘lighting as a service’, which means that Schiphol pays for the light it uses, while Philips remains the owner of all fixtures and installations. Philips and its partner Cofely will be jointly responsible for the performance and durability of the system, and ultimately its re-use and recycling at end of life. This has resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in electricity consumption without having to buy a lamp.
I see this development among IFS’s customers as well. For global furniture manufacturer Nowy Styl Group, servitisation has been crucial to its growth. In 2007, it announced, “for us, chairs are not enough”, starting a transformation from pure manufacturer to world-class office interior consulting company. Another example is a customer that manufactures cleaning products and started to offer delivery and service dosing systems. The company understood that choosing the right cleaning products was just part of its customers’ main objective, i.e. keeping its premises hygienic. Applying the products in the most effective way, choosing the right accessories, establishing the right routines – all these were crucial to keeping premises clean too.
Both of these customers realised that with technology accelerating as fast as it is, no matter how beautifully designed a chair is or how effective a cleaning product may be, today’s luxury products turn into tomorrow’s commodities faster than ever, pulling prices down with them. With servitisation, manufacturers escape the corrosion of commodification. Expert services built on years of experience provide a kind of value customers will always pay for, regardless of technology trends.
According to the IFS Digital Change Survey, conducted by the research and publishing company Raconteur, 68 per cent of manufacturing companies claim that servitisation is either ‘well-established and is already paying dividends’ or ‘in progress and is receiving appropriate executive attention and support’.
However, almost one in three manufacturing companies are still to derive value from servitisation. These are missing out on revenue streams and new ways to develop their offerings. To be successful in their response to customer needs and increasing demands, manufacturers must look to new business models to compress time to market, taking an idea through from design to a saleable item as quickly as possible.
New technology like IoT adds an additional layer to servitisation. With sensors detecting when your product or equipment needs service, this data can trigger an automated service action that will realise significant benefits to make your service organisation more effective. This type of automated predictive maintenance will become more and more common as it is a natural next step after implementing IoT to optimise service efforts.

  1. By 2019, the hype around 3D printing will be over and real benefits blooming

My third prediction is that 3D printing, just like IoT, will enter a new, more mature phase. No matter how big the ‘wow’ factor is when we first see it, apart from a smaller-scale manufacturing production like hearing aids and jewellery, 3D printing has so far failed to live up to its full potential. All this could change in 2018.

“Economy of scale… will be an important catalyst for the success of the 3D printing technology.”

We are seeing a couple of developments that point in that direction. The first one is the improved scalability of 3D printers. A new generation of 3D printing companies is moving into areas traditionally dominated by injection-moulding manufacturers, with newer, faster, better connected automated systems that reduce some of the time-consuming pre- and post-processing that has been such an obstacle to wide-scale uptake. One company, Stratasys, for example, has collaborated on a new printer, the Demonstrator, that combines three printers into a stack system – each printer able to communicate to its neighbours in real time. The new printer is highly scalable, meaning it can significantly increase production capacity, printing from 1,500–2,000 components a day. This means that you can achieve an economy of scale to bring costs down, which will be an important catalyst for the success of the 3D printing technology.
The aviation industry is pioneering 3D printing technology today, and the manufacturing industry can learn from that. One successful example is the new GE Turboprop ATP Engine, which was 35 per cent 3D printed, taking it down from 855 components to 12 and contributing toward the engine being lighter, more compact and delivering a 15 per cent lower fuel burn and 10 per cent higher cruise power compared with competitors’ products.
The expanded capacity and reduction in pre- and post-processing that new, highly innovative mid-size 3D printing companies are bringing to the field mean that, in 2018, I think we will see manufacturing companies joining in with aviation and defence, and flying high too with new 3D printing capabilities.
Antony Bourne is the global industry director of industrial and high-tech manufacturing for enterprise software company IFS. For more information visit www.ifsworld.com/au.
 
 

CCA to install fully automated ACPaQ mixed pallet technology

Coca-Cola Amatil will install Swisslog’s ACPaQ fully automated palletising technology as part of a major expansion of its Auckland distribution centre.
The robot-based order picking system was selected by food and beverage giant Coca-Cola Amatil as part of the automation and major expansion of its Auckland distribution centre.
The ACPaQ technology to be installed in Auckland this year is an evolution of Swisslog’s advanced automation technology, which combines robotics for palletising and de-palletising with Swisslog’s CycloneCarrier shuttle technology to create a fully automated process that facilitates high throughput and reliable picking of orders for logistics, distribution, food and beverage and retail applications.
General manager – supply chain for Coca-Cola Amatil NZ John Truscott said the new system will enable the business to keep pace with increased demand along with rising expectations on the quality of customer deliveries.
“The whole picking system will be fully integrated using Swisslog SynQ software, which also controls automated delayering of single product pallets into individual cases,” he said.
CCA has been using a fully automated pallet storage system in both Auckland and Northmead since 2007, and the expansion into robotic picking allows the company to meet rising customer demand while reducing costs and improving quality, efficiency and predictability in its operations.
The heart of the new system will be three Swisslog RowPaQ robot cells, which can each handle up to four cases simultaneously and stack up to 1,000 cases per hour into multi-product pallet loads ready for customer delivery.
The new installation will also includes Swisslog’s multilevel shuttle storage system, CycloneCarrier, which quickly delivers sequenced cases to the robots, all linked with pallet and case conveyors.
The ACPaQ system will be installed this year and replaces a manual, voice directed picking system but will link with the existing automated pallet store to create a seamless operation.
View a video of the mixed case palletising system here.
 
 

From MHD: Cut the risk

Sean Ryan

With technology rapidly advancing and evolving, now is the time asses the available options in intralogistics management solutions that use Industry 4.0 technology, are modular, and mitigate long term business risks. Intralogistics is evolving from large, rigid systems into modular, flexible, and software-driven solutions – robot-supported and self-optimising.
CarryPick: a flexible solution for e-commerce businesses
When it comes to deploying automation technologies, although intriguing to many supply chain professionals, many do nothing, but end up spending more and ultimately lag behind in investing in state-of-the-art technology. The warehouse and picking system CarryPick was developed to boost employee productivity, provide scalability and drive substantial cost reductions. Even though highly automated, this goods-to-person system delivers the desired flexibility and adapts quickly and cost-efficiently to future business growth, thus being a completely scalable and forward-looking system.

Unlike traditional warehouses with fixed racks, the modular CarryPick goods-to-person system completely organises the picking warehouse using mobile racks. Low-profile robot vehicles drive underneath the mobile racks and deliver them to workstations, where the requested items are picked and placed in the shipping boxes provided.
Floor space savings of 30 per cent or higher
To maximise the picking rate per mobile rack, each picker is able to process a larger number of orders in parallel, assisted by lasers that illuminate the appropriate picking compartment on the mobile rack. The workstations themselves are equipped with put-to-light technology – small lights let the picking employees know to which order a picked item belongs. Compared to traditional systems, the productivity of the employees at the workstation is considerably higher. At the same time, picking errors are virtually non-existent and floor space savings of 30 per cent and higher are made possible.
Low initial investment – maximum flexibility
The main benefit of the CarryPick system lies in its flexibility. If the product range changes, the rack structure can be modified accordingly. If the quantities to be processed change, the system can be flexibly extended. The initial equipment needed includes a basic number of mobile racks, at least one workstation, and a small number of ‘Carrier’ automated guided vehicles (AGV). As shipping volumes increase or the product range grows, the CarryPick system can be extended with additional components such as racks, carriers or workstations. There is no need to make major up-front investments in systems whose full performance capacity will not yet be needed.
CarryPick is easily integrated into legacy structures that normally would not have the space to support automation. The compact storage system, consisting of a workstation and mobile racks, can be installed in buildings with a ceiling height under three meters.
CarryPick is a part of the Swisslog Click&Pick portfolio for businesses. Click&Pick is a modular concept that can be flexibly adapted to changing customer needs and business models. Depending on the solution concept, companies can fulfil orders up to five times faster than with manual rack systems.
CarryPick supports sustainability
At Swisslog, sustainability is a top priority. CarryPick saves energy. Workplace regulations mandate that only the relatively small workstation areas be provided with heat and light. Any unmanned warehouse areas housing the mobile racks therefore do not need heat, lighting, or ventilation.
Furthermore, CarryPick is a model of ergonomic workplace design. Employees in the warehouse concentrate mainly on their core abilities: see, touch, and pick. Pushing heavy picking carts over long distances becomes a thing of the past, leading to a significant reduction of illness-related absences, perhaps even extending employees’ working life. CarryPick provides a forward-looking option that improves warehouse performance is appreciably increased, and all at minimal expense that is repaid in the timeliest fashion possible.
PowerStore: increase capacity and maximise resource savings
The pallet shuttle system PowerStore provides reliable cost benefits and maximises resource savings. This innovative warehouse equipment boosts capacity, is suitable for high-density environments and can be used in deep-freeze environments. This technology allows businesses to be at the forefront of Industry 4.0 initiatives.

The modularity of the PowerStore pallet shuttle system enables storage of up to 60% more pallets compared to manual systems. It can also be individually tailored for all shapes and sizes of warehouse buildings. The PowerStore pallet storage systems can be used in a wide range of environments, from -30°C in frozen food storage to 50°C. It can be used in buildings with unusual shapes. The modular design of the PowerStore system opens completely new possibilities for automation in existing warehouses. The system is also suitable for manufacturing businesses, especially those in the fast-moving consumer goods and food and beverage industries.
Unique and modular
PowerStore is backed by over 40 years of global experience in optimising systems with high throughput and reliability. PowerStore’s control software is fully integrated in Swisslog’s SynQ suite of warehouse management software and is designed to work seamlessly with customers’ WMS and host systems. Furthermore, low-height carriers save storage space while still enabling industry-leading lift heights. This allows for normal pallet deflections and minimises the need for troubleshooting within the rack.
The PowerStore is a compact pallet shuttle system that is used in conjunction with vertical conveyors to utilise virtually every square metre of available space. The compact system supports storage depths of up to 20x and beyond per channel within a rack design. This rack design can have ten or more levels and adapts to virtually any building topography, accommodating existing support walls as well as multi-level and barrel roofs.
At Pepsi Bottling Ventures (PBV), for example, PowerStore increased storage capacity by as much as 60%.
Row and aisle carriers are used for pallet storage and retrieval. Vertical conveyors allow these carriers to be used on any rack level. At PBV, PowerStore’s high dynamics support 580 pallet operations (storage and retrieval) per hour. At the same time, customers benefit from state-of-the-art software control and energy-saving operations, thanks to advanced mechanical and electrical components from a manufacturing process that meets ISO 14001 and emphasises environmentally friendly product design.
PowerStore is integrated into an advanced software landscape and can be connected to Swisslog’s SynQ software platform, or used in conjunction with virtually any other modern warehouse management system. PowerStore displays great flexibility when used across industries and can be deployed in deep-freeze environments with temperatures as low as -30°C.
A fully automated way for creating mixed pallets
ACPaQ will automate one of the most important areas of intralogistics operations: creating customised mixed pallets for individual stores from single-SKU pallets. ACPaQ is universally applicable for fully automated order picking of mixed case pallets.

Store-friendly pallets are automatically built in distribution centres using the combination of proven technology, such as the CycloneCarrier light goods shuttle system, conveyor systems and high performance de-palletising and palletising robots. It is configured using modules and scalable for small, mid-size and large distribution centres handling up to 500,000 cases per day. This innovative palletising system has a highly modular design and enables a fully automated process controlled by the SynQ warehouse management software which, compared to traditional methods, doubles or even triples the speed of picking cartons in distribution centres based on store layout, item groups or item classes.
The palletising software allows you to customise the palletising order to increase efficiency during in-store replenishment. ACPaQ can be used in ambient temperature and chilled warehouse zones, and can handle almost all types of cartons, shrink wrapper or foiled packages, and pallet types used in retail & beverage industries.
At the core of ACPaQ is the RowPaQ cell featuring a state-of-the-art 5-axis jointed-arm KUKA robot. It is equipped with a flexible gripper with adjustable forks that allows it to pick up as many as four cartons at a time, even if they don’t have the same dimensions or weight. A RowPaQ cell is capable of setting down up to 1,000 cartons per hour in the exact location predefined by the palletising software. It is completely scalable and additional RowPaQ cells can be added to the system to increase throughput as required.
Networking new and proven technologies
Robot-based palletising builds on an intelligently organised process. Before cartons can be palletised in sequence, they are first separated, loaded into trays and stored temporarily in the highly dynamic CycloneCarrier shuttle system. Even before the warehouse management system issues the palletising order, Swisslog’s software autonomously performs a complex calculation process based on product parameters to determine the best way to load the pallet. The cartons are then transported in the exact sequence from storage to the RowPaQ cell. After palletising is complete, it is shrink-wrapped and transported via conveyor directly to the right shipping station.
Sean Ryan is the head of sales and consulting at Swisslog Australia. For more information call +61 447 771 933, email sean.ryan@swisslog.com or visit www.swisslog.com/wds. Swisslog is a member of the KUKA Group, www.kuka.com.
 

Robots look better

Auckland’s International Airport has become the first in the world to deploy a ‘digital’ biosecurity officer.
“The idea is for her to take some of the load off MPI officers during peak times by answering simple biosecurity questions from the public,” said MPI’s detection technology manager Brett Hickman.
Vai, which stands for Virtual Assistant Interface (Vai), started work last week and is the first ever digital employee to be deployed at an airport.
MPI is trialling Vai in the airport’s biosecurity arrivals area to see whether she will become a permanent asset in the team. Vai can see, hear and answer arriving international visitors’ questions.
Westpac’s Innovation Fund supported the development of Vai for the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), while FaceMe, a New Zealand-based company specialising in AI, developed the technology.
Vai was built using FaceMe’s digital employee platform that offers companies customised digital employees. With training, these ‘employees’ can offer personalised service using natural language.
FaceMe’s avatar technology uses biometrics to learn human interactions and will interact accordingly to ease the customer’s experience.
“Digital employees also learn from every past interaction to sharpen and perfect their skills,” said FaceMe CEO and winner of the Sir Richard Branson ‘Virgin Business Challenge’ Danny Tomsett.
“Vai is highly conversational and has been trained through every interaction, as well as data available on the website. She embodies the AI experience with human like qualities, including a friendly personality and emotional understanding,” added Mr Hickman.
“Nothing can replace real human interaction and relationships, but Vai frees up our officers’ time so they can deal with the really important aspects of their role,” he said.
Digital employees
FaceMe, which was recognised at the ‘Deloitte Fast 50’ NZ awards as one of the country’s fastest growing businesses, believes that the market for AI will grow beyond $47 billion per annum.
“Over the next ten years, human contact with organisations will be reduced to less than 15% of interactions. On the other hand, meeting consumers’ expectations is far more complex today than ever before; and there’s still huge strategic importance in customer experience and its impact on company culture, revenue growth and churn. It’s at the intersection of these two realities that there is a powerful opportunity to innovate,” said Mr Tomsett.

Toll launches $160m next-gen e-commerce distribution hub

Toll Group has opened a new, next-generation distribution centre in western Sydney to help e-retailers deliver faster and more efficiently. The $160 million retail and e-commerce fulfilment centre was specifically designed to support the growth of online shopping in Australia. Some statistics:

  • 32,000 square metres in total.
  • Incorporates 15,600 square metres of automation equipment.
  • Capable of picking, processing and packing 375,000 items per day.
  • Said to shortens delivery times from days to hours.

Toll Global Logistics president Chris Pearce said the market is placing aggressive demands on retailers to provide fast fulfilment and delivery, without increasing costs.
“Toll’s investment in the new facility is helping retailers adapt to the new environment. The facility is equipped with $50 million in advanced automation technology so retailers can deliver their e-commerce orders faster and in a much more economical way,” Mr Pearce said.
The facility will be one of the country’s most advanced e-commerce fulfilment centres, transforming the way retail orders are picked, processed, sorted and delivered to customers.
“Retailers will benefit from the ability to deliver goods to their stores and direct to customers faster and more efficiently. And shoppers will enjoy flexible order times and faster processing so they can receive their purchases within hours not days,” Mr Pearce added.
“This advanced automation technology will increase our productivity five-fold – capable of picking, processing and packing 70 million items per year.”
The facility was constructed in collaboration with apparel retailer Specialty Fashion Group (SFG), Toll’s anchor tenant at the new site. Toll and SFG worked closely to design the facility with scalability and future growth in mind.
“At Specialty Fashion Group, we’re constantly looking to improve the omni-channel experience for our customers, which includes offering faster and more convenient delivery options for online and ‘click and collect’ orders,” said SFG’s general manager logistics Alex Linton.
“We have a highly specialised supply chain, so we needed a customised solution that would meet our ongoing needs as a retailer. We’ve worked with Toll to develop the site – from the initial design and development through to build, operation and delivery – and we’re excited to see the state-of-the-art capability in action,” Mr Linton said.
The facility operates as a shared, multi-user facility, with capacity to support additional retailers and their supply chain operations. It offers complete omni-channel capability to help retailers adapt to the changing needs of their customers in an ever-competitive sector.
The combined Prestons site will provide jobs for around 200 operations workers, technicians and engineers.
The new facility achieves safety and environmental initiatives such as reducing the probability of safety incidents through a 70 per cent reduction in manual handling. The facility also has a four-star NABERS rating, is fully LED lit, uses rainwater harvesting and has a carton recycling machine.
The site is ideally positioned on the corner of the M5 and M7 enabling convenient transport links to deliver at greater speed-to-market.

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